Lilliput Press

The Lilliput Press founded in Bristol by Tim Sheppard in the early 1980’s specialised in miniature books in roughly 1/12th scale so suitable for displaying in a standard scale dolls house but they were so much more than just items to decorate a child’s toy these are serious works of the book makers art and well worth seeking out although they are now very difficult to find. I have six examples, all from the 1980’s although the press continued until 2005. Nowadays there is another, much larger in all senses, Lilliput Press based in Dublin which produces books of Irish interest but sadly full size rather than these lovely tiny volumes

All the books I have are hand sewn and bound in silk with gilt top edging and hand painted dust wrappers, they also feature hand coloured frontispieces as you can see below. Amazingly they are from almost the cheapest range of titles produced by Tim Sheppard. You could also get leather bound books and limited editions with multiple hand painted illustrations and from October 2001 there were a couple of Lilliput Classics (an abridged Pride and Prejudice along with A Christmas Carol) although these aren’t mentioned on the surviving website which was last updated in June 2005 as the listing of books appears to have stopped in November 1998. The picture above clearly shows the quires that go up to making the books showing four or five per volume making up an average of roughly fifty pages per book. But these pictures don’t really give an true idea of just how small the books are so…

Yes that really is just 2cm and yet the text is perfectly legible, this is from Jean Nisbet’s book Restoring a Doll’s House, a very suitable work for such a tiny library. In the price list I have from October 2001 there are 28 Silk-Bound editions each at £12.50, 4 leather-bound titles at £20 each, 1 special edition fold out book of flowers at £17, the two Lilliput Classics at £11 each and 19 Limited editions varying from £40 to £145 each although there must have been 5 other Limited editions at some point as these start with book F. The limited editions are all fully bound in Moroccan goatskin leather with gold embossed designs and titles, marbled end-papers and are signed and numbered. Nowadays you will pay considerably more for any examples that you may find.

Let’s look at the individual titles that I have, apologies in advance, this is a rather image heavy blog but as these books are quite scarce I think you need to have a chance to see them in all their glory.

British Butterflies by Philip Stevenson – 1983

This book is fully illustrated with images of a wide selection of butterflies to be found in the British Isles with a delicately hand water coloured frontispiece. The sheer quality of the printing can really be appreciated in this lovely book.

British Butterflies is number 9 in the Dollshouse Editions

Long Long Ago – Illustrated by A Clements and S Morton – 1985

This is a folk tale about a little girl who meets the gods of the months and has thirty three lovely illustrations which resemble just the sort of wood block images that I would expect in a fine press book of this type giving a rustic look.

As can be seen the text is slightly larger in this book than in Restoring a Dollshouse and again the font seems entirely appropriate for a folk tale. This is book number 7.

Country Fare by Kym – 1986

This is a recipe book featuring British food from the 18th and 19th centuries but I must admit I am fascinated by the numerous illustrations

which are particularly intriguing as they don’t appear to have any relevance to the recipe on the facing page.

Nevertheless it’s a fascinating book although I’m not sure I would tackle any of the projects included. Country Fare is number 4 in the series.

A Herbal Legacy by N Culpeper – 1986

Nicholas Culpeper is famous for his book normally published as ‘Complete Herbal’ but as this is an abridged edition changing the title is to be expected. Originally published in 1652 the full book looks at all the medicinal herbs that an English physician would use in treating his patients at the time. The original title was ‘The English Physitian’ and Wikipedia has a list of all the plants he refers to.

Again like the Country Fare volume the illustrations appear to have strayed from their logical place. The drawing of St. Peter’s Wort is opposite a mixture for improving eyesight even though it isn’t used in the list of ingredients. There is also an apparent spelling mistake on this page as vervain (now commonly known as verbena) is spelt verrain. I chose this page though because it was all very herbal and vegan until ‘the liver of a goat chopped small’ suddenly appeared.

This is book number 3

Jack-A-Nory – 1987

A collection of nursery rhymes delightfully illustrated by Richard Pope, I love the loo of terror of Humpty’s face in the picture below. I’m guessing that the choice of a hare on the frontispiece refers to the Victorian tickling rhyme that is largely forgotten but goes

Round about, round about,
Runs the little hare,
First it runs that way,
Then it runs up there.

This is book number 8.

Restoring a Doll’s House by Jean Nisbett- 1989

And so we are back to the first book I showed the inside of and the most recent title in my little library of Lilliput Press books. This is actually quite a detailed and well researched book although unlike the other volumes I have the only illustration is the frontispiece of a doll’s shop rather than a more usual doll’s house.

It would certainly be possible to restore, or even build from scratch, a doll’s house from the information in this tiny book. The one time I have worked on a roof for a doll’s house I used individually cut pieces of card to represent the tiles and it took a long time to get anywhere, maybe I should have read this first and used the ‘strip method’. This is book 10 according to the price list.

One thing you will have noticed, and the reason why I mentioned the number each time, is that the date given in the book seems out of sync with the numbering system given in the October 2001 catalogue, Culpeper for instance is number 3 but is dated 1987, five years later than British Butterflies which is numbered 9. This is presumably not just a later renumbering as the same sequence is found on the old website dated 1998 although obviously the list of titles is shorter there. It would be interesting to find out the reason but I doubt I ever will. I have been in contact with Tim Sheppard and he confirmed that the press is no longer operational but I didn’t notice the odd numbering issue until I came to write this blog entry.


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