Since the late 1950s, Dutch flag carrier KLM has been giving little Delft blue and white pottery houses to its first class (now business class) passengers. The houses, actually little bottles containing jenever, or Dutch gin, are all based on real buildings and Little Kingdom by the Sea tells their stories.
The little houses are beloved by collectors and offered for sale on auction sites and specialist websites all over the internet.
Among the collectors, the book says, is celebrated author Gabriel Garcia Marques who asked for a number of minatures in return for writing an article for the airline’s magazine. King Willem-Alexander is said to be a collector as well, and when princess Christina put her collection up for sale at Sotheby’s, it was bought by the Hungarian honorary consul.
Every year gin maker Lucas Bols and KLM get together to decide which building to use next – a decision ultimately taken by KLM’s chief executive.
The buildings which have been turned into miniatures range from royal palaces to bars, from merchants homes and museums and all have their own stories to tell.
If you are a collector, the book is a great source of information about the houses, from number one to number 95. If you like Dutch history, it is a treasure trove of stories.
There are also suggestions for several heritage trails, including a historical pub crawl in Amsterdam which takes you past many of the bars which feature in the collection.
One note of caution – it is a weighty little book and too thick to read comfortably with one hand. The English is also slightly clunky at times.
Nevertheless, Little Kingdom by the Sea offers readers an exclusive peek into the lives of the people who lived in the houses and includes portraits of pioneers, adventurers and other glamorous figures who made their mark on Dutch history.