We all love Vintage Ladybird

Ladybird Creative Director, Ronnie Fairweather (the font of all knowledge of all things Ladybird!) has written this week's post on the past, present and future of Vintage Ladybird.

Welcome to the world of vintage Ladybird and our up to the minute offices here in the Strand where we are using our state of the art technology to bring you this blog.

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 The Vintage Ladybird office in the Strand. From Postroom, Central Control Room – the nerve centre and Design and Editorial office the newest technology is used.

Over the last few years there's been a resurgence of interest in anything and everything "Vintage". Tapping into this trend we've launched a very successful Vintage Ladybird licensing program. On the publishing side of Ladybird, we've been watching this growth area too, and in response have compiled the fantastic Postcards from Ladybird Box. It published in October this year, alongside a facsimile edition of the iconic, Ladybird Book of London. Both of these titles will remind many people of their childhood and of times when life seemed simpler. The old Ladybird motto was "A book for every subject" and now there's a postcard for every occasion. 

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Postcards from Ladybird- 100 reasons to send a message and the Ladybird Book of London, a must for the modern tourist.

Most of the images on the postcards come from the golden age of vintage Ladybird the 1960s and 70s when life appeared to more straightforward than today. Then, there was very little on the telly, two of the channels even shut down at 11pm. There were no computers or mobile phones, and a blackberry was for the crumble with custard (if only that were the same today I bet you’re thinking!)
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 Remember these? (the one on the left is a REAL blackberry)

Parks were safe places where you went and played havoc with the landscaping and adding to your scab collection on your knees. In those days you were allowed to feel peril and danger, and test your skills at climbing and  jumping up and down on unsuitable objects.  If you came a cropper falling from the roundabout you didn't sue the local authority!

Image4smallMummy had a perm, she wore a pinnie and cooked the tea. Daddy wore a hat to work, smoked a pipe whist he read the paper and came home to a wholesome meal on the table at 6 o'clock sharp. 
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Although the sun was nearly always shining in the land depicted in these Ladybird images, in the real world other things were hitting the news. It was an extraordinary time, a time of incredible optimism, coupled with impending doom. Many things were going on.  

The cold war was getting chilly

Hippies letting it all hang out

Yuri Gagarin was first man in space

The Berlin Wall was built

Cuban missile crisis kicked off

JFK was assasinated

Vietnam war was at having a massive impact

England won the world cup

Martin Luther King was assassinated

And Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon

But that was then and Ladybird always made sure that the sun shone for their readers! Ladybird was a beacon of Midlands post war optimism if ever there was one.

The Vintage Ladybird journey that we find ourselves on today, began about 10 years ago when a couple of us were summoned to a warehouse on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport. We had been told to 'get rid of' about 900 grey boxes that had been stored in a dark, dusty corner since the closure of the Ladybird offices in Loughborough. You can only imagine our surprise when we discovered that these boxes contained the original artwork for most of the Ladybird books published since the 1940s.

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The Harmondsworth warehouse, before and after

It soon became clear to us that this was something really special. Very few collections have the quantity or quality of this visual material, so literally minutes before the bulldozers moved in to demolish the warehouse ,we managed to save the whole lot. We transported the collection to the University of Reading Literary Archive. They had tonnes of enthusiasm for the collection, but at the time very little space, and it spent a number of years in the gymnasium there!  

Over the next year we opened every box, photographed and catalogued the contents and created an image database containing 12,000, keyworded images, now used by our licensees and publishing team. We have also collected a near complete set of first edition Ladybird books, the original library set having been accidently pulped when they arrived at Harmondsworth from the Ladybird offices – tragic!

Today, the Ladybird image bank is used by the in house team to create products like the Postcard Box Set and the beautiful facsimiles editions of classic titles. We also license our images to be reproduced on stunning gift products. If you wanted to you could drink your hot Bovril at the footie from a Vintage Ladybird flask or you could store your fondant fancies in a gorgeous Vintage Ladybird cake tin.

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The future is incredibly exciting for Vintage Ladybird, with a brand new step into the world of digital. The wonder and beauty of these nostalgic books can now be enjoyed on the iPad  and iPhone with the fantastic Ladybird Classic Me Books app. This unique picture book reader has introduced a whole new generation of children to these childhood favourites, and we’ve received an overwhelming response from Ladybird fans, both young and old, about how much they are enjoying it.

The app brings fourteen classic Ladybird books to life, with wonderful (and often hilarious) narration by well known personalities including Adam Buxton (from BBC 6 Music’s Adam and Joe show) and comedian Josie Lawrence. Children can scroll through the pages and tap on ‘hot spots’ to trigger sound effects, or enjoy recording their own sounds.

The excitement continues to grow as Ladybird Classic Me Books app has also just received a Gold award in The Lovie Awards, and there are five further titles being released in December, including Cinderella and Tootles the Taxi!

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Fans of the Ladybird illustrations also have a special opportunity to get up close to the artwork at the Ladybird Big Book of Motor Cars exhibition at the Heritage Motor Centre, in Warwickshire. On show until 15th January 2012, the exhibition includes 120 Ladybird books and 30 original artwork illustrations alongside a selection of amazing vintage motor cars.

 As you can imagine, we have the odd "off the wall" request too for our Ladybird images. We recently found ourselves opposite Vivienne Westwood, on the front row of London Fashion Week, watching some amazing silk-patched Ladybird t-shirts sashay, pout and strut their stuff on the catwalk. Ladybird meets Haute Couture! Who knows what will come next!

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Fashion Week according to Ladybird,1972 and Child of the Jago 2011

Life is never dull at Team Vintage Ladybird HQ. We’d love to hear from you about your favourite Ladybird memories, so please feel free to leave a comment below.

All images courtesy from the Archives of Ladybird Books Ltd

© Ladybird Books Ltd MMXI

9 thoughts on “We all love Vintage Ladybird

  1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    I used to love Ladybird books as a child. Fairy tales, everyday stories, and craft books. I clearly remember having a seasonal craft book with toilet roll witch on the front. (looked it up – More things to make).
    Those were the days.
    carol

  2. Ali says:

    As a child of the 70’s I developed a passion for reading courtesy of Ladybird’s Peter and Jane books. With a book shelf stuffed with Ladybird books, many a happy hour was spent pouring over the ‘Well Loved Tales’ stories with their visually rich and detailed artwork.
    Twenty Five years later I was able to indulge and express my early passion for children’s books as a grapic designer for Ladybird (95-2001) and was privileged to see some of the original artwork and books displayed in the reception and meeting rooms of the Ladybird Loughborough building.
    It’s great to see the original artwork being given a new lease of life through the merchandise and the books being introduced to a new generation of children via the apps. Proof that a good story will always engage a child whether on paper or ipad. Well done Ladybird.

  3. Jackie MacDonald says:

    I also loved the Laybird books as a child and remember the brilliant illustrations. I can see your flasks, cake tins etc doing really well in John Lewis. Brilliant idea!

  4. Tina says:

    Tootles the Taxi was and still is my favourite Ladybird book. I still have a copy. I am going to buy the app as I have just seen Tootles is about to be released on there. Brilliant books that helped me learn to read,

  5. Bonzo and I have just been given some vintage Ladybird books. For me it is a trip down memory lane, and for him, some lovely ‘new’ books to read! Bonzo loves ‘The Runaway’ – perhaps because we have just got a pet rabbit!

  6. Sue C says:

    Please please please Ladybird re-release your wonderful ‘Adventures from History’ series. My four year old went straight to one in a second hand book store ‘The Story of Henry V’ and he loves it, and so do I. We both want to read more!!
    Parents will love you for it, look at the popularity of Horrible Histories!
    Second hand versions are selling well on Amazon, why aren’t you cashing in??

  7. Wyn Callard says:

    Does anyone have any information concerning the issuing of WLT titles The Three Little Pigs and The Three Billy Goats Gruff with laminated boards in circa 1979? These are the only two WLT titles that I’m aware of that were issued on laminated boards and which don’t also have the dreaded barcode disfiguring the back cover! Were there any others I wonder?

  8. Bree Ophel says:

    Hi There,
    I am after a particular edition of the ladybird boook of nursery rhymes for my soon to-be-nephew, Unfortunately I don’t have the old copy with me but I think it has images from ’round & rond the garden like a teddy bear’ as the cover illustration
    If anyone can help I’d be very grateful
    Kind Regards
    Bree

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