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Ladybird Life
Exhibition in Loughborough


Giant Ladybird Symbol

If you are going to be in the vicinity of Loughborough before the end of October 04, you might want to visit the 'Ladybird Life' exhibition at the Charnwood Museum on Granby St.

The exhibition is very small, but beautifully formed. In one, fairly small room at towards the back of the museum you can find a display of rare books, some artwork, Ladybird memorabilia and information about the history of Ladybird until the closure of the Loughborough printing firm at the end of the 1980s when Ladybird was bought by Penguin books.

If you won't be able to get there, here are some edited highlights from my visit.

There weren't many examples of original artwork (and none for sale) but what would I give to own the ones that were there!

Two original-version, 'Peter and Jane' Harry Wingfields Harry Wingfield's Peter and Jane
And I rather fancy owning some original artwork from 'Bunnikins Picnic Party' - the first of the small sized books.

The History of the company was documented with some interesting photographs:
Here you can see the entrance to the Angel Yard premises. To the right of the entrance you can see Wills' library and bookshop - where the story of Ladybird really began. The entrance to the Angel Yard building
Staff at Wills and Hepworth Staff at Wills and Hepworth, with Mr Hepworth in the portrait keeping an eye on proceedings. This picture is very true to its time and to John Berry's world of work (606b) - a world of middle-aged, sober gentlemen in dark coloured suits. The women will be behind the door, making the tea or coming in later to polish the mahogany.

Many people know that Ladybird Books as we know them came about because of the 2nd World War war, which had a disastrous effect upon the printing industry.

This is summarized in the following passage from Janet Whitehead's article 'Collecting Ladybird Books' in The Book Collector:

"The distinctive pocket size of the new product was dictated by wartime paper shortages. The largest sheet of paper available for printing throughout the war years measured only 30 by 40 inches. But the production department soon realised that it was possible to produce a 52-page book measuring 4.5 x 7 inches from a single sheet"

I'd read this before, but always found it hard to visualise. However, seeing a sheet laid out helped me to understand how this process worked:

A sheet set out for printing

If you count carefully all the pictures you can see here, you see that there are in fact half the pages needed to make one book here. Fortunately, while I was at the exhibition I was lucky enough to meet Alan Dawkins, and ex-employee of Wills and Hepworth, who had started work there as an apprentice in the early 60s and had risen to Print Manager at the time of the closure of the Loughborough press. He explained the process to me:

      "One side of the sheet always contained half the book, so sheets were labelled A side and B side. When the sheet was completed the guillotine would cut the sheets into two halves and both halves would fold to create two sections. Consequently each title was printed from a set of eight plates, yellow, blue, red, black-A side. Yellow blue red black B side. Simple innit!"

Well, no. But I got a bit closer to understanding.

There were also various displays of books and I discovered a few books, or versions, that I didn't know existed

A book only issued in the USA This book of U.S. Presidents was only ever issued in America.

There were also some 'special edition' copies of the 'Famous People' series - as if it weren't hard enough anyway to get hold of 'Indira Ghandi'! Apparently only 250 copies were produced - each one numbered. Limited edition of the 
Famous People books


The Ladybird Book New Testament I knew that there was a Ladybird Bible - published in conjunction with the Scripture Union, but I never realised there was also a New Testament.   And what are "Library Reading Records?"

Finally, how about this for a bit of Ladybird credibility. This Ladybird car, once used for promotional purposes, is now owned by Mr Dawkins - ex-print manager at 'Ladybird' (formerly Wills and Hepworth). Wonderful!

The Ladybird Car,
 and its owner

Oh, and I also finally got to meet 'Peter' all grown up. If you don't know what I'm talking about click here

To see what 'Peter' looks like over 30 years on, Click here

Call the museum on 01509 233754 for further information,

Charnwood Museum is located in Queen's Park in Loughborough.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10.00 - 4.30, Sunday 2.00 - 5.00.

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