I am lucky enough to possess a number of signed Ladybirds. Here are a few stories behind them:

Making a Transistor Radio is a highly sought after title, and the only title in series 724 similar to it's revamped learnabout cousin apart from a more traditional, and attractive cover it was written by G.C.Dobbs. and first published in 1972. My signed pristine copy of this early edition had belonged to a retired school-teacher who in turn was given this book by a collegue when C.G.Dobbs gave a presentation talk on radios at their school. Perhaps someone out there recalls such an event?

Understanding the Sea is a most interesting title in the conservation series and was written by Denis Sanderson. Another retired teacher! I have a lovely personalised inscription by the author in my copy. It took Denis nearly 10 years before his work was finally published. A keen nature man and scientist, he originally suggested submitting his own drawings and diagrams for the book but ultimately he had no say in the art presentation organised by the Ladybird publishers. It may be of interest to note that this study of the sea was mainly garnered from the coast near Morecambe. Sadly, this is Denis's only Ladybird book.

As befits Science Fiction my signed copy of The Planet of Death has an unusual and spooky story behind it. A few months ago a fellow LB collector mentioned he had a signed copy by co-author Geoffrey Hoyle to swap. I was keen to get a hold of this title not least because I had for a number of years been only successful in finding one other title in this series, signed or unsigned, however i was unable to come up with an appropriate swap and as I was about to go to the Med for a week, gave up any hope of possessing it in the near future. Imagine the shock when walking into an unprepossessing new bookshop in Valletta, that there tucked behind some brand-new but older titles was a single science fiction title The Planet of Death - and yes it was signed!! It was not only the coincidence of comimg acrooss such a book in a most unlikely setting but the timing which was really odd... One question remains unanswered: are the unsigned copies rarer than the signed?

Kathy Layfield was a prolific illustrator for Ladybird's later titles and she is also the author of two of the Learnabout titles. I am proud to know her personally and feel particularly privileged that amongst many of her books I am the owner of Learnabout Painting, not a mint condition copy, but splattered, quite fittingly, with paint marks. What makes it so special is that this copy happened to be Kathy's once and was used by her students at her art classes.

I would love to hear of other similar stories behind the books of other LB collectors. Let me know and I'll post them up here.


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