Don’t know about you, but I love doll houses, and finding one in a museum or historic house is a special delight. One that hasn’t been refurnished over the years offers a peep into the past. It's not just one room in a painting or drawing, but a cross section of an entire house, complete with furniture arrangements that suggest how the space might actually have been used. Since historically accurate illustrations of household interiors are not as abundant as exteriors, a doll house can be a helpful research tool.
And even if they’ve nothing to do with my chosen historical period, they’re just fascinating to study. The Shire book shows us doll houses from the 17th to 20th century, some of which are in private collections.
Among many other things, I learned that the terms “Baby House” and “Doll House” referred to size, not purpose. I was less surprised to learn that they were not regarded simply as toys. “It would seem,” writes Ms. Pasierbska, “that the houses…served a serious instructional purpose as well as being objects which reflected the wealth of their owners. They were excellent visual aids which helped young girls of the privileged classes to learn, through play, how to become good household managers.”
It’s a lovely little book, packing a lot of info into a small package and providing, as Shire books generally do, not only a list of further reading, but of places to visit.
Illustration is from the book: Bedroom on the first floor of the Stromer House, 1639.
And here, in accord with some FTC rule or other (which probably doesn’t apply to us, since we're not reviewers, but never mind), I need to tell you that, unlike the majority of books referred to in this blog, which Susan and I buy with our own hard-earned cash, this one came gratis.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.