Ask any librarian and they will tell you that every book has something that makes it “special.” Here at the Phillips Library our shelves are filled with books that are rare and unique in myriad ways. Some are signed by the author or a notable owner. Some are centuries old and have survived unknown trials. Some are the only known copy in the United States, or even the world. And some are special in part because of their size. This post will look at some of our smallest books.
The Little Webster, shown in the image at the top of this post, measures a scant 2.17 inches and contains an impressive 18,000 words. The back cover includes a miniature magnifying glass, shown in the image above, to better examine the miniature text.
Some of my favorite miniature books in the collection are this darling set of over thirty complete plays written by one of the world’s most beloved playwrights, William Shakespeare.
The set is nine volumes and comes with its own library shelf, which measures 8 ¼ inches across and expands and contracts to best fit the volumes. The books were published by William Pickering in London in 1825, over 200 years after the bard’s death.
The Tiny Library for Tiny People was a miniature book intended to help children learn to read. As children’s literacy became more valued in the 18th and 19th centuries, books published specifically for a young age group proliferated. This volume, published in the mid-1860s, has illustrations which accompany the very simple text, which lacks any punctuation as there was no existing standard.
This minuscule offering titled Fanny’s Fair was written by Frances Dana Gage and was published in 1866. Gage was an abolitionist and suffragette working with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Writing as “Aunt Fanny,” Gage wrote several books of prose and poetry for children.
You may have seen our Little Library when we brought these and several other items to the October PEM/PM on October 15th to celebrate PEM’s latest exhibition Sizing It Up: Scale in Nature and Art! If you missed them, come to the library.
For more from the Phillips Library, see our blog, Conversant.