Books in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, which were reproduced in full-size format and published by the Royal Collection in association with Walker Books Ltd, are available as children’s books to purchase from the Royal Collection. These little books are an exact reproduction of the miniature original and are probably some of the most unique children’s books to have appeared in more recent years. Another such unique book, ‘The Adventures of Alice Laselles’ written and illustrated by the future Queen Victoria aged 10 years and 3/4, was published last year with an introduction by popular author Jacqueline Wilson.
The books are two of 200 tiny volumes, which filled the shelves of the library in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, which were written especially by authors of the day and – in keeping with the extraordinary accuracy and functionality of everything within the Dolls’ House, including running water and electricity – were a faithful copy of the entire volume from cover to cover. The books were bound by the famous London bookbinders Sangorski & Sutcliffe, which had been established around 1901. Other authors whose works were also included were Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling. One of the miniature volumes that has been reproduced in full-size, is the delightful story by the Punch cartoonist Fougasse Cyril Kenneth Bird, entitled “J. Smith” featuring the monogram of George V and Queen Mary on the cover and which is about a fairy lost in London at the time of the Roaring Twenties. Fougasse’s particular book joined the Dolls’ House library in 1922. The other volume is a faithful reproduction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book on Sherlock Holmes, entitled ‘How Watson Learned the Trick’. This also entered the library at the same date.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House in undoubtedly an object that attracts particular interest among the visitors at Windsor Castle, who are able to view it within its own exhibition area. Originally inspired by an idea of Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, the Dolls’ House was completed in 1924 and seen by over 1.6 million visitors when it was shown at Wembley in the British Empire Exhibition of 1924-1925. The Princess shared her idea with the great British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens around the time of the Royal Academy of Art’s 1921 Summer Exhibition. Lutyens was commissioned with the design of the Dolls’ House and was assisted by Sir Henry Morgan. It is clear that from the exquisite craftsmanship of its execution, that the Dolls’ House not only was an object of wonder in its own right, but also formed an important record of how British royalty and nobility lived at this period. It was conceived as a gift from the British nation to Queen Mary, taking around four years to build. The Library is on the first floor of the Doll’s House and contains among other objects, a miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I over its fireplace. Complete with a chess-set and copies of the Architectural Review, it is pleasing to note a small photograph of Queen Mary on one of the desks.
In order to appreciate how small these original books are, it is probably correct to compare them with the size of a postage stamp, which makes the script and illustrations contained within them all the more remarkable. These little volumes on sale in reproduction give us an opportunity to own a copy of a book, written specifically for a Dolls’ House made for a queen. It surely must be a royal gift to give a child quite unlike any other.
Photo credits: By W. & D. Downey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons