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Here’s a new take on Vita and Virginia. Vita Sackville West’s miniature book, written as an accessory for a famous doll house in 1922, is said to have been the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando.

The story, encapsulated in a volume about the size of a matchbox with just 20 words per tiny page, is titled “A Note of Explanation.” It was one of 200 volumes produced for the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, a replica of an Edwardian residence made as a gift for the consort of George V, according to The Telegraph.

Vita was among the greats

Some of the greatest authors of the day were commissioned to write works for the doll habitat, now on display at Windsor Castle. Besides Vita, they included Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The theme of Vita’s story will sound familiar to anyone who has read Woolf’s pseudo-biography. It tells the tale of an ageless figure who is present for major moments in history. However, in Vita’s version, the ageless figure is a sprite and the history the sprite lives through is fairytale history — from Cinderella’s ball to Sleeping Beauty’s kiss.

Woolf always acknowledged that Orlando had been inspired by Vita and her family, but apparently did not acknowledge that Vita had written a tiny book with a similar theme.

Get the book

A hardback cloth-bound publication of the book, sized 9.8 inches x 6.8 inches, went on sale Oct. 16 by the Royal Collection Trust, according to the BBC. It includes illustrations by Kate Baylay and an afterword by Sackville-West’s biographer, Matthew Dennison, The Guardian reported.

You can order it through the RCT shop. You can also find it on Amazon.

 

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