Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Drive through the Mountains

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.)


  1. THank you for sharing, Rebecca. I have enjoyed the pictures very much

  2. Just goes to show that driving rather than flying is often the more interesting and profitable option - you have turned up a couple of treasures. I had heard of the Flora Gill Jacobs book, though don't have a copy, but didn't know of the other one. Good to see the concept of displaying the toys as if they were being played with rather than the 'behind glass' museum catalogue style.

  3. oh, rebecca what a great find!! the pictures are amazing!! the scenes really look like a child left its toys on the floor after playing - great! the poor lundby dolls all haunted by dinosaurs ;D this would have been something my daughter annina would have played - she never was a dolly-girl and loved to play with dinosaurs.

    i´m happy you are back again and had such a lovely car trip with your mum! german bakery :) sounds good, too!


  4. Nice finds! I love the photos from the last book, especially the first one, which reminded me of the BBC series Primeval, which son and I enjoy watching. The third left me a bit curious over why the woman would relax like that instead of on a sofa or bed :-)

  5. Hey that dinosaur is eating a Hollywood swing! No wonder they are so hard to find!
    Cool book. C

  6. HI Rebecca....thank you so much for sharing yourself (in your ten question/answers!) and your collections. I, like you, am adicted to genealogy (family research) of my own and others. I guess that along with dollhouses and miniatures makes me a very addictive personality...eeek! I was wondering still...did you have photos of Westacre pieces to share with me for my article? If you do, I'd love to have your pics soon as I hope to complete this project as soon as I can. Happy New Year---and I too, love long hair and I can't imagine living without books! Kindred spirits, perhaps? Hugs, Louise

  7. Thank you all for your comments - glad you enjoyed the pictures too! It was a good drive - I think we'll do it again :-)

    Yes, Nicola, the mixture of toys like dinosaurs and dolls in these scenes would definitely appeal to someone who was not very dolly!

    Helene, perhaps the woman doll is lying across chairs because she spent all her money on buying a perfume shop, so she can't afford a bed or couch?

    M2V, you might well be right! I never thought of that!

  8. Hi Louise, interesting how many of us are genealogists and avid readers as well as dolls house collectors!
    I am sorry, I didn't take photos of the possible Westacre pieces by themselves. The cupboard house furniture was still packed up (Mum's house was painted last year so everything was packed up in readiness) - and I unpacked the drawing room and bedroom to take the Christmas and tag photos - but not wherever the second piece of Westacre is. One of the bookshelves I think may be Westacre is on the upstairs landing in the Cupboard house, where the two boys are playing ( or and the other one is in the corner between the fireplace and the other bookshelf in the drawing room ( or I don't know if that's enough for you to see if they are Westacre, and if they are, whether you might be able to use the landing photo if you wanted to? I'm sorry about that, it probably wouldn't have taken much longer to find and unpack the landing bookcase :-( Cheers, Rebecca