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March 27, 2008 > Miniature book collection opens at Olin Library
Miniature book collection opens at Olin Library
By Jessica Daues
Throughout history, people have been fascinated by extremes, whether
it's the tallest mountain, the longest river or the deepest sea.
Julian I. Edison is no exception only instead of things large, it's
small books that fascinate him.
Miniature book collection
Photo by David Kilper
Miniature books have served many purposes, from political propaganda
Edison, a member of the University Libraries' National Council and a
noted miniature book collector, is displaying approximately 200 of his
volumes in the exhibition "Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny
Treasures," which opened at Olin Library's Department of Special
Collections March 17.
The exhibition is free and open to the public and closes June 6.
Among the books featured are:
The first book on contraception;
Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, first published in book
form as a miniature;
"Facts about the Candidate," which was distributed during Theodore
Roosevelt's presidential campaign;
A copy of a miniature book astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin brought to
the moon in 1969;
A Japanese prayer scroll from 770 A.D., which is the oldest-known
text printing on paper;
The smallest book ever printed with movable type. This book
containing a letter by Galileo on science and religion is less than
one inch in height, composed of 200 pages and printed in 1896. "The
type font was so tiny that the work was said to have seriously injured
the eyesight of both the compositor and corrector," Edison said. "It
took one month just to set and print 30 pages. That book is the
greatest marvel in miniature book publishing."
Many of the items displayed at the Olin Library exhibition were taken
from an earlier showing of Edison's books at the Grolier Club in New
York City. Both exhibitions displayed just a part of Edison's collection.
Many of his books were featured in a book he co-wrote with Anne C.
Bromer, which shares the same title as the exhibition and is available
at the campus bookstore.
Miniature books have served many purposes throughout history,
according to Edison. Their small size makes them perfect for the hands
of children. Their portability made them useful as political
propaganda, dictionaries, religious books and almanacs. Beautifully
illustrated miniature books have been created for aesthetic purposes,
and others were made to amaze as curiosities.
The books may have different purposes, but they have one feature in
common: For a book to be considered miniature in the United States, it
must measure no bigger than 3 inches by 3 inches. The books are so
small that the library had to make special cradles to display them.
Edison, who has served as the editor of Miniature Book News for more
than 40 years, first became interested in miniature books in 1960
after his wife gave him a miniature nine-volume set of Shakespeare's
complete works on their first wedding anniversary. They were the first
miniature books Edison had ever seen, and he was intrigued.
His quest for more such small books during the past half-century has
taken him to auction houses, book fairs and flea markets around the globe.
Edison, who will receive the Dean's Medal from Shirley K. Baker, vice
chancellor for scholarly resources and dean of University Libraries,
in a ceremony April 2 at Olin Library, is hesitant to name a favorite
among his collection.
"They're like grandchildren," said Edison, who has two grandkids
himself. "They are all my favorites."
For more information on the exhibit or the Department of Special
Collections' hours, please call 935-5495 or visit library.wustl.edu.