Over the Christmas period there was a wonderful documentary on BBC4 called The Ladybird Books Story. You might still be able to catch it on iPlayer or possibly YouTube. It’s well worth watching for anyone who remembers the books fondly from their Primary School days.
A few days after I wrote this we all had a family day out to one of our favourite places, the picturesque market town of Settle, North Yorkshire.
Fortunately, there are a number of lovely bookshops (…as well as cake shops…) in Settle and so with this documentary fresh in my mind and out of nostalgic curiosity I bought a copy of “British Birds and their nests”.
The evocative musty smell of the book certainly brought some memories flooding back and when you get inside the illustrations created in this instance by acclaimed ornithological painter Allen Seaby are unsurprisingly beautiful.
As well as the attention to detail on the birds themselves Allen manages to create a lovely atmosphere with vivid, hazy and almost out of focus backgrounds.
Robin by Allen Seaby
The layout of the book is also a triumph. It’s simple, consistent and accessible like all great design. There’s nothing to distract the reader. On one page there’s a heading with a few short paragraphs about the bird and on the facing page is the illustration. Beautiful!
Blackbird by Allen Seaby
Long before the Internet these lovingly produced books were one of the ways children learnt about the world around them. It’s easy to view them today with nostalgic eyes and I must confess that’s initially what made me buy this one but something this beautiful must still have a place in the digital world, as a learning aid and as an example of great design.