Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Her Majesty The Queen and top authors create miniature library to celebrate Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House centenary

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from the Royal Collection Trust Press Office:

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest and most famous Dolls’ House in the world, which has been on display for visitors to Windsor Castle since its creation. 

The Dolls’ House was built between 1921 and 1924 as a gift from the nation to Queen Mary following the First World War. It is a perfect 1:12 scale replica of an Edwardian-style residence – complete with electricity, working lifts and running water – and is filled with contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists, craftspeople, and manufacturers of the day. 

One of the great treasures of the Dolls’ House is its Library, which captured the literary culture of the 1920s through miniature books handwritten by the era’s foremost writers, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Vita Sackville-West to A. A. Milne and Thomas Hardy. Now, in an anniversary initiative championed by Her Majesty The Queen, 20 tiny manuscripts have been penned and decorated by hand by leading writers and illustrators, to establish a Modern-Day Miniature Library, once again providing a snapshot of contemporary literature in Britain.  

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The new manuscripts range from short stories, poetry collections and illustrated tales to plays, articles and recipes, many inspired by the Dolls’ House or written specially for the occasion. Each manuscript, measuring just 4.5cm high, has been hand-bound with a unique cover by a leading designer-bookbinder. Each miniature cover is a work of art, with each binder taking inspiration from the contents of their book to create designs that range from gilded and traditional to whimsical and strikingly modern. The new books, which will become part of the Royal Collection, are now on display for visitors to Windsor Castle and can be seen throughout 2024. 

Her Majesty The Queen has contributed her own miniature book to the collection: a handwritten introduction to the Modern-Day Miniature Library project. Bound in the Royal Bindery at Windsor Castle, the book features a gold-tooled miniature version of Her Majesty’s cypher, measuring just 7mm tall. It was created using a specially made cypher tool, which was modelled on the tool used to apply Queen Mary’s 7mm-tall cypher to the original Dolls’ House Library books in the 1920s. 

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On Tuesday, 30 January, Her Majesty The Queen will host a reception at Windsor Castle to thank the authors, illustrators and binders who have contributed their work to the project. Her Majesty will view the new miniature books and will be shown her own hand-bound contribution for the first time, which will then be added to the display for visitors. 

The contributors to the Modern-Day Miniature Library are: 

Her Majesty The Queen, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House: foreword, bound by Glenn Bartley, Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle. 

Simon Armitage, There was a steep grass bank then a field, bound by Matthew Stockl, Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle. 

Alan Bennett, The Mantelpiece, bound by Andreas Maroulis, Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle. 

Malorie Blackman, A Message to Jessica, bound by Bayntun-Riviere. Illustrations by Elizabeth Mira Morrison. 

Lucy Caldwell, Intimacies, bound by Gillian Stewart, Juju Books. Illustrations by Orla Routh (age 5 ¾). 

Joseph Coelho, An Abecedarius of the Very Teeny: and other poems, bound by Matthew Stockl, Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle. 

Imtiaz Dharker, The Welcome, bound by Flora Ginn. 

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, The Gruffalo, bound by Glenn Bartley, Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle. 

Bernardine Evaristo, The African Origins of the United Kingdom, bound by Sue Doggett. 

Sebastian Faulks, Music for a Dolls’ House, 1924–2024, bound by Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe. 

Philippa Gregory, Richard my Richard: a play, bound by Stuart Brockman, Brockman Bookbinders. 

Robert Hardman, The Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, 6.V.2023, bound by Ted Bennett. Illustrations by Phoebe Hardman (age 14). 

Anthony Horowitz, A Tiny Ghost Story, bound by Angela James. 

Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, bound by Hannah Brown. 

Sir Ben Okri, Poems, bound by Rachel Ward-Sale, Bookbinders of Lewes. 

Tom Parker Bowles, A Recipe Fit for a Queen, bound by Andreas Maroulis, Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle. 

Elif Shafak, Aisha woke up from troubled dreams, bound by Haein Song. 

Sir Tom Stoppard, Kolya’s Glove, bound by Lester Capon. 

Sarah Waters, Underhand House: part one, bound by Christopher Shaw. 

A. N. Wilson, The Residents: a poem, bound by Peter Jones. 

Dame Jacqueline Wilson, The House Mouse / translated from Mouse Squeaks, bound by Eri Funazaki. 

As well as the display of miniature books, visitors to Windsor Castle this year can see a special centenary display of items usually contained within the Dolls’ House. Staged in the magnificent Waterloo Chamber, this display allows visitors to get even closer to the House’s tiny treasures, which range from a fully strung miniature grand piano and Crown Jewels inset with real diamonds to a minuscule vacuum cleaner and sewing machine. 

The room at Windsor Castle that was created to house the Dolls’ House almost 100 years ago has been restored to mark the anniversary, and the Dolls’ House itself has been re-lit to simulate daylight rather than moonlight. On Royal Collection Trust’s website, new ‘dolls’-eye view’ films are giving viewers around the world the chance to discover the House’s miniature marvels in closer detail than ever before.  

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The new publication The Miniature Library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Elizabeth Clark Ashby is available now, exploring the stories behind the creation of the original Dolls’ House Library. The book includes a foreword by Her Majesty The Queen, as well as excerpts from selected works, some of which are reproduced for the first time. The book joins a new Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House souvenir range that is available in Royal Collection Trust’s shops. 

Anniversary events and activities throughout the year will include a Dolls’ House-themed family trail for visitors to the Castle, as well as family activities during the Easter holidays. An online evening event in April will see Royal Collection Trust curators revealing behind-the-scenes details and sharing how the House is conserved for future generations to enjoy.



Her Majesty The Queen opens her miniature introduction by expressing her admiration for the Dolls’ House Library: ‘For me, it is the library that is the most breath-taking space in the house’. Her Majesty also praises the contribution of all involved: ‘These new books highlight the incredible richness of twenty-first century Literary talent – and demonstrate how fortunate we are to have access to so many outstanding writers, whose work brings joy, comfort, laughter, companionship and hope to us all, opening our eyes to others’ experiences and reminding us that we are not alone.’ 

Stella Panayotova, Royal Librarian and Assistant Keeper of The Royal Archives, said: ‘These tiny books are big in imagination and talent, in feelings and insights. Exquisite books rekindle the joy of careful reading, close looking, quiet thinking. We are truly grateful to the authors, illustrators and designer-binders for awakening the century-old magic of the Dolls’ House. It is exciting to share their small books with large audiences, delighting and inspiring visitors of all ages.’ 

Glenn Bartley, Head of the Royal Bindery, Royal Collection Trust, said: 'The art and craft of hand bookbinding has changed hugely in the past 100 years. The familiar, traditional style of the bindings made for the original Dolls’ House could not be more different to the contemporary designs of today, which demonstrate individual creativity and make great use of alternative materials. It has been a delight and great honour for me, my colleagues and invited bookbinders to be involved in this project, and to know that our bindings will become part of the history of Queen Mary's Dolls’ House and the Royal Collection.’ 

Lucy Caldwell said: ‘The child in me leapt at the thought of creating a miniature book – it is the most magical of commissions. No less magical was making it with my own 5-year-old daughter. I won’t be here in a hundred years, and nor will she, but there is something very moving in thinking of the people, maybe the children, who might be inspired by our perfect miniature book when the bicentenary of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House comes around.’ 

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Julia Donaldson said: ‘It was an honour to be asked to write a miniature book for the new collection. I did think of doing something entirely new but then felt it would be iconic to have a tiny version of The Gruffalo, especially since it seemed a good way of celebrating his 25th birthday (the book was published in 1999). It was quite tricky working out the new pagination and making my handwriting as small as could be, but Axel had a greater labour of love creating all those extra pictures. I can't wait to see the final product.’ 

Axel Scheffler said: ‘I felt very honoured to be asked to contribute a miniature book to the Dolls’ House library, and of course, it had to be The Gruffalo! It was a little bit of a challenge to re-illustrate the whole story on approximately 90 tiny pages rather than 30 regular-sized pages. But, as I like to draw small pictures, it put me to a test, but suited me well.’ 

Bernardine Evaristo said: ‘I love the idea of contributing towards such a historic and iconic project, while also maintaining my iconoclastic spirit. My poem invites us to reconsider Britain’s deep history and origins in a way that challenges assumptions and provokes debate.’ 

Sebastian Faulks said: ‘The size made it a real challenge. But fun. I’m not a poet and there was no room for prose, so I wrote a kind of syllabic verse. My handwriting has not been under such pressure since infant school. I can only apologise for my illustrations. It was such an honour to have been invited to contribute.’ 

Philippa Gregory said: ‘I agonised over what to include but decided on something unpublished, and settled on some early scenes from my new play on Richard III. My extremely poor craftwork skills did not dent my ambition and I started the fiddly task of writing (and illustrating!) the tiny little book. It took me ages with many, many failed attempts but I’m immensely honoured to have created a treasure that will become part of the Dolls’ House library, which serves as a playful national record of today’s writing.’ 

Anthony Horowitz said: ‘I have written what must be the shortest, smallest ghost story in the world and I’m so proud that it will be included in this very special project. Every house should have books in it. Even a doll’s house.’ 

Charlie Mackesy said: ‘What a huge privilege it is to play a very tiny part in a rather wonderful thing.’ 

Sir Ben Okri said: ‘It was a real honour and delight making this miniature book for the Queen’s Dolls’ House Centenary. There is something magical about working with the very small. My contribution to this enchanting project was making a little book of my poems. Writing small concentrates the mind and draws one into the mysterious kingdom of art. But then the Dolls’ House too is a mysterious kingdom that once encountered starts a secret yearning to dwell there. This is a wonderful project and I hope its charms are experienced by all the great and small children of the realm.’ 

Tom Parker Bowles said: ‘I cannot tell you what an honour it was to be asked to contribute a miniature book to Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. Although my recipe “Fit for a Queen” will struggle to match the skill, art and beauty of Andreas Maroulis and the Royal Bindery.’ 

Elif Shafak said: ‘Writing a miniature story for Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House library was both fascinating and deeply inspiring. It made me appreciate not only the magic of words, carried throughout the centuries, but also the delicate work of writers and poets, artisans and artists, bookbinders and carpenters, past and present. I loved the way this unique project brings together hearts and disciplines, weaving literature and history and art, offering a welcoming space, a warm home, for everyone who values the art of storytelling.’ 

Sir Tom Stoppard said: ‘As a child I was always fascinated by Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, though I don't think I ever set eyes on it. I must have read about it. At a young age, the miniaturisation seemed almost miraculous to me. So I was frankly thrilled to be invited to contribute to the new Dolls’ House library so many years later.’  

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Sarah Waters said: ‘Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is an extraordinary artefact, a gorgeous showcasing of the arts and the craftsmanship of the 1920s. As someone with an interest in British cultural and social history, I feel honoured and hugely excited to be part of this centenary celebration. And I love the way the new mini books project continues the Dolls’ House tradition of valuing literature and reading, by celebrating British writing now, in all its rich diversity.’ 

Dame Jacqueline Wilson said: ‘I was taken to see the Queen’s Dolls’ House when I was seven. I was completely enchanted and particularly loved the miniature books in the library. It was such a thrill to be invited to contribute one myself all these many years later.’ 

1 comment:

Wendy Hunter said...

I have always enjoyed Queen Mary’s dolls’ house, but now I will enjoy it even more! What a wonderful array of books to discover. Thank you for the comprehensive article, Marlene.