On this page you’ll find information about Ladybird books produced in different versions or with different covers. If, for example, you want to collect all the original 606d books, it helps to know which books belong to this series and which books, though sharing the same title, do not. (I don’t deal with every ladybird book version around. Just some that might trip you up when you get started with a collection. I am also make little reference to books published after 1980 because that’s where my interest in collecting tails off).
The same title – but different book
A number of very different Ladybird books share the same title – just to confuse people:
Tootles the Taxi
Here are the two versions – one dating from 1956, by J B Clegg and illustrated by J T Kenney. The more recent version by Audrey Lynn Bradbury, illustrated by James Hodgson, and dating from 1985. Both books follow the same format – with jolly rhymes ‘spoken’ by different vehicles. But the original version dealt with Cuthbert the Coal Cart, Timbo the Trolley-Bus and Ronnie the Railway Dray – which would have purplexed the 1980s child who was, presumably, more comfortable with Terry the Tanker and Henry the Helicopter.
If you are interested in old Ladybird Fairy Tales, take care to sort out your 413s from your 606ds! And for more on 606ds, see below.
Another title from the 413 series gets confused with later versions. Nursery Rhymes first appeared in the ‘Auntie Muriel’ collection of books, series 413, in 1941, illustrated by Robert Knight. In 1965, just after the DJ era, a set of three volumes of Nursery Rhymes were produced to replace the original version, this time illustrated with the slightly surreal eye of Frank Hampson. I can remember being intrigued and frightened by some of these picture in about equal measure as a child. There followed book 2 and book 3 – also illustrated by Frank Hampson
It’s unlikely you would ever confuse these two books – one belonging to the elusive ‘Adventures of Wonk’ series 417 – the other being Ladybird books version of Raymond Briggs much loved and much reproduced story. The price tag would tell you which was which in all probability!
The same could be said for the following pairings – the original version (both from series 563) representing Ladybird at it’s dewy, nostalgic, zenith and the other a poorer, sketchy affair
Going to school
Here’s another title originally from the wonderful 563 series which found it’s way, years later, into a different version:
The later book is from the rather exotic, rare and elusive ‘Sunbird’ series – a 1970s experiment to re-interpret a series of school books for children from an Afro-Carribean background.
There have been various Ladybird ABC books for children. As you can see, there was Uncle Mac’s ABC, 1950, The Ladybird ABC, 1962 and various later productions, including the Sunbird series version which was supposed to show images more familiar to children from an Afro-Carribean background (not shown in this picture). Number books and those teaching children to tell the time are also rich in variations.
Baby’s First Book
Here you can see 3 versions of Baby’s First Book. The First one was published as part of the 413 series in 1954. It was written by Brenda Lewis with wonderful illustrations by Harry Woolley. There are slight varations in the format of this book throughout it’s long life (it was still being published after the ‘Dust Jacket’ era and into the ‘matt’ era) slight varations in the number of plates, wording, style but it was still clearly the same book. Somehow at the start of the 70s it had evolved into the 2nd stage – with a teddy bear on the front who seems to have a higher polyester content.
By now authorship of the undemanding text is credited to Margaret Borrett and the slightly updated illustrations co-credited to Roy Smith. This steady evolution of the book did not continue. In the late 1880s this version was replaced by an unappealing book with simple, cheap-looking cartoony illustrations by Sarah Ross. (Sorry Sarah – nothing personal).
Nature and Conservation
The prize for the most identity-confused series must go to the 727 Conservation series. As you will see below, sometimes titles from this series were issued with 2 very different covers but the same contents within them. However, the following two titles were originally published in series 536 (Natural History) and were completely re-written and re-illustrated before they turned up in the 727 series. In the case of ‘Wild Flowers’ the later version was illustrated with photographs (sigh). In the case of Butterflies and Moths, Leigh-Pemberton, who had originally only illustrated the 536 version (only!) was now given free reign. He wrote and illustrated the later version, and a very nice book it is too.
Garden Flowers was revised in a similar way – with the beautiful Leigh-Pemberton illustrations of the original replaced by photos and description by Harry Stanton. This book, however, remained in series 536.
Prayers and Hymns
There were lots of variations on this theme:
The images in the earlier versions of these books must be, as you might expect, some of the most halcyon. Lambs skip, birds sing, shepherds care, mothers beam and children lisp. I can understand that later editions needed to tone it all down a bit. But it’s hard to get nostalgic about the revised versions. The first revision of ‘Hymns’ added ‘Songs’ to the title and changed a couple of the songs – but little is changed from the original. Both early versions provide a prime example of Ladybird self-publicity, with the children on the front cover singing from the Laydibrd book of Hymns (with themselves on the cover).
Another popular title that has seen a little evolution and a lot of revolution is ‘Bedtime Rhymes’. The original version was written by G Lapage and illustrated by G Brook with rather appealing oil pastel illustrations. I don’t remember this version as a child, and as an adult I found the rhymes a bit surreal with their Gee Gees and Hee Haws, Twinks, Fuzzy Pandas and Old Tom Tomato. But those who do remember the rhymes, remember them with great nostalgia.
Although in later editions it was issued with fewer poems and plates, this book remained a favourite and made it through the DJ era and into the matt-boards era although printing seems to have stopped sometime before decimilisation. Then in 1977 an entirely different collection of poems was published as ‘Bedtime Rhymes’ – this time an anthology by different writers, edited by Audrey Daly. Although quite a modern title, this one is already remembered with affection by parents who read the verses to their now grown up children. Judging by the number of people who enquire after this book, by far and away the most popular rhyme is “When Daddy Fell into the Pond”.
Look how far Ladybird had come between the 1940s and the 1980s! The Daddy of the Noel Barr stories would never had done anything so undignified – and the water might have put out his pipe. The final version of Bedtime Rhymes dates from 1995 and again seems to be an anthology of rhymes and lullabies – rather more traditional ones this time – such as Twinkle Twinkle.
The 401 series
On the subject of rhymes, many people who love the animal rhyming stories of the 401 series are unaware that some of the poems were once issued in completely different versions. The first 3 titles of the 401 animal rhyming stories were originally published with the text and illustations by the same person: Angusine MacGregor. The second 3 were originally written by E M Coghelin. Later these 6 titles were revised and verses written by Perring. So once you have completed your collection of the 401 series, you can try to collect the original versions of these poems. As you will see from the sample below, MacGregor was a great illustrator but a lousy poet:
The same? Or Different?
The History Series 561
The History series presents a few catches to a collector. At first sight the situation appears simple. The first 41 books in the history series (all by L du Garde Peach) were published with 2 different style boards. Firstly, A full picture board and secondly a picture on a white background within a blue frame. In most cases the books within the boards are more or less the same – although there are some small differences to be found in different editions. The later 9 titles were only published with the blue framed boards.However, 6 titles were also completely re-written and illustrated (by different authors/illustrators). So if you wanted to collect every Ladybird book in this series, you would need to have both versions of Captain Cook, Marco Polo, Sir Walter Raleigh, Nelson,Kings and Queens Book 1 and Kings and Queens Book2.
The topic for your Ladybird Books thesis is “Why did they bother?” What, in 1980, was deemed unacceptable about the 1960s version that led Ladybird to go to the expense of completely re-commisioning 6 of their best selling titles? Anyway, this picture shows the 3 incarnations of ‘Nelson’ and ”Kings and Queens books 1 and 2 – the first 2 in each row are basically the same books (by L du Garde Peach) with different style cover; the last is the re-written version – Nelson by Frank Humphris, Kings and Queens by Brenda Ralph-Lewis.
Bible stories: 606a
Another series that gained a ‘framed’ cover in the 1970s was the Bible stories series 606a. Earlier titles were issued with this style cover:
The later titles in this series (The parables) were only ever printed with this format cover.
Well Loved Tales
There is similar confusion over the immensely popular 606d – Well Loved Tales series. Many people are anxious to get hold again of the fairy tales they remember as a child. But there are 2 different versions of the same titles in the same series to look out for.Here you can see some examples of the 3 different formats in which the 606d books were issued.
On the top row, the original format. 27 titles were published like this between 1964 and 1974. They are all written by Vera Southgate and wonderfully illustrated by Eric Winter and Robert Lumley. The format always had the text on the left and the pictures on the right.
The second row of books show an interim format – the appearance of the covers have changed with the ‘Well-Loved-Tales’ lozenge on the front and green coloured spines/back boards. But inside they are exactly the same as the original.
The Third row shows the revised versions that appeared from 1979 onwards.
These versions have been completely re-written and reillustrated by a range of writers (including Vera Southgate again) and illustrators. They have the green coloured boards and lozenge on the front and inside the text and pictures can appear on the left or right. Trust me – If someone remembers fondly the 1964 version of Cinderella, and you buy them the 1980s version – you are asking for trouble – not gratitude. If you are only interested in collecting the original version 606ds, your collection is complete when you have 27 titles.
Tasseltip, Boozels and Flickerdick
The Tasseltip series 474, illustrated by Ernest Aris, was re-created in the 1970s. Perhaps Aris was dead by then but for some reason Ladybird arranged for his artwork to be used to recreate the stories. In the later version the stories are written by Sarah Cotton and the illustrations are co-accredited to Roy Smith. Rather hard on Dorothy Edwards, who wrote the original stories since she isn’t mentioned in the later version even though they are all a re-hash of hers. Roy Smith doesn’t seem to have been over-taxed – the pictures are almost identical. The only major thing I’ve noticed is that ‘Clatter Clatter Bang’ is set in Summer; when this story turned into ‘Tasseltip Takes a Ride’, it changes to Winter. The book originall called ‘The Flickerdick’ becomes ‘Tasseltip and the Boozle’. (Now what was wrong with ‘Flickerdick?’) ‘A Little Silk Apron’ becomes ‘Tasseltip Buys a Present’,’The First Day of Spring’ becomes ‘Tasseltip Plays Truant’, ‘Mr Mole’s Housewarming’ becomes ‘Tasseltip Saves the Day’ and ‘The Flower Show’ becomes ‘Tasseltip Has a Lucky Day’.
Achievements, The Story Of … Series 601
Most of the books in this series were issued in only one version. However, Exploring Space was revised for obvious reasons.
Two other books: Railways and Flight were re-issued with different covers, and slightly revised contents to encompass recent development.
However, In the 1980s three of these titles were completely re-written and re-illustrated, with white, glossy boards. The titles were: Flight, Space and Underwater Exploration.
Many Ladybird books proved popular but became rapidly out of date, so the same titles were revised sometimes many times. There were often those connected with vehicles and technology.
Sometimes the cover changed, sometimes it did not. Here are some examples:
As you can see here, the whole ‘How it Works’ series 654 underwent a complete cover makeover when they were updated at the end of the 70s. Some books (such as ‘The Motor Car’) had already been revised by then.
Of course the ‘Recognition’ series (584) was demanding in terms of revision. I have 6 different versions of ‘Motor Cars’ on my shelf. Here you can see the 3 versions of ‘Aircraft’
But not only the ‘technical’ books demanded revision. The People at Work series dated quickly and was replaced by the ‘People who help us’ series. Also here are the two versions of Girl Guides, from series 706
The Talkabout Series
The Talkabout books were also revised in the mid 1980s and the wonderful illustrations predominately by Harry Wingfield, were replaced with sketchier (and presumably cheaper-to- reproduce) cartoons. The ‘crossover’ book is shown in this pictue: Talkabout Going into Hospital. This was first issued with laminated boards and with the original style cover as the previous books in the series. But inside, the contents are identical to that of the later series with the light blue covers. For all the other titles, it is not just a change of cover but a completely new format and set of illustrations. I can understand the cost factors that must have influenced the switch, but I find it hard to forgive! It was an appreciation of the wonderful illustrations of an old copy of Talkabout Home, when looking at it with my baby son, that got me into Ladybird book collecting in the first place. Here are the parallel pages of the old and updated books:
No contest, is it. Still, I have to admit that both versions are very good at what they are designed for – they are still excellent to use with young children.
Another series that has been updated is the ‘Famous People’ series. At least, Diana and the Queen Mum had this honour – one revision when they were alive, and one after their death.