Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Great Wide World of the Miniature Book!

Does Size Matter?

Apologies, kind readers, for my dilatory posting. Fear Not!--I have many interesting posts to come in this month of August.  For now, let's consider the miniature book.

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine presented me with this fine little nugget of written culture: a matchbox size Spanish-English dictionary titled "English without Borders." My colleague had gotten it at the ALA conference (which I wrote about a few postings back). I took the fine little "tomette" (I just made that word up, but I think it works, like a "kitchenette" or a "dinette" or a "crumpet(tte!)," ...well, maybe not) and looked at it, and began to wonder: why the heck are books made so small?

This made me think both about the charm and utility of the "small book."  Sure, these things are charming and cute.  Perhaps that's why collectors of the mini-book (or, "MB") collect them.  Just as people collect comic books, dolls, toy cars, old toasters, Jehovah's Witness tracts, 
fingernail clippings (wasn't that Picasso?), or shrunken heads.  As for utility, my guess is that this may be something more of a challenge.  But, now, I must admit, if I'm ever on the street in a Spanish-speaking country and don't know how to say "don't touch that cat, it's got rabies," I'm sure this micro-dictionary will come in handy.

A New Member of the Miniature Book Society

I am not a small or diminutive person by any stretch of the imagination, perhaps save for my imagination itself. But both out of sheer curiosity and for the benefit of you all out in interwebs land, I have taken steps toward becoming a new member of the Miniature Book Society (or, MBS). What I mean by this is "mere consideration."  I'm simply waiting for my next paycheck, so that I can pay my initial dues.  But for those who are really, genuinely, honestly interested, and have the coffers to be as bourgeois as you want, well go right ahead, and beat me to the mini-book-punch.  Here is a link to their fine association of micro-bibliophiles.

There's Small and then there's "Really Small"

So there I was trawling the internet for any more oddities, curiosities, intrigues, or otherwise fascinating aspects of the miniature book world, and I came across the Bo Press Miniature Books.  What is so amazing about this coterie of micros is that their publication roster includes everything from a Lilliputian blank book (the micro tabula rasa!) to cartological wonders of Dante's Hell: maps of a medieval's inner grey matter gone nuts!  (Love ya Alighieri!)  But the astounding offering of Bo Press is that they have a category that out-shrimps these scampi-size books, a category they call "Micro-Miniatures" (or, Dollhouse Scale Books)!  Incredible, you say?  A fact, I reply.  Of course, I know there are some of you readers out there that are saying: "yeah, but dust mites read...I bet they don't sell dust mite sized books!"  Let's get serious folks.  Remember, small books are a serious matter.  Like Star-Trek, Klingons, and Sesame Street.  For those interested in the Bo Press Product Line or simply have been aimlessly looking for the 1 5/8'' x 2" copy of John Gay's 1728 "The Beggar's Opera," well now folks, you can drool to your heart's content.  Check out their webpage:

Another Meaning of "Small"

Among my internet searches I found this rather ridiculous  list--I've edited it down--of the world's "smallest" books.  But by small there is meant to be some humor in the irony of the titles.  Yet, in some cases I found the titles more offensive than funny.   I only offer these as some alternate universe of "book smallness," which is meant to show the versatility of this expression.  But if this list also finds grimaces among you kindest readers, skip ahead, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

1.The Code of Ethics for Lawyers

2.The Australian Book of Foreplay

6.Royal Family's Guide to Good Marriages

10.Contraception by Pope John Paul II

12.The Complete Guide to Catholic Sex 

19.Dr. Kevorkian's Collection of Motivational Speeches 

22.George Foreman's Big Book of Baby Names

23.Mike Tyson's Guide to Dating Etiquette 

24.The Amish Phone Book

31.Things I Can't Afford by Bill Gates

37.Spotted Owl Recipes by the Sierra Club

What do a Grain of Salt and a Book have in Common? 
(No, this isn't a bad joke...but could be!)

Yet, let us check this out: Back in 2002, Guinness World Records confirmed that a librarian at the University of Cincinnati owned the world's smallest book: Chekhov's "Chameleon," literally the size of a grain of salt--or so it's been described.  That's unbelievable!  Here's the site from the University of Cincinnati:

"Book as Pimple?" 

I leave you with this thought, not because it is a ridiculous thought, nor one that will likely cause some blushing among readers, but because the image below (which came from the website "") evokes the most zit egregious application of the book that I have ever seen in my acne-free life.  What is the associative principle behind using a tweezers with a book?  This is no depilatory function!  I'm sure the outrage will simmer down eventually, but just remember: if you ever come across one of these micro-beasts, don't get too excited and wash your hands, for you might mistake it for some grooming by-product.  


  1. Fascinating. How about these two religious books so incredibly different but the same story in miniature? The Wordless Book (hmm, was it about 3x3 inches) and a Finger Bible. I was going to see if I could find my old Wordless Book from childhood next time I visit my parents' house (that would be a miracle if I could find it), but I see it has been digitized and is available on many websites. Not the same as turning those five little pages in one's small hands. It has even been 'updated' and called a 'flipper-flapper'???? Now the Finger Bible is quite different-- (scroll to the middle of the page). Or you can see one in the CTU library--from the collection of the great Biblical scholar, Carroll Stuhlmueller.

  2. Back when I was a young fiery Christian, I made a Wordless Book to present the gospel to children. I carried it with me everywhere and led many a young lad and lassie to the lord. Ahhhh, to be naive again.