Last week, instead of flying from Sydney to Bathurst with my mother, I hired a car and drove her. This meant we could stop in the Blue Mountains for afternoon tea (we went to the German bakery in Wentworth Falls) and go to a secondhand bookshop.
I was delighted to find a copy of Flora Gill Jacobs A History of Dolls' Houses (1965 edition), as well as a book I hadn't heard of called Magic Land of Toys. This amazing book "invites kids and grown-ups on a fantastic voyage through a century of childhood, courtesy of the toy collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris."
It is no conventional history of toys, though - instead, it shows double-page photographs of scenes set up using 700 of the toys from the museum, in purpose-built sets, as if a child had been playing with them.
Among the toys are, of course, dolls houses and miniature shops, schools and kitchens. Some I recognised immediately, but, although the photos are not captioned, the toys shown in each scene are helpfully identifed at the end of the book, with thumbnail photos and information on date and maker, if known. (The manufacturers of the school above and the perfume shop and kitchen below are not known, though they are said to be made in France.)
The book also has text by Alberto Manguel, reflecting on the role of various toys, and parallels between toys and other cultural icons (Barbie and Diana of Ephesus?). So far I haven't read much of it, but I find the combinations of toys in the photos, the roles played by the dolls and animals of various scales, and the moods created in the scenes, quite engrossing.
(Here a Citroen multi-storey garage stands next to a kitchen by C.R. (Societé Rossignol et Roitelet), France, ca 1960.)
(The double page photos are too big to scan, so I've had to photograph them - I apologise for the poor quality.)
4 hours ago