644 - Customs
The Stories Of Our Christmas Customs 1964
Another series which was never properly developed, the "Customs" titles ran to just two books in eight years. Both were written by N. F. Pearson, who was obviously a patient person (one can imagine the pile of reject letters from Ladybird). The Christmas book is quite interesting, and does at least explain how most of the Christmas customs were simply taken over from earlier Pagan festivals. The book covers most aspects of the present day Christina, Boxing Day and New Year period.
The book was ably illustrated by Frank Hampson, probably best known as the illustrator of the Dan Dare stories in The Eagle comic during the fifties. His work here is nowhere near as polished but it is interesting to compare with his most famous work. Hampson was in fact quite poorly at this time, he’d never really got over his departure from Eagle, but Ladybird were good to their illustrators - and gave him as much time as he needed to deliver the job, usually a couple of pages at a time. A handwritten letter from the illustrator expressing his gratitude for the work and apologising for the time its taking to finish the job remains on file, a particularly moving piece of correspondence. The artwork for the cover is a favourite of many collectors.
A second title was added in 1972, illustrated by Roger Hall in the classic Ladybird style. This covered Shrove Tuesday, Maundy Thursday, Palm Sunday, May Day etc. An illustration of Eostre, Goddess of spring is perhaps the nearest Ladybird ever got to a pin-up! After this, the series ended, possibly because they had covered most of the "special" days by then. Ladybird returned to the subject of Christmas Customs with series 8818.