Auctions | April 12, 2017

The John Berry Collection: Over 150 Original Illustrations for Ladybird Books to be sold at Tennants

BK165 Ladybird Kipper Kiln copy.jpgTennants’ sale of Books, Maps, Prints and Manuscripts on the 28th April is set to include Part I of a collection comprising over 150 original illustrations made for Ladybird books by artist and illustrator John Berry (1920-2009). A window into a vanished world, these nostalgia-filled pictures present the optimistic ideals of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ladybird books entertained and educated generations of children. Established as an imprint in 1915 with an aim to provide ‘pure and healthy’ literature for children, Ladybirds’ distinctive small hardback books combined simple yet engaging information vividly brought to life with colourful illustrations. 

John Berry was one of Ladybird’s foremost and longest serving artists; he illustrated over 35 books for Ladybird between 1961 and 1978, including the popular ‘People at Work’ series and the ‘Hannibal the Hamster’ series. Berry was born and raised in west London, studying at Hammersmith College of Art. From there he won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy, but unfortunately he was not able to take up his place due to the onset of war. Berry served as an official war artist attached to the Eighth Army in the Western Desert, and some of his pictures were exhibited during wartime at the National Gallery in London, and are now in the Imperial War Museum. After the War, Berry worked on advertising campaigns and was also a prolific portrait painter, before starting his work for Ladybird in the late 1950s. 

Berry’s illustrations were exhibited alongside the work of fellow Ladybird illustrator Martin Aitchison at the Simon Finch Gallery, London, in 2004, and the following year there was a show of Berry’s work at the NEC in Birmingham. Original Ladybird illustrations are much in demand - particularly since the relaunch of the brand as humorous ‘Ladybirds for Grown-ups’.

The illustrations will be sold in group lots comprising 2 - 5 illustrations, estimated at between £200 and £500 per lot. 

Part II of the collection will be sold in Tennants Book, Maps, Prints and Manuscripts Sale on 2nd August. A fully illustrated catalogue for the sale of Books, Maps, Prints and Manuscripts will be available on our website,, leading up to the sale, alternatively, please contact the saleroom for further details.

Image: ‘Kippers in Kiln’ - Gouache & Watercolour on Paper from People at Work: The Fisherman. Sold together with two other illustrations from the same book (Estimate - £250-400).