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A little light reading

queen mary's dollhouse library

queen mary's dollhouse library with handThe Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle is the “largest and most famous dollhouse in the world.” Commissioned by Princess Marie Louise as a gift to Queen Mary, it became a “very British symbol of postwar rejuvenation” in the years following World War I. The dollhouse includes the 1:12 scale library from which two “Miniature Treasures from Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House” (Walker and the Royal Collection Trust, 2012 in the UK; Candlewick and the Royal Collection Trust, 2015 in the US) were replicated for the first time: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s How Watson Learned the Trick and Fougasse’s J. Smith.

Each handsome set includes a miniature book and an accompanying informational booklet, tucked into a satiny, gilded book-shaped box. At first, believing the box to be the book itself, you may think, “This seems a bit large for a doll.” But wait! Open the box, and the book’s true tininess is revealed. According to the pamphlets, the original contributions penned by the literati of the time (including Edith Wharton and Thomas Hardy, among others) were no bigger than a postage stamp. These versions are closer to the size of two modern day postage stamps, at 2” tall by 1.5” wide.

fougasse_j smithdoyle_how watson learned the trickSir Arthur Conan Doyle’s contribution is a very short Sherlock Holmes story about Watson’s attempt to imitate Holmes’ famous powers of observation and deduction. Fougasse’s is a fully illustrated rhyming tale of a fairy named Joe Smith who falls into 1920s London. Beneath their lavish exteriors, both handwritten texts have a charmingly intimate feel to them; a caret adds a missing word to Doyle’s story, and in Fougasse’s, the illustrations weave playfully between the verses.

As books for full-sized humans, these aren’t the easiest to read, but luckily the booklets contain full transcripts of the stories. (They also include some biographical information about the authors.) Lovers of miniatures will appreciate that these books are especially cute next to each other, but they could be even cuter with more — perhaps an entire library full of tiny books? I suspect that’s how elaborate dollhouses get their starts.

miniature books 1

miniature books 2

About Willa Zhang

Willa Zhang is an editorial intern at the Horn Book, Inc.

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