Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Quiz 2014


Here's this year's Ladybird Book Christmas Quiz.

It doesn't have very much anything to do with Christmas, but I ran out of inspiration.

Very simply - I've taken some of the pictures that I've posted on Twitter this year and have zoomed in.  How many can you identify?

I'd like to know the series and, if possible, the name of the book. Lots, but not all are Well Loved Tales.  Also, two of the pictures below come from the same book.  But which one?


There'll be a prize for the winner - ie the person who emails me with the most correct answers - but don't get excited: it will be worth approximately 10p.

The real prize will be the glory of becoming this year's 'Wise Robin'.


Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

 Picture 4

 Picture 5

 Picture 6

Picture 7

Picture 8

Picture 9

 Picture 10

Picture 11

Picture 12

Picture 13

Picture 14

Picture 15


Picture 16


Picture 17






Good luck!

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!















Sunday, 23 November 2014

Much Ado about Branding


Just this week everywhere I look online I seem to see reference to Ladybird Books - and the trumpeting that they are " to drop gender branding from its books after almost 100 years".:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30143662

If you search Twitter at the moment for Ladybird Books - all you will see are re-tweets to links of variations on this article, usually accompanied with an exclamation "Finally!!" "Hooray!" "About time too" or some other verbal eye-roll.

The things is, my own eyes then focus on my main Ladybird collection - approximately 2000 books published between 1940 and 1980 (with a little blip to allow the wonderful Puddle Lane series into the fold).  And it occurs to me,

"You know, I can't think of one single book in the whole of this vast collection that is branded '"For Boys" or "For Girls".

Sure enough, there isn't one. Not one.  In fact, apparently there have only ever been about 6 - all of them published in the 21st century, none of which I've ever noticed.

Well  of course it's a good thing to drop this sort of branding.  Of course let kids feel free to enjoy whatever they like  - I personally can't stand the early commercialised tyranny of pink and blue.

But  just 6 titles - all published in the last few years.  What on earth is all this fuss about?  Why all the talk about "After 100 years ... finally..."? 



Well first of all, Ladybird is an iconic name in children's publishing - so perhaps it's inevitable that a small gesture should be treated as a milestone. 

Secondly, people are probably confusing 'branding' with 'stereotyping'.  Oh yes, of course vintage Ladybird Books are crammed full of stereotyping.  In the 1950s books, middle-class Mummy rarely takes off her apron, unless to go shopping.  All decisions are first passed by authoritative, suit-wearing, pipe-smoking Daddy.  Childhood is an apprenticeship into these strictly demarcated roles for both boys and girls - the former learn to clean the car and make things with tools, the girls to cook and clean and sew.  This continues well into the 1960s - and therefore is illustrated in the iconic figures of Peter and Jane.

Part of the pleasure of vintage Ladybird Books lies in looking through this little window (however distorting) into concepts and attitudes of the decades in which they were written.

You can also note in the books the attempts that were made in the 1960s and beyond to address the stereotyping that was beginning to be condemned by parents and teachers as society itself began to reflect more on the nature of gender roles in the years leading up to changes of legislation in the 1970s. There might have been assumptions that some of these books would be more likely to be purchased by (and for) boys rather than girls, and vice versa.  But there was no actual branding to set this in stone - not even indirectly through colour-coding,  differentiated fonts or layout.



These books are products of the society that produced them - then - not now.  Peter and Jane alone might still be in print today, but they are locked in their late 70s, early 80s world - the last time that the books were edited or re-illustrated.

The third reason why this story has made the headlines?   I don't suppose Ladybird today mind at all if a news item  reminds the world that the trade name 'Ladybird' has been around for 100 years, and that therefore there's a centenury coming up.




Saturday, 1 November 2014

Timeshift: The Ladybird Books Story - if you missed it last time ...

If you missed it last time, the BBC4 Timeshift documentary, The Ladybird Books Story, is due to be re-shown on Sunday (2nd Nov) at 7.pm. 

What a perfect way to spend a Sunday evening.  Brian Cox and Human Universe?  Strictly Results Show?  ... No contest.  That's what iPlayer is for.

It has to be Ladybird Books every time.  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03mp53s

If you managed to miss it a second time ...
[sigh] ... here's the link to iPlayer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03mp53s/timeshift-series-13-5-the-ladybird-books-story-how-britain-got-the-reading-bug

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Ladybird Story - My Review

The Ladybird Book Story is a new publication based on a PhD thesis by Lorraine Johnson and co-written by Brian Alderson; published by The British Library.

Here's a very quick summary of what I'm going to say for those who are only very mildly interested in Ladybird Books and considering a purchase for self or others.

1) If you are properly interested in the publishing phenomenon that was Ladybird - not just from 1940 until 2000 but throughout the 20th century and would like to know more - you must buy this book.

2) If you want a nice glossy coffee-table book full of large pictures, packed with vintage charm and nostalgia and just a dribble of text - it would probably best not to buy this book.

Now onto the detail.


This book is a mine of information.  It is particularly informative with regard to areas that other books have rarely touched on: the years before 1940 and the start of the iconic 'small-sized' books and on technical details regarding the printing process and how this evolved over the decades.  It also works hard to place Ladybird into the context of its day - painting a detailed background of alternative publishers, historical events, social, political and educative influences etc.  Whilst not crammed with luscious images, the book is well-illustrated with carefully chosen, often unusual images; a good balance is struck, I feel, between adding colour and variety and keeping the book affordable.

Both writers are extremely well-informed on their particular areas of expertise and the book is well-written - in a generally lively and readable prose that avoids most of the expected pitfalls of a book that started life as an academic thesis. 

I have been interested in Ladybird all my life and have been a collector for around 15 years; for years I have watched every programme and read every article I could find.  Yet this book offered me lots of new information and some new perspectives.

Now for the opinion stuff - this bit is long, but the book merits it.

The co-authorship of this book is not a harmonous blend; there are clearly two different authorial voices that take it in turns to come to the fore.  The meticulous detail that describes the production methods of the printing process and its changes over time sits rather self-consciously among the lighter, less technical narrative. This is an observation rather than a criticism; for me the book was no less readable as a result.

A feature that struck more forcibly was that at least one of the authors seemed to have no previous first-hand experience of using or growing up with Ladybird Books.  In a field such is this it is unusual to read such an extensive work that has not been inspired by an affection for, or even personal memories of, Ladybird.  At least one of the writers does not, it would appear, remember them much from childhood, was not a teacher (or perhaps even a parent?) did not grow up learning to read with them or help others to do so.  To a large extent this brings a freshness of perspective unclouded by sentiment and nostalgia.  There is nothing at all sycophantic or over-indulgent about the evaluation of the small Loughborough printing company that rose so quickly to become a giant in children's publishing.

The downside of this absence of personal experience with the books is that at least one of the authors, one with a very strong authorial voice, has some serious blind spots in consideration of the books' merits.  Because they do not meet this author's very strong, pre-formed notions of what should make a children's book 'good' and 'worthy', s/he is often left completely baffled by - at times almost resentful of - the success and popularity of certain series, in particular the fiction and reading scheme.  The somewhat curmudgeonly tone that sometimes breaks through the guise of impartiality was not, for me, a major flaw.  It was quite amusing to spot (there were unintentional laugh-out-loud moments) and added another layer of enjoyment.

At times too this tone appears when dealing with the apparently mystifying concept the 'the collector,' as when one of the writers, commenting on what s/he calls 'the indifferent performance' of both writer and illustrator of The Impatient Horse, adds that this casts 
"a singular reflection... on the tastes and vagaries of the 'collectors' market', for The Impatient Horse is now one of the most sought-after - and highly-priced [books]'.  
(The writer here has surely allowed the desire to quip to cloud his/her common sense: in almost every area of collecting it is the rare that is sought-after.  For the book collector this will usually mean a book that was less successful as it was published in lower numbers and for a shorter time.  Just as a flawed stamp or withdrawn coin will swiftly become sought-after, it is because, not in spite, of the perceived 'indifferent' execution).

Much play is made, too, of the 'tyranny' of the classic Ladybird format: 50 or so pages, always with a full-page picture on the right and the text on the left.  The appeal of this format to users, to children, to teachers etc, is minimised by the writer/s.  It is seen by them as a limiting factor that prevents variety and creativity.  I cannot agree on this point.  Were boundaries of format not actually a great framework to creativity, the sonnet and haiku could never have emerged.  If a poet can work within a strict syllable count, a writer of fiction can divide their content into 24 (or so) pages.  Ladybird's success began with the first appearance of this format - and began to ebb away with its withdrawal.  Is this really to be seen as coincidence? Of course not.  It was key to that success.

Perhaps more serious is the inconsistency of depth in the research.  Both writers are very well-informed in their areas of expertise.  One of the major strengths, as mentioned above, is that it provides a context for Wills & Hepworth's operations in a depth I have never met before.  Other accounts of the Ladybird story have portrayed the company as existing almost in isolation, as if there were no other children's publishers and no other external pressures influencing decisions. Others have concentrated on Ladybird's 'golden years', as though nothing existed before 1950 or after 1974.   In this version the background is so dense that at time the focus is lost; at times it seems that the author of the moment has forgotten the subject under discussion in the enjoyment of sharing their extensive knowledge of children's publishing generally.

At other points in this account, however, there appears to have been an over-reliance on websites for some information.  I can forgive the fact that Noel Barr is assumed to be male, as the name would imply so and there's not much written about her.  But the authors do not appear to have spoken to some key people, for example to Douglas Keen's daughters, or to have looked at the archive materials in their possession.  The role of Douglas Keen in this account is, perhaps as a result, greatly minimised .  Whilst this means that the spot-light shines more brightly on other characters in the narrative (such as James Clegg and Percy Roberts) this would seem to me to have had a distorting effect on the account generally.

In short, however, a little human spikiness adds texture to the narrative.  The authors succeed in creating a good mix of fact and (strong) opinion and, although the narrative device of following Douglas Keen as 'a main character' through the story is eschewed, they do manage to provide us with a villain as a closing device, in the person of the suitably double-barreled 'Forbes-Watson'.  At the end of the tale he sweeps into Loughborough from the Capital, all but swirling his black cloak, and, with weasel words and crocodile tears, brings the curtain down on the Loughborough works.

I was booing and hissing from my armchair and actually had a tear in my eye as I read the last line.

An effective ending to a great read.



Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Ladybird Book that never was

The original Kenney versions and a 1978 version

When I met John Kenney's relative (see last post) she asked me whether Ladybird had ever published a book in the Robin Hood series called 'The Spy'.

The reason for this question, it transpired, was because she had found a set of preliminary sketches, outlining a projected Ladybird Book by that title.    Now Kenney had illustrated the first two Robin Hood books: series 549 in 1954: The Ambush and The Silver Arrow.   But as far as I knew, there were no other Robin Hood titles added to this series until the late 1970s, when they were reissued in a completely different version and with a different illustrator, as part of series 740:
  • Robin Hood Outlawed
  • Robin Hood and the King's Ransom
  • Robin Hood to the Rescue
  • Robin Hood and the Silver Arrow
The drawings that she had found in Kenney's studio consisted of the full set of preliminary pencil sketches for a complete book, presumably intended to be the third in the original Robin Hood series. This being the case, they would have been produced in the mid-50s.  Here's a picture of some of them:

Scenes from 'The Spy'

Since this book was never published, we then wondered if the actual artwork was ever produced, or if the project got no further than this.  Now most, but by no means all, Ladybird artwork is today housed as one of Reading University Library's 'Special Collections':
http://www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/collections/sc-ladybird.aspx

I contacted them and asked about Kenney's illustrations.  Yes, apparently they have a large amount of Kenney artwork but no, there seems to be no artwork relating to a book 'The Spy'.  So it looks likely that this book never got beyond the planning stage. 

However, at the same time Kenney's relative had discovered a receipt for payment of more artwork for a book that was never issued.  'Through the Ages: Food' was published in 1968 and was illustrated by Frank Hampson.  But it was for completion of the artwork of this book that Kenney had been paid.

So Ladybird had invested money, and Kenney no small amount of labour, in the production of a book that was never published - or rather, that was then completely re-illustrated for no obvious reason by another artist.


The Hampson-illustrated final book

Who knows why this decision was taken.  Who knows whatever happened to the finished, unused Kenney artwork (yes I checked and established that it isn't hiding in the Reading archive).  And who knows how common a situation this was - how many other books were illustrated but never saw the light of day.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The evolution of Tootles


Last month I had a truly Ladybird-Geeky treat.  I met up with Ladybird artist John Kenney's closest surviving relative and, over a very pleasant lunch, enjoyed the pleasure of talking with someone who shares my passion for these pictures and in addition learnt a lot more about the man himself.

John Kenney was one of the best loved of Ladybird artists,.  He illustrated almost all the earlier History books, from the first in the series,  'Alfred the Great' in 1956 up to The Pilgrim Fathers, 1972.  He created the artwork for the early Robin Hood books, The Silver Arrow and The Ambush.  And of course, he created many people's childhood favourite: Tootles the Taxi.

I was also shown this piece of original artwork:





An early version of the artwork, now framed behind glass (hence the reflection); different from the final version, but clearly recognisable as the much-loved character. 

The finished artwork, used to produce the book, is almost certainly now in what's called the 'Ladybird Archive' in the Univeristy of Reading (of which more anon).

At this stage, Kenney's ideas for the image are still evolving: Tootles' expression is different; instead of the two children and dog in the foreground, we see a woman and daughter and the background scene is different.  This, of course, only adds to its appeal to the John Kenney fan.  What a wonderful and unique piece of Ladybird history to have hanging on your wall!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Peter and Jane, Jon Bentley and 'The Lost Episodes'

Last summer, when the programme makers of BBC4's 'The Ladybird Book Story' came to film, I showed the director Jon Bentley's 'Peter and Jane' inspired art: 'The Lost Episodes'.  She liked them as much as I do and took the artist's details, with a view to including an interview with him in the documentary.

I heard later that they team had spent an afternoon filming Jon.

But when the (wonderful) documentary came out - of Jon Bentley there was nothing.
Another 'lost episode'? 
But I found out what happened in this video.

Bear with the start of it; it will get to the 'Ladybird' point after a minute or two:


The fascinating Jon Bentley introduces 'The Lost Episodes' - pieces which I like very much indeed; I would love to see the originals one day.

If you'd like to see online versions, you'll find them here.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Charles Tunnicliffe Ladybird Artwork Exhibition on Anglesey


We're lucky enough to live for part of the year in North Wales.  Earlier this month I went to Anglesey, to the Oriel Ynys Môn Gallery to see the Ladybird Tunnicliffe exhibition that's on till the end of the year.  The gallery website is here:  http://www.kyffinwilliams.info/eng/

I heard about the exhibition here:

BBC website: Tunnicliffe exhibition


The exhibition was petite but lovely - featuring a large number of pieces of original artwork from the What to Look for series of book.  (I don't recall seeing anything from the other book that Tunnicliffe illustrated: The Farm).  There were other bits and pieces too that brought the exhibition to life, such as Tunnicliffe's sketch book and paint-box.  The museum also has a few Tunnicliffe pieces (not Ladybird) in the main gallery, such as the splendied 'Shire Horses', pictured above.  For younger kids there was a 'Nature Trail,' for completion of which they could earn one of the '4 Seasons' badges. (I cheated, and just paid 50p for mine).

As always, when you see the artwork 'in the flesh'  it has so much more impact that when you see it in a book.  The cafe was excellent and the staff couldn't have been more helpful, so I would definitely recommend you pay them a visit if you're anywhere near-ish-by.

Tunnicliffe is a fairly well-known artist and Anglesey is understandably proud of its links with him. But the visit got me thinking about artists and exhibitions and what we value and celebrate...

... But perhaps that's another story.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

What To Look For - In Vain

A few weeks ago, I was searching through my Ladybird Books, looking for a suitable picture to use for the commemoration of the D-Day Landings.  It proved very hard to find anything - and reminded me how very few pictures there are in the vast canon of Ladybird artwork representing either of the Great Wars.



Now this seems rather odd. The brand 'Ladybird' first appeared in, I think, 1915.  The small-sized books were first issued in 1940 - their very size being dictated by war-time paper shortages.  Naturally most of the staff at Wills and Hepworth, including Douglas Keen, served in one capacity or another; artist Martin Aitchison (one of the most prolific illustrators for Ladybird) worked with Barnes Wallis, drawing up plans for the Dambusters bouncing bomb.

I was born in the mid-60s.  When I was little, the war was still a shadowy presence behind everything: television programmes, children's games, songs, films...

The 1960s were a golden age for Ladybird, with vast print runs and a presence in every outlet of  learning and entertainment.  And yet, in Ladybird Books there is hardly any mention of the war.  There is only one picture of Winston Churchill that I can think of (Great Men and Women).  There are none of Hitler.  There's no mention of Anne Frank or the persecution of the Jews. There are occasional pictures of tanks or bombing raids in Aircarft or The Story of the Motor Car.  Arms and Armour devotes pages to axes, bows and muskets and just a couple of pages (and some endpapers) to modern warfare.  For all the battle scenes in the History books, there are no specific World-War battles mentioned that I can find, other than a brief mention of The Battle of Britain.



And despite the fervent patriotism of many Ladybird series, most of the many opportunities for post-war triumphalism are ignored too.  Why might this be?

The most obvious reason that I can think of is that this reflects an unspoken attitude of the times: look forward to the future or right back to a cosier past.  But let's not dwell on the recent past.

Or was there a deliberate policy to side-step the World Wars?  Was this something Douglas Keen himself dictated?  That this was necessarily unsuitable material for children's publishing seems unlikely if you consider the huge popularity of books such as the Biggles series.

This got me thinking about all the other strange omissions - things I would expect to find recorded in Ladybird Books - but can't.  (I'm talking here about the 'golden-era' - between 1940 - 1980).

So far this list includes:

The Suffragettes - nothing.  Not one mention.
No Amy Johnson (nor Amelia Earhart)
No Einstein
No Jane Seymour nor Catherin Parr
No Margaret Beaufort
No Lady Jane Grey
No Clive of India
Almost no French Revolution (just Dickens' 'Tale of 2 Cities')
No American Civil War
No picture of Statue of Liberty
No Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley
No Jane Austen
Almost no Bronte sisters (tiny bit in Elizabeth Gaskell)
As mentioned earlier, no Anne Frank or Hitler and only one pic of Churchill
Only a couple of uninspiring pics in 'Story of Science' of Isaac Newton


If anyone can think of a picture of the above that I've overlooked - DO let me know! Any other odd omissions that you've noticed?



 Returning to the World Wars - I did eventually find a picture of the Normandy Landings, but it wasn't easy.  I found a few pictures in the book 'Soldiers' from the Ladybird Leaders series, 1975.  Interestingly, this series of books, one of the last to be produced in the Douglas Keen era, was intended for younger children.  Perhaps a clue to the thinking is summed up on the last page:

"In the past, soldiers fought other soldiers.
In war today, nobody is safe.
Any man, woman or child can be killed, injured or made homeless"



Of course, despite the bright colours and sanitised  Ladybird portrayals of battles in earlier centuries, the reality of is that civilian men, women and children have always suffered in times of warfare.  But the heavy weariness of that  sentence is the closest I can come to an answer.





Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Things to Make and Do ...

What do you do with a lovely old Ladybird Book that is totally clapped out and unusable?  I mean, scribbles on pages, missing pages ... beyond redemption?

Do you, like me, still find it hard to throw them away?

The charm of old Ladybird Books lies principally in the artwork and if there are still pictures worth saving then save them I try to do.  I'm not the most crafty of folk, but this compulsion is enough to drive me to d... decoupage: cutting out pictures with fine scissors, and making a collage-esque picture with them.

Here are some that I've experimented with:

Looking on the internet, I seem people have toyed with similar ideas.  I love this idea posted on Twitter by @PeterInDevon - something he made for his son's bedroom:







But perhaps the cleverest use I've seen so far is this bird box, posted on Twitter by @CraftFinder

Inspiring!

Anybody else have any examples?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Today in Ladybird history ...

Recently I've been having a lot of fun sending daily tweets along the lines of: on this day in history ... I find a historical fact and then illustrate it with a relevant picture from a Ladybird Book.

Here's are a couple of examples:




The problem is, the sources of historical 'facts' that help me to do this seem rather limited. Given the breadth of depth of the terrain that Ladybird Books covered, there is so much more scope than I can easily produce using this method alone.

The answer then, I thought, is to reverse the process: start with the books and then put together a calendar of events illustrated in Ladybird Books. This approach though, it turns out, also has its problems. Surprisingly, Ladybird Books are rather thin on dates.

Actually, perhaps that's not so surprising. The vim and gusto of writers such as L du Garde Peach always put narrative ahead of objective detail; telling a story way ahead of being objective. And that must be a large part of the reason why the History books were so incredibly successful for so long. They were easy to read and didn't feel like school. Why else would so many of us have chosen to part with our meager pocket money on them when we weren't forced to?

The result? Many an evening is now passed by me in front of the telly with a clutch of old Ladybird Books and access to the internet. I look for interesting events portrayed in Ladybird Books and then try to find a date for them. Last night, for example, I 'battled' my way through the Wars of the Roses, trying to find dates for the most interesting pictures in Warwick the Kingmaker. Little by little I'm trying to build up a calendar - so there's at least one for every day of the year.

 Sad? Perhaps. But I'm learning lots too.

 Frankly, working on this I'm in geeky Ladybird heaven!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Indoor Gardening - June Griffen-King



June Griffen-King only wrote one book for Ladybird, but that one is something of a classic. It was 'Indoor Gardening', published in 1969.

It was one of those books which, in my young eyes, was somehow indicative of how life should be. My half-term holidays should be spent doing elegant arrangements of minature plants within large glass bottles - not watching Scooby Doo and squabbling with my brother.

In a new page in the 'writers and Artists section of my website, I've added an interview with June Griffen-King about her experience working for Ladybird in the late 1960s.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Flight 7

The wonders of photoshop. No, dear Ladybird collector friends, you're quite right. There are only 6 books in the series. My son made it for me as a goodbye present.

Flight 7 - Helen goes to China

On Monday I'm off to China for 3 weeks. I'm leaving husband and son behind and am going with a Chinese friend.


Preparing for the trip, it occurred to me how little there is in all the Ladybird series about China, the most populous country on earth and the longest continuous civilisation. All the colour and drama and legends and heros and folklore.


All the inventions: paper, printing, gun-powder, the compass. The wonderful logographic script. Fine Ladybird fare, you'd have thought.
But all I can find is the curiously remote: Great Civilisations: China, a supporting role in Marco Polo and a couple of pictures of The Great Wall.


Why so little?


Well I suppose the first reason that in the 1960s and 1970s - the 'golden years' of Ladybird, China was still seen as pretty well closed to the outside world. After it's 'century of humiliation' and the internal strife between Republicans, Nationalists and Communists, China turned in on itself - and the rest of the world pretended it didn't exist.
Before that, perhaps the Korean War loomed large enough to make China look like a poor subject for Ladybird. China does at least have a 'Great Civilisations' book - and so fares much better than Japan. Presumably the trauma of the 2nd World War wiped Japan off Ladybird horizens?. But China seems very alien - very very remote from Ladybird Land - despite the Hong Kong connection.

At least Hong Kong gave us a few Ladybird Books in Chinese.
(Sadly these are not so good for my learning of the Chinese language - being written for the Hong Kong market they're written in the 'traditional' script of the islands rather than the 'simplified' script of the mainland. And if you're lucky enough to find one of the books accompanied by an audio cassette - being for the Hong Kong market they are in Cantonese, not Mandarin).

Anyway, I'm off tomorrow. Please wish me, as the Chinese say, favourable winds ...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Mummy through the decades

Recently I've been taking a closer look at how family members are shown across the decades in Ladybird Book. 'Mummy' in the 40s 50s and even 60s is often a very glamorous creature - very slender and with wonderfully coiffered hair and unsuitable clothes for the occasion. Here, on Mother's Day, is a summary: 'Mummy' through the decades in Ladybird Books

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

How to date Ladybird Books

As all collectors know, Ladybird Books can be harder than most to accurately date.  For the most part, the only date in a vintage Ladybird Book is on the title page - and that date is the date of the publication of the first edition, not the actual edition you have in your hand.  This is one of the reasons why so many Ladybird Books are falsely described as 'First Editions' on the internet and even in specialist bookshops.

On the other hand, once you have got your head around the basics, doing a bit of detective work can be part of the fun of collecting.  A collecting pal of mine, Andrew Brade, sent me a table that he uses to help date his books.  It uses guidelines you can find elsewhere (including in the 'How Old is my  Book' section of my website) - original price, tally numbers etc.  But it has been very neatly put together and might be useful to other people out there.  He tells me he is happy for me to share it so here it is:

Click on it to enlarge!