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Ladybird Books

What's so special?

helen Day

on 8 January 2010

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Transcript of Ladybird Books

One man was instrumental in getting the Board of W&H to see the full potential of the small-sized, well-illustrated books that had first been published as something of an experiment in the 1940s.
Ladybird Books
Learning to read
The History of Ladybird Books
in the 20th Century

British social history
Wills & Hepworth
In the earlier part of the 20th Century, the Loughborough Printers' was named
Originally a small printing works owned by Henry Wills and
later by William Hepworth, the company that came to be called 'Ladybird' had no ambitions in the world of publishing.
It took many years before the Board of Directors came to realise that the future of their company lay with children's publishing and not with commercial printing.
Books for children were printed by Wills and Hepworth from the early 20th century - but these were cheap,large, black and white books intended to keep the printworks active between commercial printing jobs
and was based in
That man was
Douglas Keen
a commercial traveller for W&H whose contacts with book dealers and whose vision enabled him to see the enormous gap for well-made, colourful books in the educational market
Cute rhyming tales of Bunnies and Duckies for pre-school children
were superceded with beautifully illustrated non-fiction
The school market expanded rapidly and the company (now called 'Ladybird') sealed this metoric rise to success with the best-selling 'Key Word' reading scheme
Otherwise known as
Peter and Jane Books
In the 60s and 70s Ladybird ruled the children's market in Britain
(and achieved substantial success with world-wide sales too). But
thoughout the 70s competition increased.
Amid various attempts to experiment with format, layout and cost-savings, Ladybird struggled to maintain profitability and its trademark quality
In the mid 1970s Douglas Keen (now Artistic Director) and James Clegg (MD) took the decision to sell the company to the Longman group, which also owned Penguin Books.
Cost cutting became inevitable and at the very end of the 20th Century the print works in Loughborough was finally closed.
The tradename 'Ladybird' lives on, however, and in recent years Penguin has begun to recognise and celebrate the value of the Ladybird heritage and the powerful nostalgic pull of books which helped to shape the perceptions of several generations of Britons
in Loughborough
Angel Yard
Full transcript