Miniature Book News #106: 2000 September

HUNGARIAN
MINIATURE BOOKS
Hungary produced the greatest number
of miniature books, both in number
of titles and total quantities, of any
country in modern or ancient history,
especially during the 1960s, 1970s
and 1980s. Yet comparatively little
has been written about this phenomenon.
This is particularly remarkable in
a country with a population of only
10 million people. (Articles about
Hungarian miniature books have
appeared in MBN 30, 37, and 55, among
others.)
Paul Devenyi, together with his talented
wife Mary, recently published a very
interesting miniature book, illuminating
in part the Hungarian miniature book
culture. The book is entitled Books
and People (A Journey Through Miniature
Bookdom), Toronto, Canada, 2000.
Paul followed up his book with a
fascinating lecture about the Hungarian
scene at the Miniature Book Society
Conclave in Rutland. Hungary is Paul's
native country, and he has a large
collection of Hungarian miniature
books. In his book and lecture Paul
outlined the scene.
Some 2,000-2,500 titles were produced
in Hungary from the late 1940s to
the 1980s. It is not quite clear why
Hungary became so prolific. Louis
W. Bondy's Miniature Books (London,
1981) explains one key reason: "...due
to the fact that in a communist country
there undoubtedly exists tighter central
control of literary output and that
the comparative shortage of industrial
and domestic consumer goods has
made the collecting of miniature books
one of the few outlets for the acquisitive
instinct and the collector's urge..."
Bondy goes on to extol the printing
quality, beauty of the layout and design,
and creativity of varied bindings in
this outpouring as being unsurpassed
by most other European productions.
This Hungarian cornucopia included
marvels of printing, binding and superb
photography that became an art form.
Devenyi continued his lecture with
a slide projection:

6

- Hungary was the miniature book
center in the world in the 1960s,
70s and 80s.
- Miniature book clubs were formed
and centered around the several
printing houses in Budapest and
elsewhere, in at least 6 smaller
cities.
- Mikrobibliofilok, a quarterly journal,
was started by Gyula Janka, the
director of the most prestigious
printing company, in 1971. This
newsy newsletter was issued in 1000
copies.
- Janka began the printing flood with
his own miniature books, and this
started off a stampede and
competition among the printing
houses which spread to other
countries and led to many multilingual
editions.
Devenyi then explained that there
were three kinds of Hungarian
miniatures:
1) Commercial editions in large
quantities that were sold in book
stores.
2) Commercial editions of limited
quantities.
3) Non-commercial limited editions
for special occasions, such as
gifts or as bonuses for club
members, or anniversaries.
By the end of the 80s, this Hungarian
dominance ended. Club members
were getting old and retiring. Janka,
the leading printer, scholar, and
collector, died in 1987 at age 74. Janka
had produced not only miniature books
and Mikrobibliofilok, but also several
bibliographies, in miniature format,
listing in three languages (Hungarian,
Russian, and English) with photographs
a total of 563 books. And communism,
the State culture that had in effect
subsidized this outpouring, collapsed
in 1989. Up to that time the various
printing houses, owned by the State,
could have fun and produce these
miniature books in their spare time
at little cost. Plenty of good literature
and artistic books were published and
a number of political propaganda books
were printed to please hungarian and

Edison, Julian I. Miniature Book News #106: 2000 September. St. Louis, Missouri. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc9392/. Accessed September 22, 2014.