Miniature Books

Special Collections houses a large collection of miniature books. The majority of our miniature books were donated to the library by Marnie Flook, who had been collecting miniature books since 1980. Her collection, which encompasses all manner of subject and genre, amounts to well over two thousand volumes.

Officium Paruum Beate Marie Uirgenus. [Vancouver, Washington?: Shannon Mitchell], 1990. Manuscript minibook, issued with custom book lectern.

 A miniature book is usually defined as any book smaller than three inches (8 cm) in height. Printed miniature books have existed since the earliest days of printing in the fifteenth century; in manuscript form, they have existed since at least the Middle Ages. Like their larger counterparts, they range from works printed to serve as portable reading material to artistic items printed to showcase the craftsmanship of their printers and binders. While most are printed in type which is legible to the naked eye, others are so small as to require the aid of a magnifying glass. (To this end, some miniature books were issued with miniature magnifying glasses). Many miniature books continue to be printed using hand-press technology, which requires exceptional skill on the part of all craftsmen involved.

Schloss’s English Bijou Almanac for 1841. London: A Schloss, 1841.

Because of their small size, miniature books present particular challenges in terms of housing, as they are generally too small to sit comfortably on a bookshelf. Historically, some miniature books were issued in miniature bookcases. Some collectors have also custom built miniature bookcases to shelve and display their collections. Although visually and aesthetically appealing, these would be impractical in a library setting for a collection of this size.

[Set of French children’s books, in custom book case]. Paris: Pairault et Cie., 1896

[Tilt’s Hand–Books For Children.] London: Charles Tilt, [ca. 1830–1840]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Special Collections we opted to house our miniature book collections inside of acid-free envelopes, which are then shelved inside of acid-free boxes. (For added protection, some larger or more fragile books receive custom-sized clamshell boxes). The resulting enclosure provides physical support for the books and allows for ease of storage and retrieval.

 

Shelving for miniature books.

Box and envelopes for housing miniature books.

 

Alexander Clark Johnston

One Comment

  1. Shannon Mitchell, mentioned under the picture of her miniature book on first page of your collections site, was my mother. She died in January 2008 and did, indeed, live and make many of her manuscripts in Vancouver, WA. Thank you for caring for and treasuring her work.

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