The Charm of Magpies illustrated by Nick Wonham

The Charm of Magpies illustrated by Nick Wonham

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One is for Sorrow, Two is for Joy
Three for a Girl, Four for a Boy
Five is for Silver, Six for Gold
Seven for a Secret that's never been told
Eight for a Wish, Nine for a Kiss
Ten's for the Bird that you must not miss

Collective nouns, the stuff of schooldays, always seem to amuse us. A parliament of magpies has to be a favourite, especially if you’ve heard a group of them cackling together in the Springtime. But we prefer the alternative, a charm of magpies, which certainly suits this poem better. It is one version of a folk rhyme which has many local variants, all superstitiously foretelling the future through random occurrence. Although Iona & Peter Opie’s Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (OUP 1951 &c) does not include it amongst the counting rhymes. It makes a nice counting or even skipping song, and we present it thus, with the numeral and its word facing each picture to encourage learning by mixing reading with the action of counting.

Magpies are often known a thugs in the garden, stealing eggs and chasing off their more delicate rivals. As printers, though, we have a fondness for them because of their “ink on paper” plumage and their latin name pica pica, which recalls the printshop unit of measure.

The heart of our book is the ten two-colour linocut prints. Each one 8 x 6 inches, their bold, dense colours add to the edgy feel of the images. Facing the traditional and childlike verse,

[27] pages (unpaginated), 14 1/2 x 10 1/4 inches (37 x 26 cm) Hand set in Monotype Bemb from 24 to 72 points in size. The numerals are Winchester 30-line woodtype from Stephenson, Blake. The paper is 170gsm Zerkall. Bound with a cloth spine and printed paper over boards with specially printed flyleaves by Roger Grech at his Papercut Bindery. The edition is of 160 copies all signed by the artist.

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