Miniature books

A selection of miniature books is now on show at the National Library of Scotland. Referred to as the 'Shakespeare Family Bible', it contains notes of the family records and facsimiles of the entries in the parish register in Stratford Upon Avon. It has been bound in brown leather in the antique style with a ribbon page marker and titles in gilt on the spine. It slips into a brass stand that has a bust of an 18th-century gentleman, perhaps Samuel Johnson

A volume of books in a wooden box

Miniature books little bigger than a penny are on display at the National Library of Scotland.

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The display celebrates two Scottish miniature book publishing houses: David Bryce of Glasgow and the Gleniffer Press of Paisley and Wigtown.

David Bryce of Glasgow (1845-1923) was one of the world’s most prolific and successful makers of miniature books, entering the book trade at the age of 17 when he was made a partner in his father’s publishing house.

He later became the sole proprietor when his father died in 1870. It was shortly after this event that he started producing the miniature books that were to make him famous.

The Gleniffer Press of Paisley and Wigtown was founded in 1967 by Helen and Ian Macdonald as a hobby private press, producing home and business stationery.

By the early 1970s the press became noted throughout the world for making miniature books, and was active in this field until 2007, when it closed after 40 years, having produced 57 different titles.

Some 13,500 little books were believed to have been hand-bound during the life of the press.

Miniature books in Scotland is on show at the National Library of Scotland until 17 November 2013, and admission is free. Find out more at the library’s website.

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(All images © National Library of Scotland)

Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments, 1901. (© The National Library of Scotland)
Referred to as the ‘Shakespeare Family Bible’, it contains notes of the family records and facsimiles of the entries in the parish register in Stratford Upon Avon. It has been bound in brown leather in the antique style with a ribbon page marker and titles in gilt on the spine. It slips into a brass stand that has a bust of an 18th-century gentleman, perhaps Samuel Johnson.
Coronation Bible with penny
This Bible celebrates the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
Gleniffer group Cross with penny
illustrated miniature Bible with penny
David Bryce’s first miniature Bible appeared in 1896. Later editions were undated but were published around 1901, typically measuring 43mm in height, with 876 pages and 29 line drawings. Bryce produced hundreds of thousands of these tiny Bibles and many were presented to serving soldiers throughout the British Empire
Metal box of 6 miniatures
A set of six miniature books comprising: ‘Old English, Scotch and Irish Songs’; ‘Witty, Humorous and Merry Thoughts’; ‘Golden Thoughts from Great Authors’; The Smallest English Dictionary in the World’; ‘Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’; Tourist’s Conversational Guide to English, French, German, Italian’.
Old King Cole with penny copy (Gleniffer Press)
This record-breaking book, measuring only 0.9mm in height, was verified by the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest book in the world printed using offset lithography. It held this title for 20 years. The 12 single-sided pages of the nursery rhyme were printed on the finest 22 gsm English paper.
Qur'an with penny
Tiny Qur’ans were published in Delhi in 1892 and Istanbul c1899, but the one which achieved the widest circulation is this edition by Bryce. All copies were issued with metal lockets which incorporated a magnifying glass; many were supplied to Muslim soldiers fighting for the British in the First World War.
Robert Burns (Gleniffer Press)
This was the last miniature book published by the Gleniffer Press.
Smallest Bible in Mauchline case with penny 2
This edition is referred to as the ‘Robert Burns Family Bible’– a leaf has been incorporated between the Old and the New Testaments giving a facsimile of Robert Burns’ family register in the poet’s handwriting. It is bound in blind-stamped brown leather in an antique style and is enclosed in a hinged book-shaped Mauchline box with a painted and lacquered tartan exterior
Smallest German-English Dictionary
The book is contained in a silver metal book-shaped locket with an inset magnifying glass.
A volume of books in a wooden box
The box contains: ‘Tiny Alphabet of Animals’; Smallest English Dictionary in the World’; Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’; Tiny Alphabet of Birds’; Old English, Scotch and Irish Songs’. The glass-topped wooden box incorporates an inlaid magnifying glass.