Miniature Book News # 14: 1968 December Page: 3
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MINIATURE BOOK NEWS 16 Dromara Rd., St. Louis, Mo. 63124 December 1968
During the Middle Ages, before the invention
of printing with movable type, manuscripts
in miniature were produced, often with
colorful illuminations. (Figure 3) Auction
prices on fine illuminated manuscripts of all
types have escalated substantially in recent
years because of the interest they hold for art
as well as book collectors, prices going as high
as $3,100 in 1961 for a French thirteenth century
Figure 2. Wooden pagoda, eight inches high, 770 A.D., housing D'harani
prayer. scroll. Top portion of Pagoda is removeable.
Figure 3. Manuscript on vellum, Italian, XV century, showing tiny miniature;
29 by 2 inches.
Turning now to moveable type printed books, the earliest
miniature example is an Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis
published in Venice by Nicholas Jenson in 1475, only some
twenty years after the Gutenberg Bible. This book was
printed in black-letter, with twelve lines to the page, and
measured only 2/4 inches in height. A page from another
miniature incunabulum (book printed before 1500) is shown
in Figure 4, a Latin Horae printed at Naples by Moravus in
1486. Miniature incunabula are extremely rare: an example
of 1488 was sold last year at Sotheby's for just under $5,000.
(Lot 8, November 27, 1967).
nibua adbtfit oo mur
q rcrdiaa fitinmodo l'
bia circa dtce mcoe.(Oirt
rcmini mdmifertmini mt
lttn uoe amidi mc:quia
nun9 ofi rtigif mc.Qu u
re pctrquimini me lrut rf
minir Qui mibi mbuar
at fribanf frmnonts mci.
Qut(mibi dtut qamnf
In libo ltilo f 'tplmo 4
umrin lm8edOo ameq,
Items of a religious nature in
small format-Bibles, hymn books
and prayer books-have been in
evidence throughout the history
of books, due, no doubt, to the
fact that they were so easily carried
on one's person. The first
English Thumb Bible was published
in 1614 with the formidable
title Verbum Sempiternum
for the Old Testament and Salvator
Mundi for the New Testament.
This was written by John Taylor,
Figure 4. Latin Horae, printed in Naples by Moravus.
the Thames "water poet," and measured just 11/4 x 1%/s inches,
but is printed in large enough type to be easily readable without
magnification. A later (1693) Verbum printed in London
is pictured in Figure 5.
Miniature Bible selections were printed over the years in
many languages, such as the Kern des Bybels of 1750 and
_ atvs-nU- Prmsb~
Woorden uit de Bijbel of
1844 in Dutch, and the
German Thautropfen and
English Dew-Drops of the
The smallest complete Bible
in existence, compacted
into 876 photographically
reduced pages on thin In
Figure 5. Title page from Verbum Sempiternum thumb Bible, London, 1693,
2 by 14 inches.
dia paper, and measuring only 15/ x 11/8 inches, was produced
in 1896. Widely circulated around 1900, this minute
volume was printed in Glasgow by the famous miniature book
publishers, David Bryce and Son.
The old Thumb Bibles were designed for children, because
it was hoped their interest would be attracted and held,
thereby making religious education easier. E. Newbery, well
known London printer of juvenile books, published in 1780 a
Bible in Miniature of 256 pages with several full-page engravings
which was very popular. This was the immediate forerunner
of an outpouring of American Thumb Bibles and Bible
Histories published during the first half of the next century in
several New England and upstate New York cities
There are diminutive Hebrew prayer books, Korans in
Arabic (a few even produced in octagonal shaped), the Indian
Bhagavadgita in Sanskrit, and one of the most fascinating of
all micro-books, The Whole Book of Psalms in Meter and New
Testament, written entirely in shorthand. The work of Jeremiah
Rich, an early exponent of short-writing, the Psalms and
New Testament are found, sometimes bound together and
sometimes separately, in several seventeenth century editions,
as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 7. Miniature French almanacs and prayerbooks, in morocco and ivory
covers, about one inch high.
Almanacs and calendars have been used for several centuries
in many countries in various sizes for the same purposes
for which we have them today: to note holy days, to list
names of royalty and government officials, to itemize postage
rates, coinage, etc. The London Almanacks were beautifully
engraved and printed for almost two hundred years by the
Company of Stationers. They were bound in different sizes
and each contained another view of some prominent London
landmark. Some of the tinier almanacs, such as the lovely
Schloss Bijou Almanacs, enclosed in morocco box cases, and
the German Carlsruhe almanacs of around 1820, were produced
as curiosities and are true "incunables of lithography."
The latter measure only 5/8 by 7/16 inches and several can fit
into a teaspoon. Small almanacs were also in great vogue in
France at this time, and French examples (Figure 7), handsomely
bound in morocco and containing charming engraved
scenes, are highly prized today. The American Hazeltine and
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Edison, Julian I. Miniature Book News # 14: 1968 December, periodical, 1968; St. Louis, Missouri. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc9450/m1/3/: accessed March 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Rare Book and Texana Collections.