Ruby Ferguson (1899-1966)

Ruby Ferguson (nee Ashby) was born in 1899 in Yorkshire. Perhaps being a Yorkshire lass gave her the uncompromising and dryly humourous tone which is seen in the Jill books!
She spent her childhood in Yorkshire, leaving for Oxford to read English in 1919. After her degree she lived in Manchester, working as a secretary and a book reader/reviewer. She began writing detective stories and later thrillers under the name of R. C. Ashby, later writing romantic novels under her married name of Ferguson, the most famous of which being Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary (1937). A romantic novel set in Scotland, which was one of the late Queen Mother's favourite books. This was then followed by the Jill pony series which was written to entertain her young grand-daughters. She also wrote a fictionalised memoir called Children at the Shop.

She is now perhaps best known for the inimitable Jill, who, along with her two ponies Black Boy and Rapide, featured in a series of nine humourous books published from 1947 to 1962. I've yet to meet a reader who does not like the series which has been in print for many years, up to the late 1990s and is soon to be reprinted once again. Unfortunately for her fans, unlike most of the other pony book authors, the Jill series was Ms. Ferguson's only foray into the pony book territory.

Sources: much of this biographical info came from the website of Persephone Books.

Please note some of the later paperbacks are numbered in a different order to the above. The above list is the original and true reading order!

Collectors Info:

The books were first published by Hodder and Stoughton with delightful illustrations inside and on the jackets by the great 'Caney.' They were later reprinted as hardbacks by Hodder, and in a slightly smaller hardback size by Brockhampton Press as part of the Hampton Library series. All these had the original illustrations and dustjacket artwork.
The first editions are rare and valuable. All hardback editions are fairly rare and collectable too, although of the re-prints the Hodder and Stoughtons are slightly preferred over the Brockhamptons for the collector.

A huge variety to choose from!
Paperback were printed from the 1960s right the way through to the present day and went through a variety of incarnations. Illustrations in he early paperbacks were the original Caney drawings, later ones were by Bonar Dunlop, with some having no illustrations at all. Cover artwork also varied from Caney, Mary Gernatt, Peter Archer and Bonar Dunlop to the later photographic series.

If you are collecting paperbacks you will probably want to collect one of the various series which match each other. The following are some of the paperback collectable series:

First paperback editions: The earliest paperbacks were published in the 1960s by Armada and all had the original illustations by Caney inside. However although most had the same picture as the first editions on the cover, some had different illustrations by Mary Gernatt/Peter Archer.

1970s Knight illustrated editions. Illustrated by an uncredited artist in slightly twee style on a variety of pastel backdrops. Inside illustrations were by both Caney and Bonar Dunlop.

1980s photo 'rosettes' series. Photo against backdrop of various bright colours with rosette logo in top corner. Mixture of illustrations inside, some the Caney originals, some Bonar Dunlop and some no illustrations at all.

1990s photo series. The Jill of titles in large red letters. Once again a mixture of illustations as above series.

1990s photo series with a horseshoe logo. Most of these have no illustrations.

The Jill series is once again being reprinted by Fidra Paperbacks. These have original text and illustrations but photo covers rather than fascimiles of the first edition covers. The first 2 books were published in 2010, more are scheduled to follow.

Of the paperbacks the earliest editions with the Caney illustrations are the most desirable. Paperbacks are still very easy to get hold of on ebay, and the first two are still in print (Fidra) though not cheap.