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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & Collectable Books

Ladybird Books - Your questions answered

Ladybird cinderella illustration

Which Ladybird books should I collect?

As a budding collector, always collect books that you and your family will love, possibly a series that you remember from your own nursery bookshelf! You will have much more enthusiasm for the job, and it makes our work as book sellers far more enjoyable when we see the books going to a good home! Also, decide on your budget before you start collecting. Ladybird books vary widely in their price, as does the quantity of books in each series. Two of the most popular series for collecting are 606D (Well Loved Tales) and 561 (Adventure From History).

How many Ladybird series are there?

Although Wills & Hepworth produced several larger books prior to 1940, the first series printed in what is generally viewed as the standard Ladybird format was series 401. Including this series, Wills & Hepworth produced 6 different series in the 1940's. This included the elusive 417 (Wonk) and the exceptionally scarce 474 (Tasseltip Tales).

In the 1950's, Wills & Hepworth broadened their subject matter including series about history, nature and travel. They also printed a book called The Impatient Horse which is now one or the rarest Ladybird books to source. In total, 8 series were printed in the 1950's.

The 1960's was a time of change for Wills & Hepworth. However, in spite of this they managed to produce a massive 21 series. One of theses series, 606, was split into a further 7 sections. Without question, there most successful series of this era was 606D (Well Loved Tales).

Which Ladybird books are the rarest?

Several books have proved to be extremely elusive to say the least! Interestingly, How It Works: The Computer (654) was printed in a special edition for the Ministry of Defence. Although I have yet to see a copy of this book, I am assured of its existence. This is by far the rarest Ladybird book.

The following titles are hard to find with dust wrappers: Jeremy's Day In The Country (401), Pippety's Unlucky Day (401), Jonathan's Shopping Day (401), High Tide (401), The Ladybird Book Of Nursery Rhymes (413), The House That Jack Built (413), Babys First Book (413), Tootles The Taxi (413), Uncle Mac's Ladybird ABC Book (455), The Impatient Horse (538), and Cinderella (606D).

The following two series are also quite rare and valuable when found in their original dust wrappers: Wonk (417), and Tasseltip Tales (474).

Which Ladybird books were reprinted in facsimile editions?

In the year 2000, Ladybird celebrated 60 years of children's publishing. As part of their celebrations, they produced 4 facsimile editions. The titles of the 4 books were: Bunny's First Birthday (401), Bunnikin's Picnic Party (401), The Elves And The Shoemaker (606D), and The Gingerbread Boy (606D).

What does the series number mean?

The first 2 digits of the series number is the year in which the first book from that series was printed. Although there are several theories regarding the third digit from the series number, no conclusive information has been given by Ladybird!

What does the Tally number mean?

Between 1963 and 1974 some Ladybird books have what is known as a Tally number printed on them. If your book has a dust wrapper this will be located on the rear flap. For later books with pictorial boards, this number can usually be found on the rear board. The tally number is an indication of the number of different Ladybird titles published so far. It is also a useful way of dating your book. Compare your book's tally number with the following tally table:

100-1963 160-1966 220-1968 260-1969 320-1973 370-1974

120-1965 170-1966 225-1968 270-1970 330-1973

135-1965 190-1967 230-1969 280-1970 340-1973

140-1965 200-1967 240-1969 290-1971 350-1974

150-1966 210-1968 250-1969 300-1972 360-1974

How does the price help to date my book?

Ladybird books were designed to be affordable to the masses. Hence the price of the book remained at 2'6 from the very first book published in 1940 right up until decimalisation was bought in during 1971. During the period of transition to decimalisation, some books also displayed the price of 12½ pence. This was quickly increased to 15 pence. Most books between 1971 and 1973 seemed to be priced at 15 pence. However, there is some overlap! Between 1973 and 1974 the price appears to have increased to 18 pence. Then, from around 1974 until 1976 the standard price seems to have increased again, this time to 24 pence. Confused? It has to be said, the price of the book is not an accurate way to date a Ladybird book!

Which books were produced with pasted on pictures to the front board?

Both series 401 (Rhyming Stories) and 497 (Animal Tales) had a small colour picture pasted to the centre of the front board up until 1957. The small hand pasted picture on the front board always had the same illustration as that which was on the book dust wrapper.

Which Ladybird books had catalogues to the rear of the contents?

Most Ladybird books published prior to 1955 were produced with 56 pages, rather than the later standard 52 pages. One of these extra pages was sometimes used to advertise other books printed by Wills & Hepworth. By examining and dating the last few titles listed on this catalogue you can often find the approximate date of the book you are holding.

How do the endpapers of my book indicate the date it was published?

Prior to, and including, 1953, Wills & Hepworth printed their books with black and white pictorial endpapers. Some post 1953 Ladybird books did have pictorial endpapers but these were printed in colour ink.

Between 1953 and 1961 Wills & Hepworth books were printed with patterned endpapers showing an open winged Ladybird. However, some were printed in brown ink and some in blue ink. The brown open winged pattern was printed between 1953 and 1960. The blue open winged pattern was printed between 1956 and 1961. Obviously, these periods overlapped by 4 years.

When did the publisher Wills & Hepworth become Ladybird books?

Wills & Hepworth changed to Ladybird books in 1971.

When did Ladybird books stop being printed with dust wrappers?

Originally, all Ladybird books were printed with a delightful colour dust wrapper. However, this was discontinued in 1965. From 1965, Ladybird books were printed with matt pictorial boards.

When did the Ladybird motif change?

From its start until 1961 Wills & Hepworth choose to have a logo showing an open winged Ladybird. Then, from 1961 until 1966 the motif changed to a Ladybird with closed wings displayed in an oval shape with a boxed border. Finally, in 1967 the logo changed again to a closed winged Ladybird drawn from a side angle. This logo stayed until the late 1970's.

When did the direction of the title on the spine of the books change?

When Wills & Hepworth first printed Ladybird books, the title on the spine read from the bottom to the top. However, this was different from the majority of book publishers. Therefore, in 1959 they reversed this practice, and started printing the title to read from the top to the bottom of the spine, as was more generally the custom.

Were any Ladybird books printed in foreign languages?

Ladybird books were successful on in international scale! Here is a list of just some of the languages you can find the books translated into: Welsh, Scots and Irish Gaelic, Swedish, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Greek, Turkish, Norwegian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. This list is by no means comprehensive!

If you require any further information regarding collectable Ladybird books, please email us at and we will try our best to assist!