The United States History and Presidents in a Nutshell, c. 1904
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A miniature book is a very small book. Standards for what may be termed a miniature rather than just a small book have changed through time. Today, most collectors consider a book to be miniature only if it is 3 inches or smaller in height, width, and thickness, particularly in the United States.[1] Many collectors consider nineteenth-century and earlier books of 4 inches to fit in the category of miniatures. Book from 3–4 inches in all dimensions are termed macrominiature books.[2] Books less than 1 inch in all dimensions are called microminiature books. Books less than 1/4 inch in all dimensions are known as ultra-microminiature books.[3]


A 16th-century miniature book of hours. Lázaro Galdiano Museum, Madrid, Spain

Miniature books stretch back far in history; many collections contain cuneiform tablets stretching back thousands of years, and exquisite medieval Books of Hours. Printers began testing the limits of size not long after the technology of printing began, and around 200 miniature books were printed in the sixteenth century.[4] Exquisite specimens from the 17th century abound. In the 19th century, technological innovations in printing enabled the creation of smaller and smaller type. Fine and popular editions alike grew in number throughout the 19th century in what was considered the golden age for miniature books.[5][6] While some miniature books are objects of high craft, bound in fine Moroccan leather, with gilt decoration and excellent examples of woodcuts, etchings, and watermarks, others are cheap, disposable, sometimes highly functional items not expected to survive. Today, miniature books are produced both as fine works of craft and as commercial products found in chain bookstores.

Miniature books were produced for personal convenience. Miniature books could be easily be carried in the pocket of a waistcoat or a woman's reticule. Victorian women used miniature etiquette books to subtly ascertain information on polite behavior in society.[7] Along with etiquette books, Victorian women that had copies of The Little Flirt learned to attract men by using items already in their possession, such as, gloves, handkerchiefs, a fan and parasol.[8] In 1922, miniature books regained popularity when 200 postage stamp sized books were created to be displayed in the miniature library of Queen Mary's miniature doll house.[7] Princess Marie Louise, a relative of Queen Mary also requested that living authors contribute to the existing dollhouse library. Following in Queen Mary footsteps, many miniature book collectors begin collecting miniatures for their dollhouse libraries.[9] A miniature book has even been to the Moon. In 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin had a miniature book in his possession during his flight to the Moon. It was an autobiography of Robert Hutchings Goddard, who invented the first liquid-propellant rocket that make space flight possible.[8]

Some popular types of miniature books from various periods include Bibles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, short stories, verse, famous speeches, political propaganda, travel guides, almanacs, children's stories, and the miniaturization of well-known books such as The Compleat Angler, The Art of War, and Sherlock Holmes stories. The appeal of miniature books was holding the works of prominent writers, such as William Shakespeare in the person's hands.[6]

Notable miniatures

Ambrosius Lobwasser: Die Psalme Davids: Nach fransösischer Melodeij in Teutsch Reimen gebracht. Basel, 1659 (a miniature book bound in tortoiseshell)

Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of Emancipation (Boston : John Murray Forbes, 1863). This miniature edition was the first of this text. It is estimated that a million copies were distributed to Union troops.[10]

Miniature editions of works not originally published in miniature form

Miniature facsimile edition of the Gutenberg Bible (Leipzig: Minaturbukverlag, 2017)
The Ellen Terry Shakespeare Glasgow: David Bryce and Son; New York; Frederick A. Stokes Co. [1904]. Remains the smallest edition of the complete works of Shakespeare. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg.
Popular miniature book, The Lord's prayer: [in 7 languages], by publisher Waldmann & Pfitzer in 1952.[14] Advertised as "The World's Smallest Book" at 5 x 5 mm. Copy seen here in the Mills College Heller Rare Book Room, Fine Press Collection.

"Smallest book in the world"

Many books have claim to the title of smallest book in the world at the time of their publication. The title can apply to a variety of accomplishments: smallest overall size, smallest book with movable type, smallest printed book, smallest book legible to the naked eye, and so on.

750: Hyakumantō Darani or 'One Million Pagoda Dharani'' Also one of the earliest known printed texts, these 2-3/8" tall Buddhist charms were printed, rolled into a scroll, placed in miniature white pagodas, and distributed to Buddhist temples. A million were printed at the command of Japanese Empress Shōtoku.[15]

1674: Bloem-Hofje (Amsterdam: Benedict Schmidt, 1674).[16] For more than two centuries, this remained the smallest book printed with moveable type.

1878: Dante, Divina Commedia (Milan: Gnocchi, 1878). 500 pages. 5 cm x 3.5 cm. Typeset and printed by the Salmin Brothers of Padua.[17]

1897: Galileo Galilei. Galileo a Madama Cristina di Lorena (Padua: dei Fratelli Salmin, 1897). 150 pages. This remains to this day the smallest book set from movable type.[18]

1900: Edward Fitzgerald, trans. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Cleveland: Charles H. Meigs, 1900).

1932: The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyam.

1985: Old King Cole (Paisley: Gleniffer Press, 1985). Height: 0.9 mm. For 20 years this was the "smallest book in the world printed using offset lithography".[19]

2001: New Testament (King James version) Cambridge: M.I.T, (2001). 5 x 5 mm.

2002: Anton Chekhov, Chameleon (Omsk, Siberia: Anatoly Konenko, 1996)[20] 0.9 mm x 0.9 mm.

2006: ABC books in Russian and Roman characters (Omsk, Siberia: Anatoly Konenko, 1996). 0.8 mm x 0.8 mm[21]

2007: Teeny Ted from Turnip Town (category: world's smallest reproduction of a printed book. Single sheet, not codex format.) 0.07 x 0.10 mm

2016: Vladimir Aniskin, [Untitled] (Russia: Vladimir Aniskin, 2016). "The micro-book consists of several pages, each measuring only very tiny fractions of a millimeter: the precise size of the pages is 70 by 90 micrometers or 0.07 by 0.09 millimeters—too small to be read by the naked human eye. Made by gluing white paint to extremely thin film, the pages are hung from a tiny ring binder that allows them to be turned. The whole construction rests on a horizontal sliver of a poppy seed."[22]

Charms, talismans, and amulets

In 2007, archaeologists found a miniature Bible (Glasgow: David Bryce & Son, 1901) tucked into a child's boot hidden in a chimney cavity in an English cottage in Ewerby, Lincolnshire. Shoes were placed in such locations as early as the fourteenth-century as anti-witchcraft devices known as "spirit traps".[23]

Publishing, printing, and binding in miniature

The creation of a miniature book requires exceptional skill in all aspects of book production, because elements such as bindings, pages, and type, illustrations, and subject matter all need to be approached with a new set of problems in mind. For instance, the pages of a miniature book do not fall open as do those of larger books, because the pages are not heavy enough. Bindings require exceptionally thin materials, and creating type that is readable and beautiful requires great skill. Many printers have created miniature books to test their own technical limits or to show off their skill. Many books have claimed the sought-after title of "smallest book in the world," which is now held by experiments in nanoprinting.


The Constitution of the United States, in miniature version

Commercial publishers


Artists, designers, typesetters and illustrators


Library collections

Museum collections

Private collections

Prominent historical figures who collected miniature books include President Franklin D. Roosevelt[34] and retailer Stanley Marcus.

See also


  1. ^ "What is a miniature book?". Miniature Book Society. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  2. ^ Grimes, William (May 20, 2007). "Catching Up on a Little Light Reading". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "Beautiful Miniature Books That Are Worth Sacrificing Your Eyesight For". Atlas Obscura. May 26, 2017. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  4. ^ "Miniature Books Through the Years". Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "Miniature Books". American Antiquarian Society. October 22, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Why are we fascinated by Miniature books?". The Guardian. January 3, 2019. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "What is a miniature book?". Miniature Book Society. Retrieved November 27, 2019
  8. ^ a b Jones, Carrie P. “Miniature Books: Grab Your Bifocals.” Antiques & Collecting Magazine, September 2009, Vol. 114 Issue 7, p38-44, 6p. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  9. ^ Pascoe, Judith. “Tiny Tomes." American Scholar, Summer 2006, Vol. 75 Issue 3, p133-138, 6p. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  10. ^ "Civil War Troops' Mini Emancipation Book on Display". Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  11. ^ Diamond Classics (William Pickering) - Book Series List, Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  12. ^ Bibliothèque miniature (Payot) - Book Series List, Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  13. ^ a b Collection Bijou, Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  14. ^ "The Lord's Prayer - Miniature Book: (1952) | Meijering Art Books". Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  15. ^ Monro, Alexander (February 21, 2017). The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolutionary Invention. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 132. ISBN 9780307456694.
  16. ^ Mack, John (2007). The Art of Small Things. Harvard University Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780674026933.
  17. ^ "Smallest Book". Saturday Magazine. 1 (1): 60. December 7, 1878.
  18. ^ "Year 37 – 1897: Galileo a Madama Cristina di Lorena (1615) by Galileo Galilei | 150 Years in the Stacks". Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  19. ^ Smallest books in NLS - National Library of Scotland, Retrieved December 17, 2018>
  20. ^ "Tale of Teeny Ted said to be world's smallest book". Reuters U.K. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  21. ^ Kostyuk, Yaroslav (July 2007). "Russian Miniature Books displayed at the Taipei International Book Exhibition 2007". Miniature Book Society Newsletter: 6–7.
  22. ^ "Siberian Man Claims to Have Created the World's Smallest Book". ABC News. March 1, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  23. ^ Viegas, Jennifer (February 9, 2007). "World's Smallest Bible Found in a Boot". Discovery News. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  24. ^ "Miniature Collection (Selected Special Collections: Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room, Library of Congress)". Library of Congress.
  25. ^ "Grolier Club Exhibition" (PDF). Miniature Book Society Newsletter. 76: 8. October 2007 – via Miniature Book Society.
  26. ^ "Julian and Hope Edison Collection of Miniature Books". University Libraries | Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  27. ^ Miniature book collection.” University of North Texas Library. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  28. ^ "Special Collections". Jewish Public Library. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  29. ^ "More than 1,000 miniature books donated to Montreal's Jewish Public Library - Montreal |". Global News. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  30. ^ "Tiny royal doll house book published". BBC News. October 17, 2017. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  31. ^ "Library". Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  32. ^ "Tiny Sherlock Holmes book for Queen Mary's dolls' house – in pictures". The Guardian. November 16, 2014. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  33. ^ "Miniature books". Museum Meermanno. Museum Meermanno. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  34. ^ "Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library". FDR Library. FDR Library. Retrieved September 22, 2019.

Further reading