Monday, February 21, 2011

Miniature Books

I have been fascinated by miniature books -- the tiny works of printing art that have been around for a long time. Beginning in the medieval times there were miniature books handwritten by monks for royal patrons. These were mostly prayer or devotional texts which could be handily carried in a pocket or purse. After the invention of the printing press, miniature books were a way for a printer to show his skill. Probably the most common texts are bibles or prayer books and calendars. Miniaturizations of other books like Shakespeare's plays, children's story books, books with pictures and such, are harder to find and more highly prized by collectors.
Curiosities of the Tower of London, Vol. I. London: Printed for Tho. Boreman, 1741. (Photo courtesy of Lilly Library)

Book of Hours, Bruges, Belgium, ca. 1440 (Photo courtesy of Lilly Library)
Miniature books are defined as those books that are three inches or smaller in height and width, although slightly larger dimensions are collected by some aficionados of the genre.  There are numerous large collections in libraries and museums in the USA. The University of Indiana's Lilly Library has an online exhibit: 4000 Years of Miniature Books. It features a small part of the library's 16,000 miniature book collection! The Miniature Book Society even has an ongoing competition for judging new miniature book creations.

Here at Vintages, we have a small, but very nice, selection of miniature books. While our current inventory includes primarily prayer books and calendars at this time, we have had (and continue to seek) miniatures of other subjects. Here are a few photos and a link to our online offering of books.
Miniature French calendars - 1907, 1923 & 1924 ($28 - $36 each)

Miniature prayer books dated 1885 to 1907 ($36 - $45 each)

The star of our current collection is this beautiful Book of Common Prayer that has a calf's leather spine, ivory covers, silver trim and gilt edged pages. The silver is hallmarked Richard Smith, London, 1903. There is a wonderful inscription inside: Hilda from M. Creed 1905.
Miniature Book of Common Prayer 1903 ($195)

Inscription: Hilda from M. Creed 1905.

Another favorite is this tiny 1907 calendar, with leather covers and gilt lettering. This is a superb miniature advertising piece: With the Compliments of Brentano's - 37 Avenue de l'Opera, Paris. This bookstore in Paris, which offers a large selection of English language books, has been at this location near l'Opera Garnier for over 113 years! (After a brief closure last summer, the store has re-opened this month.)
Miniature Brentano's 1907 Advertising Calendar ($36)

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