I won’t lie and say that every book that we come across in the Tower is really exciting. Many of them are school textbooks or religious pamphlets that are less than exciting to look at. Once in a while though, we get something really pretty that we want to share (hence this blog!)
This week we found two books that fit this description. “The Children’s Store“ and “The Doll’s Play-House” are books and toys rolled into one. When I was little I remember having similar books were you had to cut clothes for the doll out of paper and then dress her up. These books follow the same theme but take it to another level. As well as folding out into either a model home or a shop, they also come with paper accessories for the setting. As well as being a fun and nostalgic trip down memory lane, the books also give us some important information about the time period they come from.
The clothes the characters are wearing in the picture on the left tells us a lot about fashions in the Edwardian period. It’s easy to recognise the sophisticated lady customer and her daughter, the grocer or the butcher just from their costumes. They don’t seem to have changed much in the last hundred years but the pictures still provide us with a nice visual resource of what people were wearing in their everyday lives back in 1911.
The next few inserts show us the kinds of goods that would have been available in a general store in 1911. These include general household goods, basic food provisions, clothes and dressmaking supplies. I always pictured people having to visit multiple shops in order to get everything they needed, unlike the convenience of the supermarkets which we have today. Based on “The Children’s Store” this isn’t true. These shops sold a wide range of goods and were likely to have been the hub of the community.
The second book is a more traditional doll’s house. Whereas the Store could be played with by all children, the doll’s house is very much geared towards little girls. This was a time when, although things were beginning to change, little girls were still expected to be able to run a household as their primary duty when they grew up. Toys like a doll’s house would have been a good way for them to practice basic skills. This books includes a sitting-room, bathroom and bedroom as well as the more traditional cut-out-and-dress doll.
This kind of focus on the day-to-day lives of people in the Edwardian period is one of the things which makes books like these so interesting to read, and to catalogue. Books like this were made to be used and cut up, which would have destroyed them for future generations. Although these books weren’t designed as anything more than a child’s plaything, they provide valuable insights into social history. This is the type of history not often recorded in books of the time and this makes the work of that the Tower Project does so important. The books also provide information to those interested in children’s books and the history of childhood which makes it even more fortunate that the library has preserved them for all these years!
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