Now on View: “Eminent Miniatures”

If you come by Special Collections this summer, you are in for a bibliographical and visual feast! Our new exhibition, “Eminent Miniatures: from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection” features tiny books and huge photographs.

The exhibition is in the First Floor Gallery of Harrison/Small, just outside the Special Collections reading room.

Collector Caroline Brandt has spent most of her life building a collection of 15,000 miniature books, which now resides in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. From these, she has chosen volumes that reveal the little-known forays of prominent book producers into the realm of the miniature. In this exhibition, you will see that when great printers, binders, and publishers decide to make miniature books, the results are stunning. These are works of exquisite craft, structural diversity, and outsized beauty. The exhibition has been mounted in conjunction with the upcoming Grand Conclave of the Miniature Book Society, which will be held in Charlottesville in August. The exhibition runs through August 26. Don’t miss it!

The exhibition opens with some of our greatest miniature treasures from early presses such as Plantin and Jannon.

In this section dedicated to Publishers, large images of landmark nineteenth-century Italian miniatures loom over a selection of Oxford University Press publications, including religious volumes and children’s books.

The exhibition features the miniature output of a number of small presses, some of which are on view in this case.

Miniature books require that fine binders exercise their skills in new ways to ensure that small volumes open and close smoothly. Despite the additional challenges, some art binders have embraced the miniature.

Miniature books come in a dazzling array of structures. In many cases, the diminutive size and light weight of the books means that it is possible to display accordions and other formats open.

Oversized images are near the books they represent, allowing visitors to view and appreciate their artistry with rare immediacy.

Overview of the first half of the exhibition.

Overview of the second half of the exhibition.

Thanks to the talented Shane Lin for his elegant photographs of miniature books, which form the backdrop of the exhibition cases shown here.

Please share!



Miniature Books, coming to you from Facebook Live

Today, the folks over at UVA’s facebook page invited curator Molly Schwartzburg to share with them some of her favorite items in the miniature book collection on the Facebook Live streaming video platform. For those of you not on Facebook, here’s the video. We’re impressed that those teeny tiny books are actually in pretty good focus! Check out some of our beautiful and unusual minature treasures.

Tales from Under Grounds II: Pastimes, Play Time, Illustration, and Literature

This is the second in a series of four blog posts, spotlighting the mini-exhibitions of fall semester 2014 students from USEM 1570: Researching History.  The following is the abridged version of the students’ final projects, featured at their outreach program, Tales from Under Grounds II.


Regina Chung, First-Year Student

Regina Chung

Photograph of Regina Chung by Sanjay Suchak, November 18, 2014.

Monticello Music

Thomas Jefferson declared that music “is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism.” Jefferson practiced the violin three hours a day and would later share his love for music with his wife, Martha, and then his daughters. He would not only spread this passion among his family, but also as a political tool that would lead to wide popularity with his lively campaign songs.

Using scrapbooks, notebooks, music programs, political campaign songs, and newsclippings, this exhibition displays the passion Jefferson held for music in his personal and work life.

This scrapbook of 18th century songs, ballads, and cantatas were collected by Thomas Jefferson and his family. There are 95 titles in this volume from Jefferson's distinct music collection.

Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbook of Sheet Music. This scrapbook of 18th century songs, ballads, and cantatas were collected by Thomas Jefferson and his family. There are 95 titles in this volume from Jefferson’s distinct music collection. (A 1723-90 .J4 no. 1. Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History)


TJ Newsclipping

Newsclipping of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to his daughter Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, n.d. After Jefferson’s wife’s death, he strongly enforced music upon his eldest daughter, Martha (“Patsy”). In this reprinted letter, he encourages her to continue to learn new music. (MSS 6696. Thomas Jefferson Foundation)


Lily Davis

Lily Davis

Photograph of Lily Davis by Sanjay Suchak, November 18, 2014.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was a 19th-century American author. He is known as a “romancer,” examining the inner nature of man, and as a “realist,” using literature to articulate the flaws in American society. Many of his stories have a common theme of probing human nature and criticizing culture. In his books, he examines and scrutinizes Puritan society, which points back to his long line of Puritan ancestors.

The photograph of Hawthorne with his signature across the bottom was taken around the time he wrote The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables, pieces of literature that are still read and loved today. The Scarlet Letter, probably Hawthorne’s most well-known book, provides insight to his Puritan background. The House of Seven Gables was published shortly after The Scarlet Letter and is also set in 19th century New England. Centuries later, Hawthorne is still considered a great American author.

Title page of The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1850. The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850, tells the story of Hester Prynne and her illegitimate child Pearl in Puritan society. This novel was inspired by Hawthorne’s strict Puritan background. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great grandfather, John Hathorne (1641-1717), lived in Salem, Massachusetts and was a prominent judge in the Salem witch trials. Nathaniel Hawthorne eventually added the “w” in his true family name of “Hathorne” (changing it to “Hawthorne”) to distinguish himself from his ancestors. In reading the Scarlet Letter, it is obvious that his writing points to his background.(A 1850 H39 S3. Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History)

Signed Carte de Visite of Nathaniel Hawthorne, ca. 1850s. (MSS 6249. Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature)


Mary Elder, First-Year Student

Mary Elder

Mary Elder discusses her exhibition with visitors, November 18, 2014. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

Games of American Children in the Victorian Era

The Victorian Era is viewed as a time of rapid development and change, and it is easy to overlook the role of children in this era. Many of people’s ideas come from films such as A Christmas Carol, and characters such as the grandmother of American Girl’s Samantha, but much can be learned by looking at the toys and games that children enjoyed during this time.

Games and stories can often reveal the values of the time they were played, and Victorian Era games frequently had educational value, or intended to teach moral lessons. Other times, they were simply to keep children occupied quietly. Outdoor and recreational activities were also encouraged to allow children to run and play, but were sometimes limited to boys as many still held the belief that girls should be quiet and dainty.

These games can tell a story as they give us a glimpse into the lives of the younger generation in the late 19th-century. Many of the games and concepts might be familiar to people today and can show the continuity in children’s attitudes toward fun and perpetuity of childhood pleasures.

Toy Catalogue

Selchow & Righter, New York, Manufacturers and Wholesale Dealers in Games and Toys, 1894-1895.  This trade catalog for toys and games provides images, cost, and descriptions of the games. Frequently sold by dozens, costs vary greatly, but many are in the $7-$10 range. Many items, such as the church and blocks, have religious associations, while others, such as the Spelling Boards and reading cabinet, are educational. Many items, such as a ring toss, dolls, toy pianos, and air rifles, would be familiar to children today. (TS199 .A5 T62 no.16. Albert H. Small American Trade Catalogs Collection)

Ruhig Blut Game

Ruhig Blut. New York: Dr. Richter’s Publishing House, 1899. This puzzle, whose name in English is “Be Quiet,” has instructions in German, English, and several other language. It resembles what is now known by many as a Tangram, and the small shaped masonry pieces could be combined in a variety of ways to create pictures. (Lindemann 05868. The McGehee Miniature Book Collection)


Grace Kim, First-Year Student

Grace Kim

Grace Kim talks to Rare Book Cataloger Gayle Cooper about her exhibition, November 18, 2014. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

John Tenniel: An Illustrator with a Punch

Originally, John Tenniel was a classic artist who created oil paintings for the Royal Academy. Dissatisfied, he left to join the illustration world. In 1850, he found a position at the British political magazine Punch, where he would work for fifty years. Citizens soon recognized his drawings, and his work at the magazine would soon allow for other illustrating opportunities. He drew for Thomas Moore’s oriental romance novel, Lalla Rookh, which was considered to contain his best illustrations. He was also the illustrator for The Arabian Nights edition, created by the engravers the Dalziel brothers. Tenniel would constantly go to the Dalziel brothers for the engraving of his drawings.

Tenniel preferred not to use real life models to help him form his illustrations. Instead, he claimed that he could draw anything through the use of memory. This may have helped him when he worked with Lewis Carroll, otherwise known as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, to create Alice’s fantastical world.

In 1893, John Tenniel became knighted for his work in political cartoons and illustrations. After he retired from Punch about a decade later, he would not take on any other projects.

Illustrations from Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Illus. by John Tenniel. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1866. Most well known for his work with Lewis Carroll, Tenniel includes forty-two of his illustrations in this first American edition. Originally, Carroll wanted to draw the illustrations himself; however, a friend, Thomas Combe, suggested a professional illustrator instead. Lewis Carroll wanted no one other than John Tenniel. His work at Punch led the surreal author to become a big fan. In this particular book, the color marking comes from the original owner, Alice Huff Johnston. (PR4611 .A7 1866. Gift of Clement Dixon Johnston)

Note from Tenniel to Ponny

Note from John Tenniel to Ponny, ca. 1869. Sir John Tenniel reflects on his own reputation in a note to his friend, Ponny, stating, “You say my name is as good as a bank note – I wish you could prove it.” (MSS 6693-a. Gift of Clement Dixon Johnston)

Exhibition Now Open: “Miniature Books and Money”

Come on by Special Collections to see our latest short-term exhibition, “Miniature Books and Money.” Drawing almost entirely from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection, the exhibition features almost 100 miniature books in just two exhibit cases, showcasing some of the ways that one topic–money–can be approached through this 12,000 item collection.

This exhibition is launched as a partner project to an exhibition currently on view at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books 2. Learn more about the VABC show here. You can visit the show at their space “Beneath the Art Box”  at 2125 Ivy Road, Charlottesville. Both exhibitions have been mounted in celebration of the 2013 Virginia Festival of the Book, which runs March 20-24.

Our theme was inspired by an artist’s book by Charlottesville book artist Amanda Nelsen, also featured at the VABC. Her book, entitled Fine Print, investigates the rhetoric of junk mail credit card offers with elegance, artistry, and humor.

“Miniature Books and Money” runs through April 18, and may be found on the First Floor Gallery of the Harrison Small building on the UVa Grounds during standard opening hours.

The exhibit features 79 volumes from the Winthrop Press, who provided tiny paperback editions of short stories to be packaged with cigarettes and other products in the 1910s. Come find out why so many of them are associated with the Catholic philanthropic organization, the Knights of Columbus.

If only we could make miniature labels for miniature books! But we worry about your eyes enough as it is…

One of seventy-nine publications of the Winthrop Press in the exhibit, this book’s gorgeous cover image is cheaply printed.



Mini-Books in Small: A Photoessay

This week’s post is written by Anne Causey, Public Service Assistant at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library:

Local bookmakers and bookbinders involved with the Virginia Arts of the Book Center (VABC) in Charlottesville are gearing up for this year’s collaborative project:  creating a miniature book. In fact, each participant must make fifteen books. What better way to become inspired than to visit the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, which houses more than 13,000 miniatures?

Here the 15 bookbinders and bookmakers investigate several boxes of miniature books, primarily from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. I pulled some older more traditional printed books and then some contemporary artists books that use a variety of materials, binding and art work. They were excited by many of the examples – and excited by the housings as well. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Miniature books are defined as smaller than three inches in each direction, and yes, they are “real” books – just printed on a smaller scale. The printer uses a text small enough to fit the size and form of the pages and sizes down the illustrations.

The participants looked at about 40 examples, including a Medieval Manuscript. A Parisian, miniature book of hours, dated from the 14th-century is the oldest such book in Special Collections. This tiny book contains five full-page illustrations and a vine design on every page, not to mention grotesques in the form of dragons and other beasts on some of the pages.

I am showing the group a 14th-century illuminated manuscript, a Parisian book of hours. Nicknamed “Baby,” it is 6.5 X 5 cm and 239 folios, or pages. The text is Gothic script on vellum and is in Latin except for the 12-page calendar, which is French. We had it rebound in a historically-correct leather binding with ties. The group was almost as interested in the 19th century red velvet binding that was removed but still kept with the book. (MSS. 382 /M.MS. W. From the Papers of Edward L. Stone, purchased 1938. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Books in miniature were made for various reasons. Some were made small so they were easy to carry, while some accompanied packages as advertisements. Some were made for children, and still others were made because the content of the book or its ownership was controversial.

The miniature books in Special Collections comprise a wide range—from traditional older printed books to more whimsical artist books. The collection includes more than 12,000 miniatures donated by Mrs. Caroline Brandt. Her collection has accumulated over 40 years, spans six centuries and contains volumes in more than 30 languages.  Mrs. Brandt donates more books to the collection every year.

The VABC is hosting an exhibition, entitled Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books 2: A Traveling Exhibit from March 1 – April 26 at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, 2125 Ivy Road, Charlottesville, VA.

VABC will host a reception during the Virginia Festival of the Book on Sunday, March 24 at 2:30PM, including a discussion of the exhibit by Molly Schwartzburg, curator of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. During March, Special Collections will also have an exhibit from its holdings of miniature books to coordinate with this visit.

This group of miniatures were all designed and hand-written by contemporary bookmaker Margaret Challenger between 1999 and 2003. Several are accordion-style, and all of them have specialty hand-made papers and Challenger’s calligraphy. The book with the black cover and gold center medallion, which shows a knight’s shield and sword, is called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” Enclosed in the front cover is another smaller book, containing his prayer; her calligraphy, written in purple is, “an Anglo Saxon version of Italian Uncial, as used in The St. Cuthbert Gospels, written before 716 A.D.” Many of the books have interesting paper closures or boxes. I was hoping such variety would give the bookmakers inspiration for their own projects. (Lindemann 3747-3760. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This red and gold miniature bookcase, which is the size of a more typical book (6 1/4 x 7 ½ in), holds 65 tiny volumes. They are each bound in colorful book cloth and have tiny text. The first one, “Aunt Faith’s Recipes,” does indeed contain actual recipes – for desserts, candy, and beverages. I only know this because the group wanted a book to be taken out to see if it contained text. Less than half of these are known as micro-minis, which are between 1” to 2” tall, while the rest are ultra-micro-minis, defined as smaller than 1” in any measurement (Lindemann 5766, no. 1-65. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This accordion-style book has a bright orange cover and is enclosed in a black envelope stamped with a silver cross. It is entitled “Hildegard of Bingen: Her Music.” The calligraphy in green is “from Commentary by M. Fox on the text of Hildegard of Bingen: 1985.” Hildegard was a saint born in 1098 who composed over 70 songs. The book is a creation of Margaret Challenger, 2000. The colophon reports that she used Ingres paper and gouache calligraphy. (Lindemann 03747. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Miniatures are sometimes commentaries about the times in which we live. For instance, “Consumption Junction” a miniature created by Laura Russell in 2002, features painted corrugated cardboard covers, affixed by a single bolt. The book is a protest against modern consumerism. (Lindemann 05115. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This manuscript from Ethiopia looks rather old, but is estimated to date from the twentieth century. The script is in black and red ink on vellum, and the vellum binding wraps around the accordion-style text block. There are 7 hand-painted illustrations. (Not yet cataloged, from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The “I, Robot” miniature is too cute! The group chuckled at this one. The robot “covers” or container is metal with a magnetized closing at the back of its head. The fun surprise comes in opening it and pulling out the pages. This creative miniature was made by Jan and Jarmila Sobota, in the Czech Republic, 2007. Ours is number 3 of 30. (Not yet cataloged, from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Nutshell books are always a big hit. Some are still in stages of being cataloged (From the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)