Tunnicliffe’s Farm

The Farm dustjacketThis 1958 Ladybird Learning to Read Book was illustrated by C. F. Tunnicliffe, R.A. (1901-1979), an artist who made a big impression on me as a child.

He attended Macclesfield School of Art then went on to the Royal College of Art, where he studied etching and engraving.

title page

He follows in the wood engraving tradition of Thomas Bewick by regularly setting a dark object against a light background and a light object against a dark background.

But he does it with such assurance that it never looks contrived.

Front coverThe Ladybird format was cleverly designed to make the most of the colour presses at Wills & Hepworth’s, Loughborough. A single sheet through the press was folded to produce four sixteen-page signatures. The outer pages served as endpapers since Ladybirds were always hardbacks. This allowed for traditional features such as a dustjacket and, on the front of the hardback itself, an extra illustration, again very much in the tradition of wood engraving.

endpapersLadybird books are now popular with collectors but when you come across them in charity shops they are often, like so many well-loved children’s books, in a sorry state. How did this one survive comparatively unscathed?

It was a Sunday school prize, treasured by my brother Bill. He’d be about five at the time, so even then he had probably started to get beyond its beginner’s reading stage.

I’ve had it squirrelled away in a box in the attic for the last thirty years, so it’s about time that I returned it to him. But would his little grandson look after it as carefully as he did?

Perhaps I’d better hang on to it for a few more decades!

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