By Catherine Rubino
The object we will be looking into this week is a miniature book entitled Tiny Books: Casket of Jewels. The American Tract Society in New York, NY, published the book, written by S. Annie Frost in 1881. It is a purple hardcover book with gold detailing centered around an orange and green flower. Casket of Jewels is a fictional chapter book that focuses on morality for children with several illustrations.
The miniature book is the first volume of a series called The Tiny Library that The American Tract Society published.1 The books all measure 2 ½ inches by 1 ¾ inches and contain 176 pages. The three other volumes include: The Picnic, Country Pets, and The Cousins. The series revolves around a girl named Clementina Holbrooke or “Tiny” who is seven and has been sick. The jewels referenced in the book that Tiny adds to her casket are “truth, love, obedience, and such treasures of the heart.”
The Tiny Library series was designed for a Sunday school atmosphere to teach children morality and religious values. Such books reportedly played a large role in the educational history of America because they made literacy more accessible for those who might not have had access otherwise. The small size of these books especially appealed to children, and they often featured Bible stories to educate children about scripture.2
The first miniature publications appeared roughly 4,000 years ago in Babylonia and Mesopotamia in the forms of tiny clay tablets.3 When paper eventually replaced clay, tiny scrolls began appearing as well. In the Middle Ages, monks used tiny prayer books that were hand printed and illustrated. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1440, he helped to raise the mini book in popularity. In 1468, Guttenberg’s assistant and successor, Peter Schoffer, reportedly published the first traditional miniature book entitled Diurnale Mogantinum.
It is generally agreed upon that miniature books measure 3 inches by 3 inches. However, there are also four different and distinct classifications for miniature books.4 Macro mini books measure between 3 inches and 4 inches tall. Miniature books measure between 2 inches and 3 inches tall. The micro mini books measure between 1 inch and 2 inches tall. Anything smaller than 1 inch in all measurements is considered an ultra micro mini book.
As we can see, miniature books have a long and diverse history whether they have been in the hands of a child learning scripture in Sunday school or in the hands of a monk praying in a monastery. The different stories and purposes behind these miniature books are endless!
1 Edison, Julian I. Miniature Book News # 11: 1968 March. UNT Digital Library. University of North Texas: Denton, TX. Web. 20 Apr 2016.
2 “Miniature Books: Then and Now.” Occidental College: Special Collections & College Archives. Occidental College: Los Angeles, 3 Jun 2013. Web. 15 Apr 2016.
3 “Bound To Be Small: Collecting Miniature Books.” Studium Magazine. 2008. Web. 15 Apr 2016.
4 “A Short History of Miniature Books.” Miniature Literature. University of Missouri: Columbia, MO, 25 March 2011. Web. 15 Apr 2016.