Monday, December 01, 2008

Douglas Keen (1913-2008)

Douglas Keen, editorial director of Ladybird Books, died on 6 November 2008, aged 95. Born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on 27 October 1913, he won a scholarship to the prestigious Pate's Grammar School and went on to study art and marketing at evening classes. In 1936 he joined the printing firm of Wills & Hepworth who, during the war, began producing the Ladybird brand of children's books to keep the presses rolling during the paper shortage when commercial printing took a downturn.

After serving in Belgium and France with a mobile radar unit, Keen rejoined Ladybird books and spent the next 28 years helping to devise the many hundreds of books that Ladybird were to produce, writing the first factual title they were to produce, on British birds, in 1948. He remained with the firm until 1973 when Ladybird was bought out by Pearson Longman, during that period employing some of the finest artists available, amongst them Frank Hampson, C. F. Tunnicliffe, John Berry, Martin Aitchison and Frank Humphris.

Obituary: The Guardian (29 November); The Times (17 December); The Independent (17 December).

(* Illustrations: A Ladybird Book About Pirates, illustrated by Frank Humphris © 1970; A Third Book of Nursery Rhymes, illustrated by Frank Hampson © 1967. Copyright Ladybird Books Ltd.)

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