Putting an accurate date to a Ladybird book is not straightforward. Often in shops or or on the internet books are described as older than they are because the owner has assumed that the FIRST PUBLISHED date on the title page means that the book is a 1st edition. It doesn’t!
In some of the older books, the actual date of a volume’s issue is stated, but not on the title page. Instead it is stated on page 3 (on the back of the front endpaper). But for most of books this is not the case. To give you a starting point in dating your book – try following the prompts below.
(Knowing the age of a book is part of the process of finding out how much it’s worth – although other factors such as condition, scarcity and nostalgia value are as important or more important).
1. Does your book have a dust jacket (a DJ) also known as a dust wrapper (DW)?
Well that’s a good start. You know your book dates from 1965 or before. Have a look at the rear flap of the DJ. Does it have a list of other books in the series printed on it? If so, is your title the last one listed? (Occasionally you’ll find this on the back cover of the DJ).
If so – or if it is the only title listed, or if there are no titles listed at all – there’s a good chance that you’ve got a 1st edition and that your book dates from the date stated on the title page. Always assuming there is one. Of course, if the title you have happened to be the last one in the series, then of course it will always be the last one listed. So this guideline is no use.
For some other exceptions to this rule you might want to get hold of a copy of Steve Rudge’s wonderful publication “Index of UK First Editions”. Email him
Now take off the DJ and look at the boards of the book itself and proceed to 4.
If it does not, look at the back of the book and proceed to 2.
2. Are the covers matt, with a colour picture on the front cover and probably writing (or at least a logo) on the back?
If it is laminated, it dates from post-1983. If you have a book with matt covers, you know it dates from between 1965 and 1983. To find out more, look at the back. There may be 3 clues to help you.
If the book originally cost 2/6 (pre-decimal money) the price may not be on the back boards but inside, opposite the title page. Otherwise it will be on the back cover, towards the bottom. A matt book priced 2/6 would have been issued between 1965 and 1970.
The next ‘clue’ is the ‘tally number’. Books issued between 1963 and 1974 had a sentence on the back which said ‘There are now over xxx Ladybird titles’. According to how many titles are mentioned on the back of the book we can date its issue. A tally number of 120-140 would be from 1965.
- 150-170 from 1966
- 190-200 from 1967
- 210-225 from 1968
- 230-260 from 1969
- 270-280 from 1970
- 290 1971 from ???
- 300 1972 from???
- 320-340 from 1973
- 350-370 from 1974
The final clue is the titles listed in the same series on the back cover. Unless your book happened to be the last title issued in the series, you can work out how old your book is by seeing which titles had been issued up to that point.
For example, my edition of ‘A Ladybird Book about Knitting’ (series 633) lists 10 titles on the back cover. The last title listed is ‘Learning to Sew’ which I know was first issued in 1972. So I guess that my book dates from shortly after then. I know that ‘Learning to Ride’ was issued in this series in 1973 but my book doesn’t mention it. So my book dates from 1972-1973.
If they are not, look at the back of the book and proceed to 3.
3. Does the book have coloured boards with a ‘wipe-clean’ shine to them?
Then you know that your books dates from between 1983 and the present. (With some notable exceptions, these books currently tend to be of less interest to many collectors).
If it does not, look at the back of the book and proceed to 4.
4. Are the back boards of the book completely plain?
If so, your book probably once had a dustjacket (DJ). The boards might be buff coloured, light brown or pale grey . If so, and if the back board is completely plain your books date from between 1956 and 1965. If so but if there is a closed wing ladybird logo in the centre of the back cover, your book dates from about 1963-1965.
Or does the book have plain, slightly textured boards? They might be grey, beige, pale blue or pale pink, with a line drawing on the front cover . Then you know that your books dates from between 1952 and 1956. For more information you might want to get hold of a copy of Steve Rudge’s wonderful publication “Index of UK First Editions”. Email him
Or does the book have a colour picture stuck onto the centre of the boards?  Does the book have a grey/brown, open-winged ladybird pattern decorating the endpapers? If so, your book is likely to date from between 1955 and 1957.
If the endpapers are plain white, your book probably dates from betwen 1958 and 1965. Now have a look at the book to find the ladybird logo. If the logo is of an open-winged (flying) ladybird, the book was probably produced between 1958 and 1961. If the logo is of the closed wing ladybird, the book was probably produced a bit later, 1961-1965.
If not it will have a line drawing, using characters or images relating to the story. This makes it an earlier edition. Between 1940 and 1953. To date it more precisely you can use the ‘catalogue’ in the back of the book. The catalogue is the page usually found at the back of an old Ladybird book that list other ladybird books in print at that time. As long as you know the date of publication of these books you can work out roughly when your book came out. You can use my lists (see the Bookshop on the home page) to establish this. Just check the appropriate series list and refer to the date of first publication.
Or it might have full colour pictorial boards, be slightly shiny and have no words at all on the back board or spine? . Then you know that your books dates from between 1940 and 1955. To date it more precisely you can use the ‘catalogue’ in the back of the book. The catalogue is the page usually found at the back of an old Ladybird book that list other ladybird books in print at that time. As long as you know the date of publication of these books you can work out roughly when your book came out. You can use my lists (see the Bookshop on the home page) to establish this. Just check the appropriate series list and refer to the date of first publication.
If not, proceed to 5.
5. Are the the boards are buff coloured but in the centre of the (otherwise completely plain) back board there is a closed-wing ladybird logo?
Then you know that you book dates from about 1963-1965.