Monday, January 26, 2015

A Tiny Collection - Miniature Books

In a recent post of mine, about midway through the photos, you may have caught a glimpse of yet another of my collections:  miniature books.
Miniature book titled, "Carletta"
This collection started out innocently enough. I remember spotting what became my first miniature book purchase at Springfield (OH), several years ago. I was mesmerized, and after purchasing it, I had a lightbulb moment. I knew this was a subject for which Mr. P. has a passion (books, not necessarily miniatures), and it could possibly be the spark to light the fire of my love of antiquing in him. He could join me in "the hunt". Wrong. Fire extinguished.

Nonetheless, I had the one book, and I never really intended it to become another collection. Sound familiar? Until my neighbor had a yard sale with a friend, who was selling a lot of miniature books, I had no intention of buying more miniature books. But this guy's father had once owned a book store in England, collected them, and the son was selling a few. I negotiated a wonderful deal on the lot and, so, my collection of miniature books was born. These tomes can cost thousands, though none of mine were that pricey. If you're lucky enough to find them, I've seen prices averaging between $25-$100 a piece.
According to this article, "Lilliputian Library: 4500 Miniature Books Form Huge Collection", miniature books are, technically, no more than 100mm (3.9 inches) in height, width or thickness. However, according to The Miniature Book Society's website, the size is no larger than 3x3 inches by US standards. The earliest known miniatures in print date to 1475, and each contains legible print, just like full-size books.

These miniature books are not to be confused with the Little Leather Corporation's library books of the early part of the 20th Century, which became mainstays in the everyday home where reading the classics (or at least giving the appearance of such) was a sign of enlightened, cultural status. These books measure approximately 4x3 1/8 inches. These books were widely popular among soldiers during WWI, carried as a way of feeling connected to home. Country Living wrote a little blurb on the books in 2014, as a valuable collectible to seek out during their fall fair, stating you should expect to pay up to $30 a piece. They can be bought for approximately $5 each (if you're lucky), and they're still fairly common to find.
Little Leather Library Books (green, plus two red)
Of personal interest among my miniatures are a few with inscriptions, which appeal to me for their age, their penmanship and their history, more so than the book's appearance or content. The book featured in the leading photo of this post, "Carletta", is inscribed inside with the name and date, Mary H. Dougall, 1857, in beautifully scripted penmanship.
Another book, one of three miniature dictionaries in my collection (boasting of 18,000 words), is a "Souvenir of 1934 Century of Progress Chicago" - the World's Fair - which was held there.
Inside the souvenir dictionary is written, "Ferd & Stella Worlds Fair 1934". This little book was acquired, among several of Stella's personal articles, from a friend who knew her personally.
The really cool thing about this little book is I also have a few other items, unrelated acquisitions, that are from the Chicago World's Fair that comprise yet ANOTHER collection, a cross-collectible, if you will (another day, another time).

Still another of my little books, "The Daily Companion", a prayer book, appears to have been originally printed and owned in 1916, yet gifted to a special someone in 1945, as the message inside notes: "From Uncle Frank to Kathy Aug. 1945". This book has a celluloid cover on it (not in the best shape, but not diseased either), with the image of St. Anthony on the front cover.
The cognac colored leather-covered book seen in the group photo above, titled "Gray's Elegy", is a second edition, printed in London and New York in 1905 (MDCCCCV in Roman Numerals, as written in antiquated style before modern rules would have it MCMV).
Interestingly, there are other available titles in this particular series noted inside the back pages:
The Queen says, - "Absolutely delightful little books." and "The prettiest little thumb-nail edition imaginable."
I suppose I'll count myself among the culturally enlightened with my tome titles, albeit in a small, small way, and continue displaying my humble little collection of little books on my little table for the time being.
These antique books are not commonly found, so if you see them and you're interested, you ought to snag them, especially if the asking price is right for you. I don't seek them out, but if I stumble across one (or more), and the price is right, I'll spring. It's been several years since that's happened. Hallmark and many other companies mass-produce miniature books even today, if you want to speculate on future hot collectibles, but don't say I encouraged you.
I have tear out pages from an interesting article in Traditional Home magazine from September 2006 (pre-Pinterest days) on this subject, featuring David H. Wice, a noted miniature book collector at the time. He said he collected them "for the print, the font, the binding, the content, and how it's presented", and that they are collected as mementos of his intellectual life vs. as artifacts.

Is this type of collection something you've seen before? Do you have any miniature books? Does this collection interest you? What do you find particularly interesting among this collection?

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