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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Tiny Enchantments: A Closer Look at Miniature Books: Exhibit

Fleet Library 2nd Floor, November 18, 2019-January 19, 2020

Exhibit Opening and Reception:

**Postponed to Tuesday, December 10, 2019**

3-4:30pm, Dale Reading Room 201, light refreshments and brief talk

Poster

Curator

Ellen Cummings

Special Collections Intern, Fall 2019

University of Rhode Island, GSLIS 2020

Notable Miniature Presses + People

Intro

Small things inspire tenderness. They ask us to be gentle, to admire the fine craftsmanship, and to appreciate that what we are holding is a treasure. There is something especially enchanting about miniature books and their rich history, dating as far back as 2500 BCE in the form of Babylonian cuneiform tablets. To be truly considered miniature, a book must be no more than three inches in height, width, and thickness, however, they come much smaller than this. 

The production of miniature books throughout history reflects the incredible skill and care needed to print and bind these little works of art. Some were manufactured for convenience and portability and some for the novelty of miniature curiosities, designed to enchant and to be cherished. While miniature books certainly delight, they also tell us much about our history and what was considered most significant at various times. The more important the text, the more likely it was to be carried on one’s person in miniature book form.

Miniature worlds and the little books we put in them will always be a source of great fascination. We hope the tiny enchantments displayed in this exhibit demonstrate the role of miniature books in history and in the history of book production, and that they bring delight to all who view.

Miniature Books

Miniature books as we picture them today date from the 15th century, the first of which was printed in 1498 Mainz, Germany. Miniature “Books of Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” were trending during the medieval period, handwritten by scribes on parchment paper. Very few miniature books from the sixteenth century are still around today. More can be learned from specimens of the 17th century when religion was frequently the subject of miniature books. This was also a time of refinement, sophistication, and great appreciation for artistic wonders where tiny books have their significant place. Beautiful and intricately made thumb Bibles and prayer books were widely popular, attached to belts, girdles, hung from the waist in doeskin pouches, or in a purse. They were frequently worn under shirts close to the heart to provide consolation to their owners, particularly when traveling far from home.

Dew Drops  “My speech shall distil as the dew.” Deut. 32:2  New York: American Tract Society. 5.5 cm

 

Petit Paroissien de la Jeunesse Paris: Marcilly

 

Le Petit Paroissien de L’Enfance Paris. 2.8 cm

 

Victorian album with brass filigree ornament cover Sepia photo reproductions of 19th century paintings. 3.2 cm  

 

Bible Forget-Me-Nots: A Daily Text-Book of Divine Promises  NY: E.P. Dutton & Co. 7.2 cm

 

The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments Glasgow David Bryce and Son, c. 1839   4.7 cm

 

The Life of Christ London: G. E. Petter. 5 cm

 

Qur’an Printed in Arabic. 2.2 cm

 

The Life of Joseph London: C. Duff & Co. 5.1 cm

 

Qur’an Printed in Arabic. 3.8 cm. Leather bound with strap, gilt embossing and attached magnifying lens. 

 

The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments Glasgow: David Bryce and Son, c1839  

 

Qur’an Printed in Arabic. 3.8 cm. Leather bound with snap closure and attached magnifying lens.

 

History of the Bible Buffalo: Breed & Lent, 1869.  5.5 cm

 

Verbum Sempiternum John Taylor. Boston, MA: Printed for, and sold by N. Procter, near Scarlet's-Wharffe, 1765. 5 cm. Thumb Bible.

 

Bijou Illustrations of the Holy Land Philadelphia: J. Hamilton. 3 cm

 

Small Rain Upon the Tender Herb Deut. xxxii.2 Thirty-second Edition. London: Religious Tract Society. 3.6 cm.

 

Miniature Qu'ran Iran: 18--? Islamic calligraphic manuscript, completed during the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925)

 

The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England London, England: Wm. Clowes and Sons, Limited. Leather binding with silver mounted cover. From the collection of Ellen Cummings.

 

The 17th century witnessed the appearance of non-religious miniature texts, such as almanacs, dictionaries, and calendars. Pocket-sized versions of such books were printed frequently for the use of immediate reference.  Microscopic almanacs, measuring around 13/16ths by 5/8ths of an inch began to appear around the 1760s. They were usually intended as presents for ladies or children, often distributed at chocolate shops and bakeries to favored customers. They are full of poetry and beautifully illustrated with portraits of royal figures. 

Fromme’s Wiener Porte-monnaie Kalender, 1917 Wien: J. Carl Fromme, 1916? 5.3 cm

 

Petit Almanach pour 1954 (Paris: 1954). 5.2 cm

 

Bryce’s Thumb English Dictionary Glasglow: David Bryace and Son. 5.8 cm

 

The Smallest French and English Dictionary in the World F. E. Á. Gasc M. A. Glasgow: David Bryace and Son. 2.8 cm

 

Reed’s Lilliput Maori Proverbs Aileen E. Brougham and A. W. Reed. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1963.  5 cm

 

London Almanac for 1875 Great Britain, 1874?  6 cm

 

The Royal Miniature Almanack for 1854 Aylesbury Street, UK: T. Goode, 1853? 4.5 cm

 

Langenscheidt’s Lilliput Dictionary Berlin-Shöneberg: Langenscheidt KG, 1961. 4.9 cm each

 

Set of four language dictionaries in leather case with magnifying glass. Langenscheidts Wörterbuch Lilliput. Deutsch-Französisch; Français-Allemand; Deutsch-English; English-German Berlin- Shöneberg: Langenscheidt KG, 1930. 4.8 cm each

 

The Little Webster Dr. Gergh. Jacob. Leipzig: Schmidt & Günther. 5.5 cm

The 19th century saw a dramatic rise in popularity of miniature books. A growing interest in education influenced the publishing of illustrated miniatures for children. In the early 1800s, publishers were producing miniature libraries for children that came with their own decorative bookcases. It’s no surprise that miniature books are adored by children, as they bring an element of excitement to learning by blurring the distinction between books and toys. The Tiny Alphabet Book was the smallest book printed in color at the time in Glasgow, Scotland at the end of the nineteenth century by David Bryce. 

 

Tiny Alphabet of Animals Glasgow: David Bryce & Son. 2.9 cm

 

Lucky Bob London: Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton. 7.9 cm

 

Kate Greenaways’ Alphabet London and New York: Frederick Warne & Co. 7.3 cm

 

Carl's Visit to Child Island Aunt Laura Breed. Buffalo: Breed, Butler & Co, 1863. 4.7 cm

 

Life of General Tom Thumb Troy, N.Y.: Moore & Nims. 5.2 cm

 

Une Heure De Recreation, Les Trois Quarts Imprimerie De Maulde Et Renou. 8.4 cm

 

Une Heure De Recreation, L’heure Imprimerie De Maulde Et Renou. 8.4 cm

 

Dot's Travels June 15, 1880. 6.2 cm

 

Country Pets S. Annie Frost N.Y.: American Tract Society. 1881. 6.2 cm

 

Une Heure De Recreation, Le Quart Imprimerie De Maulde Et Renou. 8.4 cm

 

Enfantine Paris: A Marcilly Libre. Rue St. Jacques, 10. 5.3 cm

 

The House That Jack Built and Jack and the Beanstalk London: Peter Stockham. 5.3 cm

 

L’enfant Des Quatre Elements Scenes Variees, Le Feu. 7.3 cm

 

L’enfant Des Quatre Elements Scenes Variees, L’Eau. 7.2 cm

 

L’enfant Des Quatre Elements Scenes Variees, La Terre. 7.3 cm Paris: Bibl. D’education De D. Eymery

 

Bibliotheque en Miniature pour la Jeunesse 

Histoire des Poissons Reptiles et Insectes. 6.5 cm

La Mythologie. 6.4 cm

La Geographie. 6.5 cm

Paris: Gide Fils, Rue Saint-Marc, No 20.

 

Histoire Naturelle. Animaux Les Poissons; Les Mineraux Augustin Legrand. Paris, 1823. 5.9 cm

During the 1900s, small presses contributed greatly to the world of miniature books. The Hillside press in New York State published limited edition works of Hans Christian Anderson, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and more. The press was founded by Frank and Eleanor Irwin in 1956. The production was a family affair, and their daughter did a lot of typesetting and sewing of signatures.

 

 

The Astrologer’s Niece Tudor Jenks. Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1973. 6 cm

 

The Miser Elf Oliver Herford. Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1972. 6 cm

 

Sound Track Frank Irwin. With Illustrations by David Wiggins. Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1969.  6.1 cm

 

The Centuries of Nostradamus Frank Irwin. Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1964. 6 cm

 

Wedding of the Foxes: Japanese Fables and Fantasy Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1968. 6 cm

 

Chinese Poems: With Five Illustrations from Ancient Ink Paintings Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1971. 6.1 cm

 

Herbal Woodcuts and Legends Frank Irwin. Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1971.  6 cm

 

Soundings: Selections from the Journals and Other Works of Henry ThoreauTilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1964. 6 cm

 

Colonial Coins: Illustrated with Numerous Photo Engravings Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1974. 6 cm

Japanese Fairy Tales: Stories and Folklore of Old Japan Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1962. 5.6 cm

 

The Bibliography of the Hillside Press: With Twenty-five Woodcuts and Other Illustrations Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1971.  5.9 cm

 

The Brownies Palmer Cox. Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1962.  6 cm

Doris V. Welsh was a librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago. She created miniature books at her home on her own small press as a hobby, and her press was called Le Petit Oiseau.

American Known Before Columbus Discovered It Chicago: Doris V. Welsh, 1955. 4.6 cm

 

Hurricane, 1926, Reported by Garnet Varner Welch and Earle Basil Welch Chicago: Le Petit Oiseau Press, 1958. 5 cm

 

An Incident of Border Warfare Doris Welsh. Chicago: Le Petit Oiseau Press, 1958. 5 cm

 

Quotations from the Book in Green Morocco for Alexandra Fredericks Chicago: Petit Oiseau Press, 1958. 4.9 cm

 

The Wordless Book: A Religious Allegory. The Unregenerat heart Redeemed by Blood Purified by baptism Gains Celestial Joy. Chicago: Petit Oiseau Press, 1967.  4.7 cm

 

Heraldry Joseph Wolf. Chicago: Doris V. Welsh, 1956. 4.8 cm

 

The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, May 20, 1775 Chicago: Doris V. Welsh, 1954. 5.6 cm

 

Hurricane, 1926, Reported by Garnet Varner Welch and Earle Basil Welch Chicago: Le Petit Oiseau Press, 1958. 5 cm

 

An Incident of Border Warfare Doris Welsh. Chicago: Le Petit Oiseau Press, 1958. 5 cm

Quotations from the Book in Green Morocco for Alexandra Fredericks Doris Welsh. Chicago: Petit Oiseau Press, 1958. 4.9 cm

She Makes Wee Books Newspaper clipping about Doris Welsh

Achille St. Onge began publishing the inaugural addresses of American presidents, including that of Franklin D. Roosevelt who collected miniature books himself. A copy of one of St. Onge’s books, Robert Hutchings Goddard: Father of the Space Age, was the first book to be flown to the moon with Buzz Aldrin on spaceflight Apollo 11 in 1969. St. Onge mailed two copies of the book to Aldrin hoping that one could stay on the moon. However, personal items could not be left on the moon’s surface, so both copies came back to earth. Aldrin eventually gave his signed copy to Esther Goddard, Roberts widow, who donated the book to the Clark University Library in Worcester, MA.

The Autobiography of Robert Hutchings Goddard: Father of the Space Age. Early Years to 1927 Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1966 7.4 cm

 

Historic American Flags Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1968.  7.3 cm

 

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1959: The Address by Carl Sandburg before the United States Congress, Washington, DC February 12, 1959  Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1959.  6.2 cm

 

The Inaugural Address of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States. Delivered at the Capitol, Washington, January 20, 1961 Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1961.  6.8 cm

 

Formats and Foibles: A Few Books Which Might Be Called Curious Walter Hart Blumenthal. Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1956.  6.1 cm

 

The Inaugural Address of Lyndon Baines Johnson, President of the United States. Delivered at the Capitol, Washington, January 20, 1965 Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1964.  6.8 cm

 

The Wants of Man: A Poem by John Quincy Adams.  Written in 1840, first published in 1841, frequently reprinted, and now reissued with an introduction by L. H. Butterfield Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1962.  7.4 cm

 

Sir Winston S. Churchill: Honorary Citizen of the United States of America by Act of Congress April 9, 1963

Worcester, MA: Achille J. St. Onge, 1963.  6.3 cm

 

Meet Worcester's Publisher of Miniature Books Newspaper clipping about Achille J. St. Onge. Worcester Sunday Telegram, December 18, 1960.

 

Pensées Grecques; Pensees Et Maximes; Pensées Chinoises, etc. Geneva: Andre Kundig. 3.8 cm each

The Little Book of Hawaiian Flowers Bernice Kochan. Cleveland, OH: Kinoike Press, 1964. 6.8 cm

Many remarkable artist’s books have been created in miniature. Their size makes them especially appealing to collectors and those passionate for small things. Such works are celebrated in libraries and museums around the world, written about fondly in newsletters, like those of the Miniature Book Society, and cherished in personal collections. 

 

The Cherry Bomb Lettie Jane Rennekamp. Completed for: The Painted Book course, Wintersession, 2001, RISD. Candis Dixon, instructor.

 

The Smallest Violin in the World John Carrera. Waltham, MA: Quercus Press, 2009. 5 cm

 

Conquest of Space: Atlas for the use of Artists and the Military Marcel Broodthaers. New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art, 2016. 4cm. Reproduction of 1975 artists’ book

 

Chicken Story Jessica Rosenkranz. Completed for: The Painted Book course, Wintersession, 2001, RISD. Candis Dixon, instructor.

 

Penny Not So Pretty Surwon Cha. From: Book Box, class project for The Book Exchange course Wintersession, 2012, RISD. Graduate instructors Amber Heaton and Yoorim Kim

 

Mister Man Mare Blocker. Jerome, AZ?: M. Blocker, c1995. 7 cm

 

Predators in My Garden Miriam Macgregor. Fullerton, CA; Herefordshire, England: Lorson’s Books & Prints & the Wittington Press, 1993. Limited edition with prints.

 

The Inventories: Duster; Large American Moose; Rain; Zephyr Sue Johnson. St. Mary's City, MD: S. Johnson, 2010. 4 cm

 

Singing in the Andi McGarry. Wexford, Ireland: Sun, Moon and Stars Press, 1998. 8 cm

 

The Traveling Library: The View from Mount Dana Peter and Donna Thomas. Santa Cruz, CA: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1999

 

The Traveling Library: Four views of Kealakekua Bay Peter and Donna Thomas. Santa Cruz, CA: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1999

 

The Traveling Library: Song of Creation by John Muir Peter and Donna Thomas. Santa Cruz, CA: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1999

 

The Traveling Library: LOVE: I Corinthians: Thirteen 

The Traveling Library: Drop Dead

The Traveling Library: I love you

The Traveling Library: Shakespearean Words of Gratitude

Peter and Donna Thomas. Santa Cruz, CA: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1999

 

Mustard Emily Neilson. From: Book Box: Wintersession 2012 RISD Class project. Graduate instructors Amber Heaton and Yoorim Kim

 

A Hypothetical Analysis of the Twinkle in Stars (as told by a child to a teacher) Katherine Ng.

Calif.: Pressious Jade, c1994. 9cm

 

So Are You From: Book Box, class project for The Book Exchange course Wintersession, 2012, RISD. Graduate instructors Amber Heaton and Yoorim Kim

 

Three Small Books:

The Small Pamphlet of Things 

Mondo boxo

Somebody Goes to the White House 

Roz Chast. New York, NY: Kathryn Markel, c1982. 9 cm

Early miniature books were printed using movable type or hand-engraved plates. Photo reduction, photoengraving, and offset printing are other methods used to detail the pages. Their properties are no different than standard sized books, but executing the design required careful attention to the paper and type design. The example here is of a linotype slug cast by Dan Woods of DWRI using 4pt type. 

 

The Linotype Daily, November 18, 2019; shown with composing stick Providence, RI: DWRI Letterpress, Dan Wood “Cast in 6pt Times and Times Italic, and handset in 4pt Caslon (on a 4pt body)”. - to demonstrate miniature book printing process.

 

The Brownies

Palmer Cox

Tilton, NH: The Hillside Press, 1962.  6 cm

The Brownies, mini elephant print

The Brownies, proof sheet

Don Quijote de la Mancha v. I & v. II. 1952

Caervantes/ Hidalgo Don Quixotes v. I-III. 

Boum-Boum. 1898

Fanny's Pic-Nic (2 copies). 1866

la Filleule Du Seigner. 1897

Fortunee (2 copies). 1896

Jeanne d'Arc. 1895

Jeannot et Colin. 1895

La Morale De L'enfance. 1896

Le Neveu De Fruitiere. 1896

Pensees Greques. Andre Kundig.

Le Petit Poucet.

Poemes D' Amours.

Quelques Contes- Chanoine Schmid. 1896

La Souris Blanche. 1895

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge: Les Fees. 1896

Blank book.

Miniature History of England.

Daily Verses.

Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect

The English Bijou Almanac for 1838

Dialoghi/Leopardi

Galileo a Madama Christina di Loreno

Small rain upon the tender herb 

New testament of our lord and savior Jesus Christ

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About Miniature books at the Fleet Library at RISD, Special Collections

The majority of the Fleet Library’s miniature book collection comes from a donation acquired in 2011 of approximately 382 volumes from Anne Beede Jencks. Anne’s grandmother, Emma Owens Stearns, began collecting miniature books in the late 19th century and passed her passion down to her daughter Virginia Stearns Beede. Virginia added to the collection and inspired her daughter Anne to do the same. Anne and her family lived in Seekonk, Mass, but frequently traveled and lived in Europe for sometime. Some of the books in the collection were acquired during those travels, reflecting a wide range of subjects and languages. The collection includes a card file with entries, resources, newspaper articles, catalogues, a miniature bookshelf, and correspondence with dealers. The books are organized by subject category, ranging from religious books, children’s literature, poetry, almanacs, to biographies. 
 

Works Cited

Bondy, L. W. (1994). Miniature books: their history from the beginnings to the present day. Farnham: Richard Joseph.

Bromer, A. C., & Edison, J. I. (2007). Miniature books: 4.000 years of tiny treasures. New York, NY: Abrams.

Flood, A. (2019, January 3). Why we are fascinated by miniature books. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/03/why-we-are-fascinated-by-miniature-books.

Miniature Book Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mbs.org/.

Peck, M. (2000). A Brief History of Miniature Books. Retrieved from https://www.biblio.com/book-collecting/what-to-collect/a-brief-history-of-miniature-books/.