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The Bird Talisman

Wood-engraving illustrations for The Bird Talisman

This charming story about a little princess and the magic ring which made her able to talk to birds was written more than 150 years ago. It was not intended for publication, and remained for many years a private and treasured possession in the Wedgwood and Darwin families, loved by generation after generation of children.

It was first published in 1939, when Gwen Raverat, the great-niece of the author, illustrated it with exquisite colour and black-and-white wood-engravings.

Her foreword to the book: The following Fairy Tale was written by my great-uncle Harry Wedgwood, for his children. It was printed in The Family Tutor in 1852; and it was so much liked by all the hildren of the Wedgwood and Darwin families that in 1887 his sister, Mrs Darwin, had it privately printed for the next generation, in the form of a small book. Henry Allen Wedg­wood was a grandson of Josiah Wedgwood of Etruria, the potter; he was born in 1799; became a barrister, and married his cousin Jessie Wedgwood, also a grandchild of Josiah. He died in 1885, so that I never knew him, but I have always heard that he was a genial and charming man and that he was held to be the wit of the family. He made some amusing pen-and-ink drawings to illustrate this story; but they were very few and very small, and we children always felt that the appearance of the book was rather arid; so that I have at last overcome my feeling of sacrilege in tampering with a sacred work and have tried to illustrate it myself. And, in spite of the very kind approbation of Uncle Harry’s surviving grandchildren, I feel I ought to apologize to all my relations, both known and unknown, for the presump­tion of the attempt. I should add, that the author was never in the East in his life; and that neither he nor I have made any effort to be accurately Indian.

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