Series 707

A book about Pirates 1970
The Story of the Cowboy 1972
The Story of the Indians 1973
The Battle of the Little Big Horn 76

"Pirates" was written by LB favourite L.Du Garde Peach and illustrated by Frank Humphris. The subject is typically well-researched and the infamous characters are presented in a fairly objective and non-violent manner, even with such pirates such as Barbarossa and Blackbeard! In his first job for Ladybird, Humphris can perhaps be forgiven for assuming all female pirates were young and voluptuous, since his artwork is well up to the usual Ladybird standard. Clearly the company thought so, since he went solo on his next project.

It may be that working alongside Du Garde Peach gave Humphris the confidence to "go it alone" and his special interest in fighting and weapons almost chose the subjects for him. His flat in London at that time housed an impressive collection of Cowboy and Indian memorabilia. The average reader could learn a great deal about the subject of Cowboys and Indians from his two books, with sections covering their equipment, weapons and the origins of common phrases.

The fate of the North American Indians as they were systematically exterminated is sympathetically explained, perhaps unusual for the time, when the Hollywood "Redskin" cliches were still widely accepted. Humphris' work was clearly appreciated by the company, since he eventually illustrated thirteen books for them, including several "Ladybird Leaders" and "Children's Classics".

The Battle of the Little Big Horn, the final volume in this short series, is introduced by Humphris as "an unbiassed and factual account of this controversial battle" and lives up to his words. He includes a map of the area and devotes 50 pages to the subject in hand. His account is calm and collected and he indicates where the text may be subjective rather than accurate. He also debunks the Hollywood myth that all Cavalry officers had yellow hankerchiefs around their necks!

All four volumes were reissued under the "History" series, with the "Little Big Horn" being retitled "Custer's Last Stand" and issued with a different (matt) cover! Little variations like this are the stuff of life to serious collectors...

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