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Mini-books on show at National Library of Scotland

Old King Cole, once the world's smallest book, is to go on display at the National Library of Scotland. Picture: Sean Bell

Old King Cole, once the world's smallest book, is to go on display at the National Library of Scotland. Picture: Sean Bell

  • by LUCY CHRISTIE
 

A book no bigger than a grain of rice is going on display in an exhibition celebrating a fascination with miniature books.

The 0.9mm Old King Cole, which once held the record as the smallest book in the world, will be on show at National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh.

Published in 1985 by Gleniffer Press in Paisley, it will appear alongside around 90 other miniature books in the display which opens tomorrow.

Curators said miniature books contain all the features found in ordinary-sized books and that great skill is needed to produce the tiny versions.

“Many are works of art or miracles of technology and are highly collectible,” said NLS’s James Mitchell.

A miniature book is generally defined as one that is less than 7.5cm (3in) in height and width.

The title of the world’s smallest book belongs to a book published in Japan which measures just 0.74mm x 0.75mm.

From the 1870s to the First World War the Glasgow firm of David Bryce & Son became one of the most successful miniature book publishers in the world.

David Bryce (1845-1923) inherited his father’s publishing house and made the move into miniature books when he realised they sold much better than standard books.

Early in his career he produced a full-size edition of the works of Robert Burns that only sold 5,000 copies in three years, according to the NLS. He reformatted it to two miniature books and sold more than 100,000 copies.

Bryce eventually published around 40 miniature titles.

In the latter part of the 20th century Gleniffer Press carried on the tradition of producing miniature books in Scotland.

The press was founded in 1967 by Helen and Ian Macdonald as a hobby private press, producing home and business stationery. From the 1970s it was noted for making miniature books. It closed in 2007 having produced 57 titles.

“This display celebrates the miniature book and the worldwide contribution that Scotland has made to this highly skilled form of publishing,” said Mr Mitchell.

“There are many delightful examples on display and we hope visitors to the library will enjoy seeing them.”

Miniature Books In Scotland is on until November 17 and entry is free.

 

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