The miniature book, or a world of wonder in a tiny package

As defined by the Miniature Book Society—yes, it exists—a miniature book is one that does not exceed three inches in height, width, or thickness. (Outside of the United States, four inches is often considered the standard.) Popular in the past because of their portability and the ease of concealment, miniature books today often appear in the form of dictionaries and translators, religious texts, and tour guides. Many others are short-run or artists books, created as much, if not more, for their aesthetic value than the value of their content. Many can be found serving decorative purposes, for example as as keychains or jewelry. (If you don’t believe me, just spend some time on Etsy.)

There’s something inherently lovely and fascinating about miniature books (perhaps it’s related to the adorableness of other small things, like puppies?), and it should be no surprise that there are many collectors. According to Bromer Booksellers, “When you hold a miniature book in your hand, it is like holding a jewel.” Rather than elaborate further, I’ll let the books speak for themselves.

Miniature books can be as simple or complex as any other. Here we have a full cloth cover and one with some marbled paper. (The Shopping Sherpa, "Miniature books," July 23, 2010, Creative Commons Attribution.)

Miniature books can be as simple or complex as any other. Here we have a full cloth cover and one with some marbled paper. (The Shopping Sherpa, “Miniature books,” July 23, 2010, Creative Commons Attribution.)

This miniature book is bound in the Coptic style and uses some lovely colored paper. (Cat Sidh, "100_4662," December 2, 2007, Creative Commons Attribution.)

This miniature book is bound in the Coptic style and uses some lovely colored paper. (Cat Sidh, “100_4662,” December 2, 2007, Creative Commons Attribution.)

This traveling library by Diamond contains many miniature books. (Sarah Houghton, "Diamond Traveling Library," June 11, 2007, Creative Commons Attribution.)

This traveling library by Diamond contains many miniature books. (Sarah Houghton, “Diamond Traveling Library,” June 11, 2007, Creative Commons Attribution.)

This sweet little book was made from a matchbox. (redwing480, "Matchbox Book," December 10, 2007, Creative Commons Attribution.)

This sweet little book was made from a matchbox. (redwing480, “Matchbox Book,” December 10, 2007, Creative Commons Attribution.)

Even miniature books need TLC. (Kevin Driedger, "HPIM0496," December 30, 2008, Creative Commons Attribution.)

Even miniature books need TLC. (Kevin Driedger, “HPIM0496,” December 30, 2008, Creative Commons Attribution.)

In this case, they got some custom enclosures. (Kevin Driedger, "HPIM0500," December 30, 2008, Creative Commons Attribution.)

In this case, they got some custom enclosures. (Kevin Driedger, “HPIM0500,” December 30, 2008, Creative Commons Attribution.)

♦ ♦

Interested in more? The Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington) has a miniature-book exhibit online that’s worth exploring. And take a look at these Tiny Brontës, which are quite lovely. (You can even see a photo of Priscilla Anderson working with them. Small world!) I make a point of saving scraps of reasonable size from my bookbinding work (the rest gets recycled, of course), and I’d love to create some miniature books with those materials one day. In bookbinding as in cooking, it’s rewarding to be able to put leftovers to good use.

 

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