Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

webb's characters and scenes in aladdin or the wonderful lamp - coloured in

My scanner does dreadful things to colours.

Not everyone likes toy theatres, either full-size, or in miniature, so this is a bit of an unfair blog post for those who find them unbearable twiddly and annoying and are  hoping for something entirely Dolls’ House.

So, before I launch into Toy Theatre Land, I am going to inset a link here to a programme about dolls’ houses that I found fascinating and enjoyed enormously.

***   ***   ***

Now, about Toy Theatres –

They were not what I had planned for a Christmas blog post.

In fact I was wondering if I was going to write anything at all, or simply find some Christmas themed scraps to fill this space, when someone asked me if I would consider selling a pdf for the miniature Mathews Theatre set that I make.

I am going to leave out most of the story surrounding this – which is not at all interesting – and get to the point where I did some maths and worked out the cost of the original artwork,  my time spent water-colouring the theatre, scenery and figures (on nice paper), etc, etc, etc and came up with a fabulous sounding sum for producing a pdf.

Need I say that, naturally enough, I have not heard anything about a pdf since then. (I did warn the person who asked that making a toy theatre was a labour of love).

However, the person concerned did give me an idea and I hope that they read this and will be able to use some of the things here.

First I have to say that I am not an expert on toy theatres. I like them, but that is not the same as being an expert.

Most of the things that I know about them, I have learned from one book – Toy Theatres of the World, by Peter Baldwin.

photograph detail of a french theatre from peter baldwin's book - toy theatres of the world

Theatre Francais and a Jacobsen theatre from Toy Theatres of the World

photograph detail of a pollock's theatre from peter baldwin's book - toy theatres of the world

Pollock’s Theatre and Skelt’s new improved stage front from Toy Theatres of the World

The book is currently out of print, but if you can get a copy it will repay the effort of finding it. (They do turn up on eBay from time to time and there are a few on Amazon at the time of typing this.)

The book is slightly smaller than A4 in size and it is beautifully produced on glossy paper. There are 175 pages and and at least one illustration or photograph on almost every single page. It is informative without being hard to read or overladen with technical terms. I would dearly like to upload it here so that you can read it for yourselves: Peter Baldwin clearly loved toy theatres and it shows.

Having said that I don’t know much about them, I proceeded to draw a plan for a simple theatre, mainly so that I could demonstrate how a flat surface can give the illusion of depth by the way the lines lead inwards towards a central point.

I think that it shows that, if you would like to make your own unique theatre, it would not be too difficult to come up with something rather attractive and interesting.

drawing of a simple toy theatre front and curtain

My design (above) is very simple, but it is the basic type that was used for a great many of the original British toy theatres – a couple of which are shown below.

toy theatre - redington's new improved stage front - coloured in

This was later reissued as ‘Pollock’s New Improved Stage Front’

h c clarke - part sheet - toy theatre - not to scale

The trick for making the front of a toy theatre 3D, rather than flat, is a surprisingly simple one. Basically, looking at the picture below, you cut along the green lines, fold along the pink lines and then re-attach the uppermost part that has been cut away. The result is remarkably stable and durable when stuck to reasonably solid cardboard.

detail of how to cut and fold a toy theatre

The following are French and were produced by Pellerain, who made a great many high quality paper toys. I like this set of theatres particularly because they are so small and neat.

petits theatres - pellerain - french paper toy

Once you have found, or made, your own theatre you do, of course, need scenery, characters and a play.

The following are scans of a set of Webb’s Aladdin – the picture at the top of this blog post is from this set.

pdf for full-size webb’s_characters_in_aladdin_black_and_white

pdf for full-size  webb’s_scenes_in_aladdin_black_and_white

pdf for full-size webb’s_juvenile_drama_aladdin_play_booklet

They are the original size and in the original black and white. You will need to colour them in (and resize them, if you would like a miniature set).

[Before anyone asks, I am not going to upload the characters and scenery in colour. The reason is that my scanner is not capable of doing a good quality colour scan, and no amount of trying to fix things on my part ever results in a good quality colour print from something I have scanned at home.]

For those of you wondering: Who was Webb ? and What about Pollock? I thought it was Pollock’s Toy Theatres ?!? … there used to be more than one seller of paper toy theatres.

pollock's business card from peter baldwin's book - toy theatres of the world

As I said before, I would like to upload Peter Baldwin’s book here, so that you can read about the history of these remarkable toys for yourselves, but I can’t. I have however, found a blog called Spitalfield’s Life  which has a long blog post where the various makers and sellers of toy theatres are explained in fairly clear detail. There are also some excellent illustrations and photographs, which are worth while seeing, at the bottom of the post.

If you would like to buy reprints of the plays,  I can thoroughly recommend the Toy Theatre Gallery. They have a wonderful, and growing collection of plays, some of them in colour, plus a few theatres.

Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, in Covent Garden, sells modern versions of some of the old toy theatres.

Pollock’s Toy Museum, in Scala Street, has an amazing collection of all sorts of toys, but no on-line sales outlet. You will need to visit to see what they have in their shop and I urge you to go. It is a magical place.

[By the way, the two ‘Pollock’s’ are entirely separate businesses. The Scala Street Pollock’s came first.]

I have found that the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of toy theatres is either aggravatingly scanty and / or difficult to locate on-line, but they do have a  download for a version of Pollock’s Cinderella

If you make your own characters, colour them in and so forth, you might like to try something that used to be called ‘tinselling’, where metallic shapes were stuck to black and white prints that had been hand coloured.

tinsel picture - mr elton as sir kenneth of scotland

In the picture below (which is a great deal smaller than a print used for tinselling would have been) I have used gold and silver paint and various sorts of glitter.

detail - miniature tinsel picture


I was enormously pleased to find the following short films available on line (and free to watch):

Firstly, The British Film Institute has a short (3 minute) film  which shows Benjamin Pollock demonstrating printing and painting scenery and then assembling a toy theatre in his shop.

benjamin pollock assembling a toy theatre in his shop - 1928

The film was made in 1928 and so it is silent, but the picture are remarkably clear and crisp.

benjamin pollock and his daughter operating a toy theatre - 1928 - gaumont mirror film

[Note: toy theatres came in various sizes and this is a large one.]

Then, British Pathe News have two films:

There is an old very short film, without sound, about Pollock’s theatres here

british pathe news - pollock's theatre

And there is an old very short film, without sound, about Tinsel Pictures here

british pathe news - mr webb - tinsel pictures

Now I am going to sit here and think about the Christmassy scraps that I have been meaning to share.

There really are never enough hours in the day.



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book cover - the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973

The Dolls’ House Book – 126 pages
Author: Pauline Flick
Published by Collins – 1973
ISBN – 0001921568

Having been (possibly) unfair to the 1970s in the previous post, I thought I had better try to redress the balance and mention something that I do like from the 1970s.

Having said that: I didn’t know about this book in the 1970s; I bought it in a library sale in the early 1990s.

[And if you ever wonder why there are so many ex-library copies of books on eBay – the libraries in the UK started selling their books and downsizing quite a while ago now. Our small local library is about to close soon and then it will be goodbye to real books and we will only be able to get digital editions. People without computers, or no internet connection at all, (and there are still quite a few of these) are going to suffer.]

But back to the book: it is a modestly sized and I bought it because I liked the various illustrations of the window pelmets that are used above the section headings.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - pelmet illustration

I very nearly didn’t buy it because there is a section devoted to building a dolls’ house from a cardboard box.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - make your own dolls' house

But when I started reading it I was pleased that I had succumbed to the lure of the pelmets and the suggestion that you could build an Australian dolls’ house.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - australian house illustration

The book is clearly written with a juvenile audience in mind:

Grown-up collectors are always on the look out for old dolls’ house furniture…

but it is far from childish in its approach and, in a quiet sort of way, contains a great deal of historical information.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - cardboard chairs from the 1930s

It is divided into three main sections:

The History of Dolls’ Houses – I find this part fascinating as it is full of details that interest me and it is where I first learned of ‘The Girls’ Own Toymaker and Book of Recreation’ (published 1860 and now available on Google Books)

Making Your Own Dolls’ House – this contains a (sensible, if you ask me) description of making a robust dolls’ house from a cardboard box and suggestions of different types of styles of house that you might like to make, with pictures of the differing architectural styles of houses to be found in various British regions.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - timber framed suffolk house

Furnishing Your Dolls’ House – this is a very short section, but it ends with the wise words: “If you’re like me, once you begin collecting you’ll go on and on.”

*** *** ***

Re-reading the final section just now, in particular where the author describes cutting the head off a plastic deer in order to make a stuffed head to hang in her dolls’ house, I was reminded of something that I think might be of interest to someone reading this.

Jane Harrop (her website is here) provided instructions for making a hobby horse, using the head of a plastic toy horse for The DollsHouse and Miniature Scene Magazine (the article is here)

jane harrop - hobby horse

This is part of a series of ‘How To’ published by the magazine and made freely available by them on-line.

Not all the projects mentioned in the ‘How To’ section have detailed instructions, but there are lots of ideas, even when the instructions are non-existent or a bit sketchy.

*** *** ***

Finally, I have had a look and there is next to no information available on-line about Pauline Flick. This is a great shame as I am certain that she influenced the development of dolls’ house books and collecting in the UK.

The best I can do to redress this lack of recognition is to reproduce the biographic details from the back flap of the jacket ‘The Dolls’ House Book’ here.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - biographic details

While I was searching for information on-line I did come across a scanned copy of this book here.

I am not an expert of UK copyright law, but I am reasonably certain that it must still be in copyright in the UK.

Following Project Gutenberg’s reasoning on the matter of book copyright, it would therefore be an infringement of copyright to download this book to your computer.

Just looking at it on a computer screen, however, appears to be another matter entirely.

If you do decide to read it on-line you will be time travelling, so be prepared – there is only one colour photograph.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - frontispiece

This does not stop it being one of my favourite books about dolls’ houses.


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This is a Paper Palace to Cut Out and Color - Evaline Ness

This is a Paper Palace to Cut Out and Color
Designed by Evaline Ness
ISBN 0-684-14708-4

My mother gave this book to me way back in the mid 1970s.

She had come across it in a cut-price bookshop that used to be on the Kilburn High Road (in London).

Shops like these are the last chance for a book that has been remaindered.

If a book doesn’t sell there it is pulped, and I have always been glad and grateful that this one, at least, was rescued.

I have never taken the book apart in order to turn it into a 3d palace, but I have decorated (and re-decorated) again and again in my imagination.

One of the things that I find particularly pleasing about it is the way the shape of two of the rooms is changed by the triangular supports.

This is a Paper Palace to Cut Out and Color - Evaline Ness - back cover

Then there is the way that it is possible to allow furniture to spill out of the rooms, not to mention the way that the owner of the palace is encouraged to use their imagination – and plenty of gold !

This is a Paper Palace - Evaline Ness

Whenever I need to make something fine and golden for a dolls’ house, this is one of the first places that I visit for inspiration.


The book is still in copyright, so I can’t share it it great detail here –

This is a Paper Palace - Evaline Ness



– but if you are inspired to make a Paper Palace of your own, and would like some furniture to go in it, I would suggest having a look at the digital copy of The Girl’s Own Toy-Maker that is available from Google books.

It has some rather nice furniture patterns (as well as suggestions for a couple of small houses and other paper toys) that can be made from paper / card and I think that all of the designs could be worked up into something more substantial – with a little bit of work.

Here are a few of the simpler items –

The Girl's Own Toymaker - Dolls' HouseChair

The Girl's Own Toymaker - Dolls' House Chair with Arms

The Girl's Own Toymaker - Dolls' House Table

The Girl's Own Toymaker - Dolls' House Fireplace

The Girl's Own Toymaker - Dolls' House Washstand

I was delighted to discover that there is a companion volume for boys too –

The Boy’s Own Toy-Maker

The Boy's Own Toy-Maker - soldiers marching out of a fort

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Miniature Kitchen Loves and Sweet Inspiration Kim Marshall Saulter 1

I have to ration my time on the internet to one hour a day (otherwise I would be here all day !) and I overspent my “Blog Budget” wildly last week – so I really shouldn’t be here at all.

However, I have just seen this book by Kim Marshall Saulter and instantly knew that it was one of those Must See Things That Had to Be Shared.

There is a very generous 21 page preview of the book on Blurb here –

 Miniature Kitchen Loves and Sweet Inspirations

Kim Marshall Saulter - Kitchen Loves and Sweet Inspirations

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Robert Opie's Victorian Scrapbook - endpaper

Robert Opie’s Victorian Scrapbook.

ISBN 1872727735

62 pages, full colour throughout (photographs by Paul Forrester)

Copyright 1995 Robert Opie and  New Cavendish Books

(and if any of the above ask me to remove these photographs I will do so immediately)

Robert Opie started to collect ephemera at an early age.

The collection grew steadily to embrace toys, magazines, technology, travel, souvenirs, fashion and design – and a very small portion of it is now featured in a series of books

These are very generously sized – 38cm x 26.7cm – and I have found them to be an invaluable reference for getting the “feel” of a period right.

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising  ( in London) now houses Robert Opie’s collection and it is very well worth a visit.

Sadly, the website for the museum is not very exciting, although it is clearly laid out and does provide details of access, opening times and an opportunity to buy the books – and I would encourage anyone who is interested in historical detail to add these to their collection immediately.

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I like to imagine that Robert Opie’s parents Peter and Iona Opie encouraged their son in his efforts, as they were dedicated researchers and collectors too.


10th May, 2013

The Londonist has a podcast interview with Robert Opie.

The pair tour the museum, discuss the history of product advertising and to what extent brands reflect contemporary culture and lifestyle.


I enjoy the Londonist podcasts and I hope that you will too

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This week we have had rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog – so I haven’t been able to do all the things I was planning to do.

It did, however, mean that I had a chance to start rearranging my bookcase.

I need to do this because, although I had made a solemn promise to myself not to buy any more books, I was tempted beyond endurance by a copy of The Carole and Barry Kaye Museum of Miniatures Catalogue.

It is not very large – 10 inches by 8 1/2 inches and 110 pages – and it is absolutely full of colour photographs of dolls’ houses, miniature scenes and accessories collected by Carole Kaye.

I was fascinated by the American scenes and decor and there were makers who were completely new to me – the work of Rainbow Hand being a wonderful new discovery.

There were also some very beautifully dressed and modelled dolls by George Stuart, which I had never seen before. However, I made the mistake of reading the short paragraph about his Charles II (which is quite stunning to look at) and became intensely annoyed…

Charles II was not “the second in the line of Stuart Kings” – he was the third – James I of England (and 6th of Scotland), Charles I, Cromwell (not a king at all), Charles II – and what is wrong with paying your debts? and the king did not personally plunge the United Kingdom into endless wars – as seems to be implied –

and –

…and then I calmed down a bit

…and remembered that History is Written by The Winners

…and a great deal depends on which books you have read

…and what you have been told

So, no more words, but some pictures – which are far more interesting!

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I am told that only part of the Carole and Barry Kaye collection is featured in this catalogue and sadly the Museum is now closed, so I will  never see it in-situ and in its full glory.

The collection has apparently been donated to The Naples Museum of Art and Philharmonic Center for the Arts where some of it (at least) is now on display as part of the museum’s permanent collection – although I have not been able to find any details about it on their website.

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What a Life! - and autobiography  (authors E.V.L. & G.M.)

One day in 1911 two Edwardian gentleman sat down with scissors and paste and created a masterpiece – using illustrations from Whiteley’s Catalogue.

It was published under the title What a Life !  – (an autobiography E.V.L. & G.M.) – and I find it  surreal, inventive and very funny.

It also provided the inspiration for my Whiteley’s Catalogue House –

so called because at the bottom of the first page…

What a Life! Chapter 1

there is the picture of a dolls’ house that is, to me, the absolute epitome of late Victorian suburban architecture,

I wanted one, in miniature, quite desperately the minute I saw it.

OPen House Miniatures - Whiteley's catalogue Dolls Houses, August 2011

I made the first one at least 15 years ago now and I have just completed numbers 19 and 20.

Over the years they have changed a little bit here and there, but they are still one of my favourite houses to make.

Size wise they have remained pretty much the same – the base is 1 and 1/4 inches (3.15cm) wide by 1 inch (2.5cm) deep and from the base to the top of the chimney pots is approximately 2 and 1/5 inches (6.3cm).

I do not know who made the original house, or what size it was, or what colours it was painted in, so you could say that these are mostly my own invention, but they would never have been made if  E.V.L. & G.M. had not sat down with scissors and paste and created What a Life !

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What A Life! – (an autobiography E.V.L. & G.M.) , Collins edition 1987, ISBN 00 217796 X (possibly out of print)

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