Non-Fiction Series Books: Ladybird Books--Subjects

Figure 1.--One book from the Ladybird "Through the Ages" series dealt with transport. This illustration dealt with bicycles. The illustration looks to date to the late 19th century when the high-wheel bicycles were popular. The boy here appears to have a wooden bicycle, without peddles. There were indeed many variants of bucycles in the late 19th century near to the turn of the century. (Note the eary automobile.) At the time, only boys from very affluent amilies would have one. In addition early bicycles were quite dangerous until basic saftey devices were added in the early 20th century. We question the accuracy of the boys clothing which looks more like the mid than the late 19th century.

The subject of the books covered many area of general knowledge. Besides being well known for it's reading scheme to teach students grammar of the English language, Ladybird books also covered educational topics which included amongst others; the arts, history, geography, nature, science, poetry, science, and sport, were the main topics the books covered. There were, howevr, many other topics addressed to varying degrees. The books were continually reviewed. New titles were added and others were deleted. Many of these books were issued in serie of related titles. I am not sure precisely how many different subjects were covered. We do note that in the 1970s there were over 300 individual titles available.


Another series deal with "Achievements" One of these of special interest to HBC as the one on clothing and costumne. A HBC reader remembers gertting a vopy of this book. The text does a wonderful job of summarizing developments so that children can understand major trends. A HBC reader recalls getting a copy of this book as a boy. He notices a definite middleclass outlook. The artists are careful to depict children along with adults.

Biblical Stories

Ladybird had a series of Biblical stories. It included both Old and New Testament stories. A HBC reader, Bill, remembers these books. He received some as prises in Sunday School. He writes, "The books were some sort of consolation as I loved books as a kid (any books). My favourites were “Joseph and the Coat of many Colours” and “The Story of Moses”. Like I said the Ladybird History books were my favourites but these Sunday school ones were well illustrated and so I did read them.I don't have them still but I remember the parting of the Red Sea was a classic ladybird action illustration – very realistic."

Great Artists

One series (of many) was 'Great Artists'. This was covered over two books (of I know of) and it has thumbnail sketches of world renowned artists of Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Text is by Dorothy Aitchison with superb illustrations by Martin Aitchison. Rubens (1577-1640) was born in Antwerp to a family with substantial means. His mother wanted him to be a courtier and at the age of 13 sent him to be a page for an elderly Princess, Marguerite de Ligne. As Aitchison's amusing illustration shows, Ruben found this to be uninteresting. He had already shown from a young age to have a talent for drawing. Raphael (1483-1520) was born in a hill city of Urbino, Italy. He had already as a young adult, had painted world renowned masterpieces. Amongst many other achievements, Raphael was second to Michelangelo to work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Aitchison's engaging illustration shows him as a child in the city of Urbino. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was born in Florence. He was one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. Leonardo was passionately interested with natural phenomena. Here Aitchison shows the young Leonardo, to the dismay of his father, trying to paint a monster belching smoke on shield whilst surrounded with his decaying collection of insects and wildlife.

Great Civilisations

Great Civilisations: Egypt is 1 of 45 titles dealing with historical societies and famous people. The deputy Keeper of the Department of Archaeology at Birmingham City museum assisted the publishers in the books preparation. It was written by E.J. Shaw and was illustrated by Jorge Nunez. The book was published in 1973.

Great Composers

Another series Ladybird books made (of two books which I know of) was 'Lives of the Great Composers'. The series had entertaining thumbnail sketches of six great musicians (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn and Schubert) which was complemented by the superb artwork of Martin Aitchison. Besides capturing a subtle sense of dignity, poignancy, wry humour and a sense of levity in a dramatic situation, Aitchison's artwork also took meticulous care to accurately interpret the garments worn during that period. Care is also given to the attention of detail with the surrounds and furnishings of the era. No doubt the artist researched his brief well before embarking on his work.


There were also books about the history of sport. The Story of Cricket is a very informative story about the development of this game. It is a colourful and illuminating story about how this English game developed. A few pages show children playing cricket. Children can be seen being coached in the game wearing white cricket wear, caps white shorts or long trousers and a sleeveless white jersey.

Through the Ages

Rgere was a series called "Through the Ages" . It took ordinary aspects of dily life, such a transport and shoed how it changed over time. Muriel Goaman wrote the book called ‘Through the Ages: Transport'. It was illustrated by Frank Hampson. The book covers the history of transport from the coracle to Concorde. The books often referred the reader to other, similar Ladybird titles. The book was published in 1970. The retail price of the book then was 24p. Another book in this series was on food, explaining how food was produced over time.

William Fergusson


Navigate the HBC literary pages' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the main Main Ladybird Books subject page]
[Return to the main Main children's literary page]
[Return to the main Main literary page]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: April 15, 2003
Last updated: February 29, 2004