Though books that are smaller than a 'standard' size have existed for centuries, the development of miniatures into an established area of book collecting took quite some time. Smaller books were intially intended to allow readers to carry favorite or essential volumes such as dictionaries, important works of history or philosophy, and religious texts with them wherever they went. Over time, the potential for cleverness and artistry in the format has became its main appeal, with the textual content a secondary or even non-essential concern. While some miniature books these days are still produced to be read, many book artists work within the format because of the interesting challenges in terms of construction and design.
At full-size, this Latinate work on political science by German philosopher, political scientist and diplomat Johann Angelius von Werdenhagen would have likely been too heavy to carry around; as a hand-sized miniature, it is far more portable (though it is still fairly weighty at close to 800 pages). Published in Amsterdam in 1632 by John Jansson and bound in vellum, it has both an engraved title page and an engraved frontispiece portrat of the author, followed by an address to those to whom Werdenhagen dedicated that volume, the first being to Christian IV of Denmark. Another edition was printed in the same year by the famous Dutch cartographer Willem Blaeu.
This little book, printed in an edition of 75 copies in 1992, is an example of of a modern miniature that serves as both a readable book and an artistic work. The text provides a brief description of Jeanne d'Arc's life and acts, with all the illustrations and maps hand-colored by the author, book artist Suzanne Smith Pruchnicki. Included is a 5-leaf collection of sketches by the author created by the author along the route in France which was taken by Jeanne in 1429.
These two little books are English-Spanish and English-German dictionaries from the 'Lilliput Dictionary' series. Much like travelers' dictionaries today, these tiny volumes were made to be small enough to be carried in any bag or pocket, and provide brief translations for common words as well as sections with useful phrases to use for conversations, directions, and in hotels and restaurants. Both of these volumes were printed around 1910, but dictionaries under the Lilliput name would be regularly printed until the 1970s in a variety of languages, including Greek, Russian, and Turkish.
An example of the modern artist's book, this item was created by Jill Timm, founder of the Washington-based Mystical Places Press, and provides a charming example of how book artists can work in creative ways in the miniature format. Designed as a small file holder, it contains twelve illustrated cards in individual file folders with each card highlighting a particular place or aspect that's essential to New Orleans.