SCARCE PRE-DUNG BEETLE ISSUE, SIGNED
PUBLISHING NOVELTY - ELIA, Miriam and Ezra ELIZ. We go to the gallery. The Harlequin Ladybird Reading Scheme. Printed in England by ArtQuarters Press Ltd. 2014.
8vo. Original pictorial boards, printed inner covers; pp. ; with 20 coloured plates; a very nearly fine copy with just a tiny bruise to lower joint at head of spine; very scarce, especially signed.
First edition, as stated, limited to only 1,000 copies, this example signed in ink by Miriam Elia below the stamped key design which, reportedly, appeared in the first 50 copies of the book. "Miriam Elia (MSC, RAC, AIDS) the author and illustrator of this book, is headteacher working at the London School for the Poor and Ignorant. She specializes in teaching art and Zen Buddhism to young minds. Co author Ezra Elia is an expert in self-hated and words."
The artist Miriam Elia's hilarious parody of the well-loved Peter and Jane Ladybird reading books of the 1960s and '70s lampoons the Modern Art World and includes hard-hitting language not intended for children. Its tongue-in-cheek purpose, to introduce contemporary art to children, involves confronting them with an empty space; bags of decaying rubbish; a rabbit in two sections; a genital close-up, and a giant balloon poodle, among many other works: "The rubbish smells," "It is the stench of our decaying Western civilization," says Mummy. New Words: rubbish. smells. western.
To fund the endeavour Elia raised £5,000 through Kickstarter and created a taster campaign which released individual pages of the book on social media, to much excitement and anticipation. Her book went viral before it was even released and then quickly became a collector's item.
To maintain authenticity of the design Elia went to painstaking lengths to replicate the techniques and style of the original Ladybird books which were created through photo-collage and a watercolour wash. She used a modelling agency in Yorkshire to locate children with the appropriate look and a costumier to dress the models.
Whether or not the book did provoke the art establishment the project certainly caused a storm when, on publication of this first edition of just 1,000 copies, Penguin threatened legal action for breach of copyright. Elia needed to reprint but was forced to abandon the Ladybird logo and branding and introduced the Dung Beetle trademark in its place for subsequent printings.