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American Rooms in Miniature (1962): The Incredible Shrinking Mahogany

Mrs. James Ward Thorne, American Rooms in Miniature, 5/E (Art Institute of Chicago, 1962)


photo credit: Lake Country Books

Stay tuned for an upcoming review of European Rooms in Miniature! (No, I’m not kidding.)

I know it’s a product of the times—but even taking that into account, the forties seems awfully late for these sorts of shenanigans—but every time I see a book written by someone who is presented to us by her husband’s name rather than her own, it rubs me the wrong way. And thus, I’ll tell you that Mrs. James Ward Thorne’s first name was Narcissa. Which, depending on your POV, may explain why she allowed the books bearing her name to be published as being by Mrs. etc.

None of which has to do with this book itself. Narcissa Thorne was the architect and arbiter of a number of miniature depictions of American architecture, many of which were 1:12 copies of actual rooms that were still extant in their historic homes, or which had been saved when those were destroyed and rebuilt in museums. As the title conveys, this book focuses on those that originated in America. The pictures are nothing out of the ordinary, which is to be expected given that the idea is to focus on the miniatures themselves and be able to pick out details as they’re pointed out by the text (which is uncredited, but I assume was written by Ms. Thorne). Said text is rather dry, and this would have probably been more fun had the author enlivened it a bit with the passion that she must have had for the project, given the immense amount of time it must have taken to put all these rooms together; still, it is a good record of an art form that, fifty years on, has faded into obscurity. If you stumble upon these at a used bookstore, they’re worth checking out. ***

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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