‘Did you look at my books?’ Marin hisses. ‘Did you?’
Next to the lamp is a pile of books, and their pages emanate a loamy mix of damp and pigskin.
‘No - I -’
‘Yes you did. Did you open them?’
There are so many books here...Marin must spend a good guilder on this habit, Nella supposes, rubbing the luxurious, thick paper.
So I'm at the end of the editing process with The Miniaturist. Hooray! And I'm looking at the books that got me here, some that started it all, others which enriched with their microscopic interest, and some which were the broader brushstrokes. Here is a selection - the ones which have lasted to the very end:
This little bad boy - actually, no, it's a tome, was the lodestone. The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama is meticulously researched, an investigation into the Golden Age Dutch psyche through the wonderful prism of iconography, contemporary poetry, painting and pamphlets. All the Ps. It is academic without being up its own fundament, and with chapters entitled 'Moral Geography', 'In The Republic of Children', 'The Impertinence of Survival' and 'Housewives and Hussies: Homeliness and Worldliness', it is the most comprehensive yet imaginative reference book I have used through the writing of The Miniaturist.
A more slender companion, this book by Mariët Westermann is an accessible, image-heavy delight. I used it mainly for pictorial research into clothes, what sort of paintings people bought for themselves, and what the insides of their houses really looked like.
Oh this one is a JOY, a JOY I tell you. I had to order this from the USA, but it was worth every penny. The Sensible Cook, translated and edited by Peter G. Rose, is a faithful translation of a 1676 Dutch recipe book, and from it I have lifted several recipes that the house cook, Cornelia, concocts in the novel. Hen in Sorrel, anyone? Green Candy Walnut? Below are a few examples of what's inside.
This book, Well-Being in Amsterdam's Golden Age, by Derek Phillips, was extraordinarily useful and so fascinating. It's super-specific, taking quite an 'emotional' angle on the lives of those living in the city of Amsterdam through the latter stages of the 17th century. Whereas the Schama book looks at the whole of the Dutch Republic, this is just focused on the one, gloriously contradictory city. Phillips uses extensive research into birth, deaths and marriage registers, salary comparisons, wills and inventories, occupations, failures, successes, records, dowries, pregnancies and funerals to put together the most detailed, and dare I say it, loving investigation into how Amsterdammers might have been in those days. A must.
This was the most philosophical goody I read. It is beautifully, lyrically written, with many crystalline observations about lesser-known Dutch painters, the landscape and the tragedy of the tulip fever in the early 17th century. Zbigniew Herbert, you feel, truly understands the Dutch painting tradition, the varying artistic ethe and how they were informed by their history, their geography and their ever-changing fortunes.
This book of essays On Dolls, edited by Kenneth Gross, was not specifically Dutch-orientated, but it looked at another angle in my book - that of the phenomenon of dolls. Essays by Marina Warner, Kafka, Freud, Elizabeth Bishop and Rainer Maria Rilke among others, explore the eerieness of dolls, their appeal and repulsion, their necessity and their disposability.
So there you have it - there were others, but these are the ones I can see before me on my bookshelf right now. For more visual inspiration, you can visit my Miniaturist Pinterest board, or MinPin as I like to call it, which has an abundance of images which inspired the book, many of which ended up directly in the novel.