tiny books

These Books Are Smaller Than Your Fingertip, but They Speak Volumes

If you’re an avid reader, then I’m sure you’ve come across hundreds (if not thousands) of unique books. But have you ever come across a book no bigger than three inches? If not, then you’re in for a delightful surprise. 


You can officially cross reading a miniature book off your bookworm-bucket list by visiting The University of Iowa which houses a collection of 4,000 tiny books. The collection was donated in 1996 by Charlotte M. Smith. Smith was an avid reader and passionate book collector who began collecting miniature books after realizing that full-size books were taking over her bookshelves. While some readers may simply stop collecting books, Smith had another idea: tiny books. 


“I came to realize that there were infinite aspects of miniature books to be explored, Smith wrote in “The Joys of Miniature Books”. “I wondered why I had not paid attention to them before.”


Smith’s collection, now residing in The University of Iowa, contains a variety of titles, the majority of which are less than three inches tall. If that isn’t impressive enough, some volumes are much tinier including the first chapter of Genesis which measures at four millimeters. 


tiny book

First chapter of Genesis| Image Via The University of Iowa



The collection houses volumes ranging from 17th century to present-day works. Subjects range from Shakespearan poetry to fairy tales to early religious bibles, called “thumb bibles.”  


These condensed bibles, measuring less than three inches, were became popularized in the eighteenth and nineteeth centuries and typically featured intricate illustrations of religious motif. One of the oldest books in the collection traces back to 1488 and concerns Catholic spiritual life. Books such as these were often exchanged as gifts, as they were convenient and could easily fit in ones pocket.


tiny book

Up! Horse! An Original Fairy Tale by Clara de Chatelaine, 1850 | Image Courtesy of The University of Iowa


The production of tiny books eventually took a new course, however, when printing companies, noticeably Toppan Printing of Japan, began to publish tiny books with one thing in mind: Guinness World Records.


According to The University of Iowa librarian Colleen Theisen, books such as The First Chapter of Genesis were published in the hopes of making their way onto the list of Guinness World Records. 


Toppan Printing Co. sold The First Chapter of Genesis as part of a two-book set at the World’s Fair in New york in 1965. According to The Atlantic, at the time, the 4 millimeter book was marketed as the world’s smallest book.



Victoria, the Good Queen and Empress by Eleanor Bulley, 1901 | Image Via The University of Iowa



While volumes ranging on the lower end of tiny books may be a wee bit hard to read, they still hold something special for readers.


“People have loved miniature books for a long, long time,” Theisen told The Atlantic. “They’re cute; they’re adorable; there’s just something enchanting about something so small.”


I for one certainly agree. These miniature books are downright adorable.



Featured Image Via Dick Hakes/Press-Citizen