Tiny Eiffel Towers. Platoons of brave toy soldiers. A doll’s house created for a Queen. Diminutive crime scenes crafted to catch a killer. Simon Garfield investigates humans’ peculiar fascination with small things—and what small things tell us about our larger world.
This intriguing study of our urge to make scale models is full of bizarre stories and poignant insight ... engaging and exhuberant ... In Miniature reads like an upmarket Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and I did keep having to search the internet to make sure Garfield wasn’t fantasising ... Sometimes I paused just to marvel at a fact, or the implications thereof ... The moral seems to be that we’re all small, relatively speaking, which is perhaps why In Miniature is not only highly entertaining; it is also moving.
Garfield, whose range of critical reference is equally wide (taking in WG Sebald, Walter Benjamin and Simon Armitage), is fascinating and often funny about why miniatures exert such a hold ... As a (scaled-down) book, In Miniature is a well-built, highly polished entity. It is full of evocative sentences ... what he also shows in abundance is the sympathetic understanding of the needs and travails of 'ordinary' people ... And he sees how, above all, miniatures are a celebration of human ingenuity for its own sake, and of the myriad ways in which we try to access our capacity – and slake our need – for wonder.
[Garfield] turns his relaxed, fireside-chatty tone (and a sprinkling of puns) to the human fascination with not size, but scale. In Miniature: How Small Things Illuminate the World is a charming collage of historical vignettes and commentary, wandering from tiny volumes and flea circuses to miniature railroads, both the hugely commercial layouts and the private escapes of such enthusiasts as Rod Stewart, Neil Young and Roger Daltrey (rock stars and railroading—who knew?).