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Life in Miniature (Hardback)

A History of Dolls' Houses

P&S History Photographic Books Colour Books

By Nicola Lisle
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 40 colour
ISBN: 9781526751812
Published: 30th September 2020

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RRP £25.00

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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, as well as advice for dolls’ house collectors, a detailed directory of places to visit and recommended further reading.

One of the most comprehensive guides available on the subject published in recent years, 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.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I don't know what it is that makes dolls' houses (and miniatures in general) so appealing, but there's no doubt that a large proportion of the population has a positive response to them. This book is perfect for anyone slightly fascinated, enthusiastic, or obsessed! The photos are a beautiful addition. There's a handy buying guide included... you know... just in case! "Life in Miniature" is a wonderful book - maybe almost as good as actually owning a dolls' house!

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

When I was young, I always wanted a doll house although that dream was not realized. I did enjoy seeing a number of doll houses in museums and was always intrigued by the houses and their small furnishings. When my kids were young, there was a wonderful doll house store near where I worked and we loved going there.

So, based on all of that, I was excited to see this title on dollhouses. It is clear that the author loves her subject.

This title takes an academic, but by no means dry, approach providing a great deal of history starting from the earliest houses in the sixteenth century when they were not children’s playthings. That you will learn began more around Victorian times. Just a few of the intriguing chapter headings include Ann Sharp’s Baby House, Dolls’ Houses in Literature and Miniatures Move Outside: Model Towns and Villages. There are, additionally, an appendices; on includes places to visit while the other is offers suggestions for further reading.

This book is full of information and includes some lovely illustrations. The audience that this book was written for should very much enjoy this title.

NetGalley, Joyce Laudon

This was a fascinating and enjoyable read that takes the reader through the history of baby houses in Britain. For a non-fiction guide, rich in history, it reads with ease while teaching an amazing amount of information regarding baby houses.

The historical role of baby houses as educational tools, entertainment and displays of wealth is fully explored. The anecdotes provide a fascinating view into the past with the baby houses encapsulating a snapshot of each era. The author’s love of the subject matter shows in the writing and the expertise shared makes this a must read for anyone interested in the world of miniatures, model villages or the history of toys.

NetGalley, Alexis Turner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Detailing everything one could possibly wish to learn about miniatures, this splendid book examines multitudinous examples of doll (baby) houses and their creators and owners as well as miniature villages throughout time from the 16th century Germany to the present. These miniatures are very important to us historically as they were often created in various eras of that particular time period, showing us personal slivers of what life was like, upstairs and downstairs. Of course some are created in the present denoting the past, too.

This book increased my knowledge on the subject exponentially. Though these intricate baby (small) houses were often designed for play they were also designed to educate children (mainly girls) in how to run a household as well as ways to display fabulous wealth. The latter cabinets were stored under lock and key as they often held valuable antiques and treasures.

I've been fortunate to visit some of the baby houses and am always amazed at the exquisite craftsmanship of the furnishings and meticulous details from baking food to toys to working electricity to table settings. My dad made us girls a doll house and it inspired my passion for miniatures.

I love that this book provides insight to those who owned these baby houses and later donated them so others could enjoy them. Also helpful is the long list of places one can visit as well as websites for further research (which has whet my appetite and prompted me to find out more). Not only that but this book also contains practical information on how to go about collecting.

Photographs are also included which really bring history to life. Beautifully done.

Those with any level of interest in miniatures would find this book fascinating, educational and useful. Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

This was a wonderful little read. I had a doll house growing up that my grandfather made for me. It was so neat and beautiful. We played with it and bought lots of furniture. Then while my family was in England we got to see Queen Mary’s dolls’ house. I was very interested to learn about the cabinet houses. I had never heard of anything like them but they were beautiful. And the fact that they were made for adults! I can see where the appeal is though.

NetGalley, Ashley Pohlenz

It was fun to read about how they didn't even start out as a children's toy (that came later, in the 19th century). A well-researched read for anyone who cares about dollhouses.

NetGalley, Erin Childs

About Nicola Lisle

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).

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