'The Lost Words' is a beautiful book in many ways. It is a sumptuous object, gloriously tempting with its silky, smooth cream cover and thick, quality pages, harbouring Jackie Morris's exquisite art work and Robert MacFarlane's fabulous poems . Perhaps, however, the most alluring thing about this book for the logophile in each of us is the reason the book was created. On Jackie Morris's website, she explains the inspiration for the work:
It had come to the attention of some who work in the world of words that certain words were slipping out of common usage. As a result when it came to amend the junior dictionary for a new edition these words were gone. The letter was a request for words culled from the Oxford University Press Junior Dictionary to be returned. These words included bluebell, conker, heron, acorn and perhaps the one that cut the deepest for me, kingfisher.
It wasn’t the fault of the dictionary that these words were not included, but the culture in which we live which seems to give more importance to the urban than the wild. The dictionary was a symptom of this, and a timely reminder that we should take a good, long look at what we value.
Subtitled 'A Spell Book', there is a feeling of magic as you leaf through the pages and seek the 'lost words' within. Acrostic poems- so often tortured to death in schools- are used to celebrate each word with rich language choices and poetic techniques, demonstrating what a powerful tool this poetic form can be. 'Kingfisher', for example, plays with kennings and alliteration in a joyful stream of word building which encapsulates the essence of the bird perfectly.
The words are celebrated across three spreads- one with the letters scattered, one with the poem and a third showing the word in its wider context. The stunning illustrations glow in natural colours, rich with gold as if to emphasise how precious each word is.
Many of these words capture glimpses of my childhood- playing under the willow tree in my grandparent's garden, walking through the bluebell woods behind my house, gathering conkers with my brothers. This is a book for everyone to enjoy, for everyone to share and to ensure these words are not forgotten or lost.
The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane, illustrated Jackie Morris
Hamish Hamilton ISBN: 978-0241253588
A huge thank you to the lovely Emily, who gave me this treasure for my birthday.