It was designed for the most famous dolls’ house in the world, with pages no bigger than postage stamps. But next month, 90 years after it was written, this tiny book, specially created for Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle, will be reproduced on human scale. Thanks to a collaboration between Royal Collection Publications and Walker Books, the fairy story and illustrations contained within J. Smith, by Fougasse, will be revealed in full for the first time.
The handwritten book measures just 4cm x 3.5cm and is one of 200 volumes in the miniature library of the Dolls’ House, created for Queen Mary, consort of King George V, in 1922. The house, designed by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, is the perfect replica of an aristocratic Edwardian residence, complete with fully furnished rooms, electricity, running water and lifts. It can be seen by visitors to Windsor Castle all year round. The library in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House contains tiny works by 171 authors, including Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir James Barrie and Edith Wharton. The story of Joe Smith is one of the most enchanting volumes – and its tale is among the few to be written exclusively for the Dolls’ House. The book was the contribution of one of the foremost cartoonists of the day, ‘Fougasse’, whose real name was Cyril Kenneth Bird. Bird, editor of Punch magazine from 1949 to 1953, is best known for his ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ posters, drawn for the government during the Second World War.
Fougasse’s book, written in verse and charmingly illustrated, tells the story of a fairy, Joe Smith, who falls out of Fairyland one stormy night and lands in London. Not everyone believes his claim to be a fairy, as he finds when he is arrested:
‘ “But they do exist,” said the fairy.
And the proof of it is me –
For if I’m not a fairy – Whatever can I be?
If you won’t believe a simple fact, very well then, you shall see.”
He stood up on his little toes –
And out his arms he spread –
Then gently floated through the air –
And round the policeman’s head –
Then he… lay down on the ceiling, and
“Well, p’raps you’re right,” they said –’
After a series of misadventures, including a turn on the London stage and an attempt to become an artist, Joe decides that fairyland is a far safer place to be and returns again to his ‘fairy brotherhood’.
Royal Collection Publisher, Jacky Colliss Harvey, said, ‘This book is a miniature work of genius, full of sly wit and with Fougasse’s unmistakable and charming illustrations. We are delighted to bring it to a wider audience as one of our new titles for children, although we are convinced it will appeal just as irresistibly to adults.’
Denise Johnstone-Burt, Publisher of J. Smith at Walker Books, said, ‘We were both honoured and thrilled to be given the opportunity to bring this miniature masterpiece from the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House to the wider world. This rare and exquisite book with its enchanting history was irresistible to us when we first saw it. We have lovingly reproduced Fougasse’s magical story and brilliant illustrations in this special edition so their true wit and beauty can be enjoyed by everyone.”
The gift edition of J. Smith by Fougasse is published by Walker Books from the original book in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. Publication date 3 May 2012, price £10 (clothbound hardback), 152 pages, ISBN 978-1-4063-3793-8.
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