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Identifying your Ladybird editions
Please Note

The First Edition Finder on the right is a new addition to The Wee Web.

Some information may be missing but will be added as soon as possible.

If you spot any mistakes whilst using our First Edition Finder, then please do let us know.


Please Note: This first edition identifier is for Ladybird books printed between 1940 and 1980 ONLY
A guide to identifying your editions

Many people believe that if a Ladybird book states "First published 19XX" and has no other date then it will be a first edition - this couldn't be further from the truth!

Unlike many publishers, Wills & Hepworth did not have any method for stating whether a book was a first edition or not - but there are some guidelines and clues to help you identify a first edition.

Below Wee have given some guidelines and clues as to how to spot a first edition - for the sake of simplicity we have split this into two parts.
Identifying pre-1965 first editions in dust-wrappers
Identifying Matt editions from 1965 - 1980

A word before starting - it can be a very tricky process determining whether a Ladybird book is indeed a first edition. The guidelines we offer below must be cross-referenced to give you an accurate dating of your book.

In most cases it will be possible to date your book quite accurately, but occasionally you will come across a book that will be hard to date accurately as there are no steadfast rules to Ladybird's printing history.

After reading our advice below, you still haven't managed to date your book then please feel free to ask our expert advice.

 Identifying pre-1965 first editions

All Ladybird books prior to 1965 were published with dust-wrappers, most of which had the price of 2'6 Net printed on the inside front flap. On some of the first editions from the series of the 1940s there was no mention of price.

The price of 2'6 remained constant for 29 years.
Title lists
Most Ladybird books with dust-wrappers have a list of other books on the back inside flap. This list shows the other books that are to be found within that particular series.

If your books' title appears last on the list, or not at all, then this is strong indication that it could be a first edition. This is NOT to say that if your title is last on the list that you definately have a first edition - there are other issue points to consider!

An example of this exception is demonstrated with the image opposite - the title of this book is Smoke and Fluff - note that this title does not appear in the list and therefore could be presumed to be a first edition - BUT it's not! This is actually a fifth edition from 1947 as this is stated on the front flyleaf.

If your book is somewhere within the list and not the last entry then you definitely do NOT have a first edition Ladybird book.

White titles
A few early ladybird books had their titles first printed in white - these were changed to black in later printings. The titles that were originally published with white titles are:

William the Conqueror, British Birds and their Nests, King Alfred the Great, The Silver Arrow, The Child of the Temple, The Story of Daniel and The Little Lord Jesus.

If you have any of the above titles and they have white titling, and are last in the list of the back flap, then it is safe to say they are first editions.

Dating logos
Up until 1961 Wills & Hepworth used the open-winged Ladybird logo on their books - an example of this can be seen on the left. If your book has this logo then it is from 1961 or before.
In 1961 the logo was changed to the closed-winged Ladybird, which can be seen on the right. If your book has this logo then it is from 1961 or later.

Both these logos are usually found in the middle of the front flyleaf opposite the title page as well as at the top of the back inside flap of the dust-wrappers.
Post 1961 the logo could be found in the middle of the dust-wrapper's back cover.

Dating the endpapers
Ladybird books can also be approximately dated by examining their endpapers. Below are the examples of different endpapers, and the period of time in which they were used.

Ladybird pictorial endpapers Pictorial Endpapers
If the endapers are pictorial (have a drawing, rather than pattern) and have no colouring to them then your book is most likely from 1953 or earlier.

Some post-1953 Ladybird books did have pictorial endpapers but these were printed in colour ink.
The image above shows the pictorial endpapers of a 1947 edition of Smoke and Fluff. The illustration to the back endpaper often differed to the front one.

Brown open-winged Endpapers
The first patterned endpapers was the brown, open-winged ladybird of which an example can be seen on the right.

This style of endpaper was used between 1953 and 1960, so if your book has this pattern to it then your book is dated sometime between these dates.
grey-brown open-winged patterned endpaper

blue open-winged patterned endpaper Blue open-winged Endpapers

Ladybird started to use blue ink for the open-winged endpapers in 1956 and continued this through to 1961. This meant there was an overlap of four years where both patterned endpapers were being used.
If the book has blue patterned endpapers like the image on the left then it can be dated from somewhere between 1956 and 1961.

Pictorial boards and pastedowns
Pictorial boards were found under the dust-wrappers of early editions of the 401 and the 497 series. In these editions have a small picture, that was usually the same illustration as that on the dust-wrapper, pasted to it's front board inside a black-lined frame.

The book on the left shows the dust-wrapper and the front board of a 1947 edition of Smoke and Fluff.

The image on the far left is the dust-wrapper and the other is the book's front board.
If you look closely you'll see that the picture pasted to the front board is slightly squint - this was common as these were pasted-on by hand.

If your 401 title is one of the first 18 titles / first 10 of series 497, and it doesn't have a small picture pasted to the front board, then you don't have a first edition.

(Animal Stories)

A good way to identifying a first edition Ladybird book from series 401 or 497 is to check that it matches the following issue points:

1. Your book should have a dust-wrapper
2. Your book should have a small picture pasted on the front board - the illustration is the same image that appears on the dust-wrapper.
3. Your book should be the last title listed on the rear flap of the dust-wrapper, or not listed at all
4. Your book should have black & white pictorial endpapers (not patterned)
5. The pages of your book should be creamy in colour and NOT white
6. The text on the spine of your book, of both the book itself and it's dust-wrapper should be written from bottom to top?
7. Your book should state "First published, 19XX" on the front endpaper, or mention no date at all
8. Your book should have a catalogue page, or pages, at the rear of the book showing books in other Ladybird series
9. Your book should have the original.'open-winged' Ladybird logo (shown above under the section DATING the LOGOS), or none at all?

If your book from series 401 and 497 matches the above issue points then it is a first edition.

Full-colour pictorial front boards
413, 455, 474 and series 538 were published with full picture boards that were gloss-coated - the illustrations on the front boards were identical to the dust-wrapper that protected them. Reprints of these books kept the pictorial boards up until 1956 and then were replaced with lined illustrations instead. This was all to do with cutting production costs.

Spine text direction
Ladybird printed the text on the spines from bottom to top but in 1959 changed this to follow the practice of most publishers and started printing the titles from top to bottom. All editions that have the writing on the spine running from bottom to top are from 1959 or earlier.

Catalogue pages
From early 1941 up to 1957 Ladybird books were published with a catalogue page, or pages, at the rear of the book which were used to advertise other books in the series, as well as some of their other series.

The catalogue page oppisite is from a 1947 edition of Smoke and Fluff and is an example of how we can date a book to within a year using the logic below.

Notice the last title in series 413 is Bedtime Rhymes - We know this title was first published in 1946. We also know that the next title in this series wasn't published until 1949.
The last title in series 417 is The Secret - We know this title was first published in 1945. We also know that the next title in this series wasn't published until May 1948.

The only title in series 455 is In Green Patures - We know this title was first published in 1945. We also know that the next title in this series wasn't published until 1948.

Therefore by noting the original publishing dates of the last titles in each series, and by knowing the publishing dates of the books that followed in each series, we can approximate the date of our copy of 'Smoke and Fluff' to be from 1947 - this is clarified by the printing history on the front flyleaf which states:

First published 1941
Fifth Edition 1947
Printed dates
Some early editions were produced with dates and printing edition status. This information was found on the third page.
Books published in 1940 and 1941 tend not to have any dates on their first editions ie; series 401, 413 and 417. However on later editions they would have the copyright info printed as like in the above example.

 Dating 'matt' editions (1965 - 1980)

From 1965 onwards all Ladybird books were no longer published with dust-wrappers, but instead were produced with matt-finished pictorial boards. Later in the 1980s Ladybird started producing glossy pictorial boards for their books.

It is worth noting that the Key Words Reading Scheme books 1a - 9a and 1b - 3b were all printed in 1964 and had matt pictorial boards. So the first ever matt Ladybird book was Play With Us (1a), published in 1964.

A word before starting - it can be a tricky process determining whether a Ladybird book is indeed a first edition. The guidelines we offer below must be cross-referenced to give you an accurate dating of your book.

Tally numbers
An example of a tally number found printed on the back of a matt ladybird book
Books dating between 1963 and 1974 can be partially dated by checking the 'Tally Number' (number of editions published so far) - this can be found on the bottom of the rear board (see picture above).

You can partially date any Ladybird book published between 1963 and 1974 by looking at the tally numbers and referencing them using the following table - however the original price must be cross-referenced to give an accurate dating:

Tally No Date Tally No Date Tally No Date Tally No Date
100 1963 190 1967 250 1969 330 1973
120 1964/5 200 1967 260 1969 340 1973
135 1965 210 1968 270 1970  350 1974
140 1965 220 1968 280 1970  360 1974
150 1966 225 1968 290 1971 370 1974
160 1966 230 1969 300 1972    
170 1966 240 1969 320 1973    


Do NIOT date your book by Tally number alone - you must also make sure that the original price matches the date of the Tally Number. You will also need to look at the list on the rear of the board to see if the title you are identifying is the last title listed, or not lited at all.

A good example that demontrates that Tally Numbers should NOT be used as the only indicator when identifying the date of a book, can be seen in the following example.

We have on our desk a copy of 'The Sailor' from series 606b which was originally published in 1967 - our copy has on the rear board Tally Number 340 which would imply that this edition was printed in 1973. However taking a closer look at the rear board we notice the original price is 30p - it wasn't until 1978 that Ladybird books wre priced at 30p so it would be accurate to date this edition to this time.
Original price
As with tally numbers you can also date your book to an approx year by looking at the original price on the book.

In 1965 when matt editions first appeared the original price on the books was 2'6 Net - this price continued for the next 4 years when in 1969 prices changed due to decimalisation. some books from 1969 can therefore be found to have two prices, 2'6 and 121/2 pence.
On the left you can see a book that was published sometime between February and May in 1971 Sometimes the price on 2'6 Net matt editions could be found on the inside board or on the front flyleaf.
Occasionally you'll find a book to have a black square stamped on to the cover. This is where the price has been revised. The image on the left shows the single price of 2'6 Net which was stamped onto the back board.

* Occasionally on some early books you will not find a price at all.

The price on a book does NOT accurately indicate the year that it was printed, but it can give you an approximation - you must cross-reference the original price with the Tally Number and Title List shown on the rear board

The table below shows the price found on Ladybird books in different years.

Price Date
2,6 Net 1965 - February 1971
2/6 Net 121/2p February 1971 - May 1971
15p 1 June 1971 - 30 April
18p 1 May 1974 - 15 June 1975
24p 16 June 1975 - 10 January 1978
30p 11 January 1978 - 24 June 1979
40p 25 June 1979 - 31 December 1980
50p 1 January 1981 - 30 June 1982
60p 1 July 1982 - 31 December 1983
70p 1 January 1984 - 31 December 1985
75p 1 January 1985 - 31 December 1986
85p 1 January 1987 - 31 December 1987
90p 1 January 1988 - 31 December 1988
99p From January 1 1989

Is your 'matt' edition a first edition?
To determine whether your 'matt' Ladybird book is a first edition you must check that the Tally Number and Original Price correspond to the date your book was originally published - the title of your book should also be the last title listed on the rear board, or not listed at all. If these three points match then you have a firt edition.

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