les minuscules

Site d'art consacré aux livres minuscules

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How to Collect Miniature Books

By Roger Huet

Collecting miniature books is a very exciting and profitable hobby, however, most people are not aware of the fact. Miniature book collectors are mini-bibliophiles or micro-bibliophiles.

What is a miniature book? A miniature book is a real book, perfectly printed and bound, no higher than three inches. However, some European countries accept four inches as the maximum size for a miniature book.

Miniature books classify by size categories:
Large miniature books: maximum 3 inches in height or width.
Regular miniature books or thumb books: maximum 2 inches.
Small miniature books or doll house books: maximum 1 inch, and
Micro books also called microbes: ½ inches or less. The world’s smallest miniature book as of October 2000 is: The Twelve Horary Signs – Chinese Zodiac. It measures only 0.0374 by 0.0374 inches or 0.95mm. The publishers are together the Printing Museum, Tokyo and the Toppan Printing Company of Japan.

Miniature books are published in many parts of the world, including Canada, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States where the greatest number of miniature book publishers live. Publishers and bookbinders often use experimental and highly innovative techniques.

The building of a collection. The sizes and subjects are diverse enough to permit anyone to build a collection reflecting his personal taste and interest. Some collectors specialize in thematic topics like proverbs, history, art, religion, humor, and children’s tales; others prefer to focus their collections in a specific size.

My advice to beginners is to initially build a general collection. Should they later specialize in one theme, it is possible for them to trade or sell the copies they do not need anymore and make a worthwhile profit.

The value of miniature books. The value of miniature books depends on various factors; the most important are their rarity, their bookbinding and the year of their publication.

Miniature books have existed since the end of the fifteen century; some of them are extremely rare and worth thousands of dollars. Books from the Nineteen-century are easiest to find and they are gorgeous and well done. The prices are still affordable staying in the hundred digits. Contemporary books are much less expensive; limited editions seldom surpass a hundred dollars, fortunately, the cuckoo books cost only a few dollars, they offer a large variety of subjects and exhibit black and white as well as full color illustrations.

Where to find miniature books? You can start by visiting a good bookstore where they usually have miniature dictionaries, tiny children books, small bibles and a great range of gift miniature books like proverbs, short stories, humor, fables, tales, children books, sport, and biographies.

Your second visit head for the antique shops in your area; they sometimes have miniature books long forgotten about on the bottom of a drawer. Local and international auctions disperse important collections and some items are very reasonable. The most important auctioneers are Bloomsbury Book Auctions, Christies and Sotheby, all settled in London, but with representatives in the United States. They publish catalogues that are a good source of reference on miniature books. You can also visit the web page of
e-bay.com that lists many miniature books.

Booksellers and publishers use to sell miniature books by catalog, you can find an exhaustive list in the Directory of the Miniature Book Society.

Visit their web page: http://www.mbs.org

The Miniature Book Society: Founded in 1982 and chartered in 1983 in the state of Ohio, the Miniature Book Society is an active world organization focused on personal exchange of ideas and miniature books. They publish a quarterly newsletter and a valuable directory of members with a section for publishers, bookbinders, designers, writers and dealers.

Once a year, the Miniature Book Society organizes a convention called The Grand Conclave. They are held in various cities around the world. During the four days, starting on October 12, there are meetings, workshops, organized visits, a gala banquet, two auctions and a Sunday Miniature Book Fair where about 80 publishers, bookbinders and specialized booksellers offer their treasures for sale. The exhibitors come from all over America as well as Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and Canada.

Collectors and publishers are also very active in Germany. A brother organization the Freundeskreis Miniaturbuch Berlin e.V. was founded in 1987 They publish the "Info-Dienst" a newsletter edited by Angelika Jaeck and have a web page: www.minibuch-berlin.de/

Another important collectors’ association is the Sammlerkreis Miniaturbuch e.V. Stuttgart, in charge of Heinz Mueller; they publish an interesting Miniaturbuch journal and have a web site: www.miniaturbuch.de .

A third German miniature book society, is the "Erster Deutscher Miniaturbuchverein Leipzig". They publish a journal called LMZ – Leipziger Miniaturbuch-Zeitschrift.

Specialized bookstores: There are two specialized bookstores in miniature books: The Miniature Book Oval Saloon of Tokyo directed by Rico Onuma lilliput@xa3.so-net.ne.jp and the Minilibris in Berlin, the web page is www.minilibris.de

Some antique bookstores have large sections of miniature books, the most important are: Bromer Booksellers, Glen & Mary Dawson, Jon Mayo, Lajos Babòs, Lorson’s Books and Prints, Michael Garbett Antiquarian Books, all listed in the Miniature Book Society directory.

Specialized magazines: The Microbibliophile is an excellent magazine printed quarterly by Jon Mayo publisher and bookseller in Vermont. You will find interesting reports on new publications. www.microbibliophile.com

Bibliography: To learn more about the history of miniature books you can read Miniature Books by Louis W. Bondy, The History of Miniature Books by Doris W. Welsh, Twentieth Century United States Miniature Books and Antique United States Miniature Books by Robert Bradbury.

‘My Adventures in Minibibliomania’ by Kathryn I. Rickard is a lovely miniature book highly recommended to every new collector.

How to display your miniature books: Miniature books are very charming items; they look beautiful on bookshelves among regular format books. However, when your collection increases, the proper way to display your collection is having miniature bookcases or small curio cabinets. Many models are available in furniture and in antique shops. The publisher of the Cuckoo books offers a tailored bookcase that is inexpensive.

Some collectors build miniature libraries with sophisticated furniture, such as a dollhouse. The most famous dollhouse libraries are the Little Castle of Colleen Moore at the Institute of Arts of Chicago and the Queen Mary's Doll's House at Windsor Castle (England); both libraries contain rare books. However, everyone can build a handsome library starting with a wood case and some creativeness.

Classification and cataloguing of miniature books: When you collect, it is important to catalog your entries and organize your books. You can computerize your catalog or use cards. Here are the most important areas for a miniature book catalog. 1) The location, 2) the title, 3) the author, 4) the size 5) the publisher, 6) the ISBN, 7) the country, 8)the language of the text 9) the price paid 10) the date of purchasing 11) the source: bookstore, publisher etc. 12) A catalog or any other information concerning the item, in your archives. 13) The edition a) limited edition and the number of copies and your number of each item, or b) mass produced 14) the type of binding a) soft covers or hard covers. Hard covers are in leather, leatherette, fabric or cardboard, b) the book can be sewn, pasted or spiral bound. 15) The illustrations: some books have illustrations and they can be hand painted or four-color process, or black and white.16) the autograph. 17) Any other useful information, such as the condition of the books a) mint b) stains c) cover or spine damaged, etc. 18) links to other books from the same author or the same publisher. 18) The display: Some books are boxed, others, like the cuckoo books, can have additional items as a necklace or a key ring.

Classification and cataloguing are very useful when you write an article, prepare a lecture or an interview, send some of your books for an exhibit, insure your collection, sell some items or your entire collection, or when you decide to donate your collection.

Collecting miniature books vs. other type of items: Every issue of an American postal stamp reaches millions of copies; miniature books even mass-produced are printed in small issues.

Miniature books convey a message; coins and stamps lose any practical value when kept out of circulation.

Coins and stamps are so numerous that several thousands items are required to build a collection but a valuable miniature book collection can be built with only 100 selected titles and show a great interest for the variety of subjects.

Miniature books are like trophies that you obtain after an exciting hunt.

Allow yourself to be bitten by the miniature book bug. It is incurable but will provide you with amazing pleasure. You will make friends near and far because of the warmth and friendly brotherhood among mini-bibliophiles.


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