Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#TuesdayBookBlog LIFE IN MINIATURE: A HISTORY OF DOLLS’ HOUSES by Nicola Lisle (@penswordbooks)(@NicolaLisle1) Not just a toy. A wonderful look at a small but fascinating world.

Hi, all:

I have a few non-fiction books pending reviews, but I was reminded of this one because of a Fair of Miniatures and Dolls’ Houses I had to cover for the radio station I collaborate with (Sants 3 Ràdio), and I had to bring you the book and its review as well.

I was so busy during the fair, there were so many people to interview and talk to (including a couple of wonderful charities, one that provides ergonomic cushions for women who had had a mastectomy due to breast cancer [Asociación almohada del corazón] and one that rescues and rehouses animals in Barcelona [Los Ángeles del Raval]), so many miniatures, exhibits, and objects to see, and so many pictures to take for the web of the radio, that I forgot to take any pictures to share here. But I promise I will add a link to the article when it is published. Oh, and you can see some examples of the work of the association organising the fair, Assarmicat, Associació d’Artesans Miniaturistes de Catalunya, here.

Here is the link to the article (in Catalan, but you can check the pictures):

And here, the book, from the always reliable Pen & Sword.

Life in Miniature. A History of Dolls’ Houses by Nicola Lisle

Life in Miniature. A History of Dolls’ Houses by Nicola Lisle

Popular in Britain since the late seventeenth century, dolls’ houses are tiny slices of social history that give us a fascinating glimpse into domestic life over the last 300 years. In this beautifully-illustrated book, Nicola Lisle explores the origins and history of dolls’ houses and their furnishings, from the earliest known dolls’ house in sixteenth-century Bavaria to the present, and looks at how they reflect the architecture, fashions, social attitudes, innovations and craftsmanship of their day. She discusses the changing role of dolls’ houses and highlights significant events and people to give historical context. She also takes a look at some of the leading dolls’ house manufacturers, such as Silber & Fleming and Lines Brothers Ltd (later Triang). The book includes numerous examples of interesting dolls’ houses, the stories behind them and where to see them. This includes famous models such as Queen Mary’s spectacular 1920s dolls’ house at Windsor Castle and the eighteenth-century baby house at Kew Palace. There is also a chapter on model towns and villages, which became popular in the twentieth century and also give us a window on the past by replicating real places or capturing scenes typical of a bygone era. There is advice for dolls’ house collectors, as well as a detailed directory of places to visit, a timeline of dolls’ house history and recommended further reading. One of the most comprehensive guides available on the subject, this book offers unique insights into the world of dolls’ houses and is a must for anyone with an interest in the history and appeal of these miniature treasures.

About the author:

Nicola Lisle is a freelance journalist and author specialising in history and the arts. She has written numerous articles for family history magazines, including Who Do You Think You Are?, Your Family History and Discover Your Ancestors, and was a regular contributor to Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine for many years. She is the author of Tracing Your Family History Made Easy (Which? Books, 2011) and Tracing Your Oxfordshire Ancestors (Pen & Sword, 2018).

My review:

I received an early hardback copy of this non-fiction book from Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, which I freely chose to review.

I have always been fascinated by miniatures and dolls’ houses, although I have never collected or played with them. One doesn’t need to be an expert to enjoy this book, where Nicola Lisle introduces the history of miniatures (which have been found by archeologists in Egyptian and Roman digs) and dolls’ houses (some from as far back as the XVII century).

The book opens with an introduction and a discussion of some of the oldest known dolls’ houses, where the author also explains how they transformed from luxury items whereby the rich and important could boast and exhibit their riches, to eventually becoming children’s toys, affordable for the majority of the population. Then there are several chapters which, in chronological order, talk about some notable English dolls’ houses, explaining their history and describing them in such loving detail, that even those of us who haven’t seen them feel as if we were there.

There are also chapters dedicated to dolls’ houses in the literature, model towns and villages, a chapter containing advice on how to start collecting dolls’ houses, and one on notable collectors.

The book also contains a large section of images, which give us a taster of the type of houses mentioned, and it will also be useful as a reference for anybody interested in the topic, as, apart from a detailed index, it also contains two appendixes: places to visit, featuring houses and museums where we can see good examples of dolls’ houses live, and further reading, where we can learn even more about this hobby, art, and way of life.

Dolls’ houses are not mere toys: they reflect the mores of the different periods, the role of women in the house, the differences in social classes (with the separate quarters for owners and servants), the evolution of architecture and art movements, and they were (and are) great education aids, apart from transporting us to a different time and a different place.

I recommend this title to anybody who is interested in miniatures, especially in dolls’ houses, and in social history. It is a compact title with plenty of information for those already well-informed, and a good introduction for those who don’t know much but are eager to learn. A beautiful present for those interested in toys, collectibles, and social history in general.

Thanks to Rosie Croft and Pen & Sword in general and to the author for the book, to all of you for visiting and reading my blog, and remember to share, click, like, keep smiling, and take care. Be creative and enjoy what you do!

By OlgaNunez

I was born in Barcelona and after living in the UK for many years have now returned home. I teach English, volunteer at Sants 3 Ràdio, a local radio station, I'm a writer, translator (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and I'm a medical doctor and worked in Forensic Psychiatry many years. I also have a BA and a PhD in American Literature and Film, and a Masters in Criminology. I've always loved books and apart from writing them I review them often.
I write a bit of everything, check my books for more information and my about page for links.
My blog is bilingual, English and Spanish.

18 replies on “#TuesdayBookBlog LIFE IN MINIATURE: A HISTORY OF DOLLS’ HOUSES by Nicola Lisle (@penswordbooks)(@NicolaLisle1) Not just a toy. A wonderful look at a small but fascinating world.”

We bought our granddaughter a doll’s house when she was just 2 years old. Too young to understand it then, but something that will last her for many years and may be handed down. I have always found the small details of furinture and fittings to be so interesting, and there is real skill in making such tiny replicas.
Pen and Sword always produce lovely books, and I am sure this is no exception.
Best wishes, Pete.

Thanks, Pete. I am sure you are right, and it will be something that she will keep adding on, and will stir her imagination. So many of the artists I talked to at the fair told me that they used to do full-size crafts projects and then decided to combine their two loves, crafting and doll’s houses. They created some incredible items, and so detailed! I will add the link to the article with the pictures as soon as I get it. One of the visitors, from Germany (and he travels the world with his miniatures and workshops), made some miniatures that were 1/1000 (the standard size being 1/12). Amazing! Have a great week, Pete!

What a fascinating post, Olga! The serendipity of the book being available for you to review and the festival. The different aspects you covered are wonderful. I’m looking forward to the article you will do for the radio station — and the photos too. I see your comments about adding links. Maybe you’ll do that as a separate post (but linked) to make sure we don’t miss it. Regardless, this is a fun change of pace. Hugs on the wing.

Thanks, Teagan. Serendipity, indeed, and a great help when I was doing a bit of research for the radio feature. I was only thinking of updating the post, but I might add it as well to the next review, so people will find it there as well. Thanks for making me think about it. I will be broadcast today, so it shouldn’t be long until the article is up.
Enjoy the rest of the week. Big hugs!

Hi Olga, like you, I love dolls and dolls houses, I was so excited when I saw your title. I thought “someone wrote a book about dolls houses for me.” I have put it on my October ‘real’ book order from Amazon.

Thanks, Robbie. I was so happy when I got a doll as a present when I was a child! I still like them but have never collected them. Good luck with your new book, and enjoy this one. Keep well and give my regards to the family. ♥

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