Why This Room is Special

Imitation books covering a door

Walls of Books

Counterfeit books, dummy books, sham books —call them what you will, imitation books are often written off as fripperies, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. In the eighteenth century, they were used to cover doors in country house libraries, creating the illusion of perfectly enclosed space in keeping with the principles of neo-classical design. Dummy books soon became an opportunity to crack a literary joke, and in 1851 Charles Dickens mischievously ordered a set with titles such as Lady Godiva on the Horse and Hansard’s Guide to Refreshing Sleep. By the mid-Victorian period, as book bindings became less expensive and more ornate, they began to be used as wall decoration in boudoirs. The Women’s Library at Compton Verney is significant because it is aesthetically pleasing, yet makes a serious literary statement. To find out more about the imitation books themselves, click below. To find out more about who put them there, read about Georgiana Verney, who lived at Compton Verney in the 1860s.

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