Veritable Bijoux: a tale of scale

Patrick Warner has collected miniature books so small he jokes they could be a moth’s lunch.

Like many people during the early days of the pandemic, the special collections librarian at the Queen Elizabeth II Library turned his attention to a project to occupy his time during lockdown.

In Mr. Warner’s case, it was creating a catalogue highlighting 35 miniature books in Memorial University Libraries’ Special Collections Division, some of which are currently part of a display called Veritable Bijoux: a tale of scale (also the name of his catalogue).

Miniature books are generally smaller than three inches in height and width and have been around since the third or fourth century.

Devotional texts, almanacs, plays, poetry and children’s books are just some of the genres covered in the miniature book format.

From ancient clay tablets to modern ion beams, miniature books adapt to advancing methods in printing and technology.

However, their charm is timeless.

Specks of books

One micro-miniature book in the Libraries’ collection and part of Mr. Warner’s catalogue is The Twelve Horary Signs — Chinese Zodiac.

It is smaller than a fruit fly and measures a mere 0.95 millimeters square. The book is housed in a round plastic case that can be opened.

Each page of this speck of a book bears an illustration of the animal representing a zodiac sign along with the name of the animal in both English and Japanese.

It was the Guinness World Record holder in 2000 for the smallest precision-printed book in the world.

“For many people who enjoy miniature books, the pleasure is not so much technical or historical as it is emotional,” writes Mr. Warner in the introduction to his catalogue. “Whenever I show miniature books to students, I notice very similar reactions: goofy grins, clenched body posture and a desire to get closer to the object — in short, delight.”

This delight is something Mr. Warner hopes the viewer of his exhibit will also feel.

“I think my favorite miniature is the 1900 Frowde edition of The Compleat Angler, because it manages to be a miniature (2 inches by 1.75 inches) without sacrificing anything in terms of design or legibility,” said Mr. Warner. “It even manages to have fine illustrations. It’s charming and serious all at the same time.”

Items in special collections do not generally circulate and can only be accessed under supervised conditions; therefore, the exhibit Veritable Bijoux: a tale of scale offers a unique opportunity.

Veritable Bijoux: a tale of scale is on display on the third floor of the Queen Elizabeth II Library until Dec. 15.

The accompanying catalogue is online.