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The Miniature Library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House by Elizabeth Clark Ashby

Release date: Wednesday 6 March 2024

The year 2024 marks the 100th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest and most famous dolls’ house in the world. To mark this centenary and to celebrate one of the great wonders of the Dolls’ House, Royal Collection Trust has published the first book exploring the creation and contents of the Dolls’ House’s miniature Library.

Queen Mary’s 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 features contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists, craftspeople, and manufacturers of the day. The house went on display at Windsor Castle in 1925 and has been delighting visitors ever since.

Running the full length of the House’s ground floor, the Library, filled with nearly 600 miniature books and hundreds of original works of art, captured the literary and artistic culture of the 1920s. Lining the bookshelves of this miniature library are specially produced books, handwritten by some of the finest authors of the 1920s, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Vita Sackville-West to A. A. Milne and Aldous Huxley.

The publication includes a foreword by Her Majesty The Queen, in which she describes how ‘this charming book reveals the treasures and the magic of this most unique of libraries.’

The book’s first chapters chart the creation of the Dolls’ House and formation of its Library, featuring correspondence between its organisers, including Princess Marie Louise and the House’s architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the authors they commissioned. This is the first time these letters have been fully researched and presented to the public, revealing the character, thoughts, and preoccupations of Lutyens and the authors.

Excerpts from many of the miniature books are explored by Ashby in greater detail. These include closer looks at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes story, written especially for the Dolls’ House, and A. A. Milne’s Vespers, which was unpublished at the time of its inclusion in the Dolls’ House, but later became famous for introducing Christopher Robin to the public. Another original work explored is M. R. James’s ghost story The Haunted Dolls’ House, in which a dolls’ house comes to life. Treasures by less well-known authors are also revealed, including Agnes Jekyll’s The Doll’s-House Cookery-Book of recipes for dolls and Principles of Doll-Surgery by John Bland-Sutton, which guides the reader through the intricacies of operating on dolls.  

The beautifully produced hardback publication provides a unique insight into the care taken by those who handwrote and illustrated the postage-stamp-sized pages, as well as the difficulties some of them faced. Newly investigated correspondence reveals where some authors, such as Thomas Hardy, found the miniature nature of the work to be insurmountable, meaning calligraphers were enlisted. The joy many of the writers took in their task is also described, such as where E. F. Benson jokingly crossed out the first lines of a limerick in his tiny book Poems, and Max Beerbohm wrote of shrinking to doll size to live in the Dolls’ House Library, only to be caught and ejected.

Along with the Library’s handwritten miniature books, the publication also explores its collections of printed books, prints and drawings, and music. Among these are books, newspapers and magazines produced in miniature specially for the Dolls’ House, including railway timetables, a copy of The Times and an atlas. Many of the Library’s collection of hundreds of original miniature watercolours by British artists are published for the first time in print, including landscapes by the First World War artists Paul Nash and John Northcote Nash. 

The Miniature Library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Elizabeth Clark Ashby (Curator of Books and Manuscripts, Royal Collection Trust) is currently available at £16.95 from Royal Collection Trust shops and It is also available from all good bookshops.

Press Release

The Miniature Library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House Press Release

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.