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Making Connections: 10 Small Wonders

Walker Library / Special Collections / Making Connections

Small Wonders


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By a standard established by the Miniature Book Society and widely accepted among collectors, a true miniature book must be no more than three inches in height, width, or thickness. Most of the miniature books here in Special Collections—a micro-collection within the Dimensional and Artists’ Books Collection—conform to these dimensions.

If we exclude manuscript and xylographic book production (more familiarly known as “block printing,” whereby a text is relief-cut into wood) as well as books produced in a non-codex format, we can date the earliest miniature books to the 1400s. These were products of the new technology of the printing press, and they relied on extremely small type typically used for marginal and foot notes.

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The little books became popular in western Europe in the 1500s and again in the 1800s as a convenient and portable format for religious, literary, and other kinds of texts. And miniature books could also be put forward as novelty items, with the printer seeking to promote his business and demonstrate his technical skill, because setting small, out-of-the-ordinary type is quite difficult.

Today, many miniature books emerge from the studios of book artists in limited editions. But the format’s commercial and practical uses also remain viable. Book shops, drug stores, and supermarkets often stock very small booklets for counting calories, knowing the times of high and low tides, and speaking basic phrases in a foreign language when travelling to other countries.

Collection: Artists’ and Dimensional Books





Soldier Farmer

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