The Bottom Line
- Wonderful use of the photographic records of the house to showcase fine details.
- Fascinating looks at previously unpublished letters concerning the house and contibutions
- Details of the library contents, with notes about the careers of many of the writers
- Descriptions of the art and music collections relating the contribution to the artist's body of work
- At 130 pages miniature collectors will clamor for more.
- Fascinating look at the Queen's Dolls' House as a historic time capsule. Wonderful glimpses of the breadth of the undertaking.
- Lovely photos as well as descriptions of how the various sections were conceived and which items are part of each section of the house.
- Discussions of which items continue to be available today, and what the greatest changes have been as the house moves close to its centenary.
Guide Review - Book Review - The Queen's Dolls' House by Lucinda Lambton
The Queen's Dolls' House was a gift of appreciation in 1924 for Queen Mary, a lover of 'tiny craft', intended to create a showcase of all that was best for its period and show off the high standards of British arts, crafts and manufacturing. It was intentionally constructed as a royal home, rather than a palace, and manages to display not only very grand royal apartments, but also the regular quarters and working rooms of staff, presenting a very full example of life just after the First World War.
Very few specialists in miniature worked on the collection, yet the project introduced many features we now try to emulate in dolls' houses, including a true sense of scale, a standard scale measurement (1:12), extreme realism, and a new innovation for its time, scale electric lighting. Some of the amazing details have rarely been reproduced since, the house includes hot and cold running water, working elevators, a working gramophone with tiny records, and replicas of King George V's favorite Purdey guns which break, load, and fire. Other features including miniature books, paintings, carpets, needlework, furniture, miniature bottles of wines (the Queen's dolls' house contains more than 1200 bottles in its cellars) have become much more commonplace.
The Queen's Dolls' House is important not only for its wonderful collection and historic record, but for the creative force it proved to be in helping to develop a new style of miniature collector, documenting both historic detail, and amazing artistry. Certainly the Queen's Dolls' House inspired the production of the Thorne Rooms, as well as Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle and many other famous miniature buildings and displays.
Lucinda Lambton's thorough new book, the most recent in series of books and guides to the Queen's Dolls' House, links the fabulous miniatures with their historic importance as a record of a unique and vanished time period. The details she brings out are far from a dry account of the house design and its contents. The photographs by David Crips, responsible for the photography in an earlier, now out of print book on the Queen's Dolls' House, by Mary Stewart-Wilson, show the perfection of the scale items, and give the reader a clear view of the rooms. The descriptions and photos are carefully linked to writings from the The Book of the Queen's Dolls' House and and its condensed companion volume Everybody's Book of the Queen's Doll's House published in 1924, giving a contemporary appreciation of how great an undertaking the creation of the dolls house was.
More than just a record of the fabulous items in the collection, the book goes behind the scenes to examine how the various items were chosen, who offered to contribute, how delicate the negotiations were, who refused and where a contributing artist's body of work now fits in historical record. It contains some wonderful copies of letters, demonstrating how the project took hold of imaginations, and how gleefully the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, hosted a series of Dollyleuiah Dinners to inspire the contributions of the best which could be created or found. There are also references to the outstanding work of some of the 'regular' contributors, including one seamstress who spent more than 1500 hours monogramming every piece of the household linens. Unfortunately, in keeping with the times in which the house was produced, it would seem her name, like that of many other talented artisans and crafts people, is not listed in the credits, although the donors or sponsors of many items are.
The book not only examines the construction of the house and its finishing details, as well as the various rooms, but explores the many unique contributions by authors and artists. There is a listing of the artists, authors, companies and some crafts persons who created the miniatures, and there are some references to those who commissioned or donated the various special pieces considered essential for the collection. The list is fascinating not only for all the famous names, but for the names famous at the time, who are almost unknown today.
You can explore parts of Queen Mary's Dolls' House online at the Royal Collections. If the pieces there intrigue you, the book belongs in your library. This is the closest most of us will get to exploring this wonderful collection of tiny treasures.
Price and Availability The Queen's Dolls' House by Lucinda Lambton, Royal Collection Publications 2010. Distributed for Royal Collection Publications in the USA and Canada by The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-1-905686-26-1 Price: $15 - $25