The Written Image: Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House Library Books

From the July/August 2024 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

To find one’s own book on a library shelf, for many authors, is a momentous event. But to discover one’s book on a wee shelf in a miniature library may be, by some measures, an even bigger deal. Consider the twenty-one authors whose tiny tomes, pictured below, were added this year to the collection in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle, the residence of the British royal family in the eponymous English town. Bernardine Evaristo, Tom Stoppard, Sarah Waters, and other contemporary British writers contributed poetry collections, short tales, plays, and other works deposited in the little library to mark the centennial of the dollhouse, handwriting the volumes that were newly composed for the occasion or excerpted from previously published works.

Twenty tiny books were added this year to the miniature library collection in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House to celebrate the royal dollhouse’s centennial anniversary. (Credit: Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024)

A replica of an aristocratic Edwardian residence with working electricity and running water, the dollhouse also holds books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, A. A. Milne, and other authors revered in 1924, when the construction of the dollhouse was completed and it was gifted to Queen Mary (in her late fifties at the time). The volumes are 4.5 centimeters (1.77 inches) tall and hand-bound with specially crafted covers whose designs “range from gilded and traditional to whimsical and strikingly modern,” as a statement from the Royal Collection Trust describes them. “Writing small concentrates the mind and draws one into the mysterious kingdom of art,” says Ben Okri, who contributed an untitled poetry collection to the dollhouse library. The pint-size books will be on display with other items from the dollhouse—including teensy versions of a vacuum cleaner, a grand piano, a sewing machine, and crown jewels—through the end of the year for visitors to Windsor Castle.