Check Out this Collection of 950 Ancient Miniature Books

The New York Times has reports that Patricia J. Pistner is the United States’ most prominent collector of small texts. What’s crazy (and fabulous, of course) is that she has 950 tiny books in her possession, now displayed at The Grolier Club, which is the nation’s oldest society of bibliophiles, based in Manhattan. The books range in value from from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars; the rarest of miniature antiquarian books can sell in the six or even seven figures.





Some books are between one and three inches high, while others are just a quarter of an inch. From historical texts to poetry, to novels, and picture books, miniaturization is a true art. One of the oldest texts in Pistner’s possession dates back to 2300 B.C. Can you imagine having this much worth in your possession? Because I can’t…




Display of miniature books







Pistner told the New York Times that she had always had a passion for miniature books, and used to create them herself using paper and a staple gun, and now she has come far with expressing her love for all things tiny and texts.

Check out some of photos of a few of Pistner’s favorites, taken by Tom Grill and Charlie Rubin- the descriptions were written and sourced by New York Times’s Sarah Lyall!




Image via new york times (photo: tom grill)



Here, in its original Latin, albeit smaller, is Galileo’s famous 1615 letter to Cosimo d’Medici’s mother, laying out his (heretical) reasoning for why the Bible should not be used as a basis for scientific belief. The fact that it is printed in 2 pt. “fly’s eye” type — by comparison, the type you are reading now (in the printed newspaper, at least) is 8.7 pt. — makes it all the more exciting. It is considered to be one of the most famous miniature books in the world, Pistner said, because of its size (the binding is 18 millimeters, or about 0.7 of an inch, high) and the quality of its craftsmanship.




Image via new york times (photo: tom grill)



One of two tiny eight-sided Qur’ans in the exhibit, this is a complete transcription of the Islamic holy book, probably from the 19th century. It measures in at a mere 50 x 45 x 12 mm and has fetching gold pigment on its cover and elaborate floral designs inside. “A miniature Qur’an permits a protective intimacy with the revealed word of God through wearing, carrying or close placement,” Pistner writes in the exhibit’s catalog. In the Ottoman era, mini Qur’ans were also placed on banners carried into battle.




Image via new york times (photo: Charlie Rubin)



This very small 2,300-odd-years-old solid-black object is replete with writing, much of it consisting of apparently indecipherable magic spells. But around its sides is a four-line invocation calling on the creator of the universe “to give strength, health and salvation and to protect the wearer from evil and harmful spirits.” Such objects were actually amulets often worn or carried by their owners during the Roman Empire.



Check out the rest of these images in the article on The New York Times !


Featured Image via new york times (photo: Charlie RUBIN)