Identifying our 4mm Miniature Book

tiny book perched on a fingertip
Microminiature Bible

The University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives is home to the Charlotte Smith Collection of miniature books with more than 4,000 tiny tomes.  Most perplexing has been this microscopic Bible that remained unidentified, likely because we lacked the tools to adequately magnify the page with the publisher’s information.  Highlighting this tiny book yesterday on our social media pages brought it to the attention of our conservator, Giselle Simon, who suggested that we try the microscope that recently arrived in the conservation lab.

Handling it safely proved to be no easy task!  With some extra sets of hands we were able to read the name of the publisher – Toppan Printing Co.  (You can see the damage on this page from earlier attempts to read it).

Following the trail we were able to identify the item as being a set of two books sold at the 1965 World’s Fair in New York.  In fact, the larger miniature book in the set was already in the collection, unassociated with the ultra microminiature that could not be read.

Now the two have been reunited and they will be cataloged together.

Citation as included in Anne C. Bromer’s excellent reference book, Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures from 2007.

Holy Bible, Tokyo: Toppan Printing Company, 1964.  4x4mm.  Published to coincide with the New York World’s Fair in 1965, this Bible was printed by a new process called “microprinting.”

5 thoughts on “Identifying our 4mm Miniature Book

  1. That’s awesome! I’m glad you were finally able to figure it out — and yay for when archives meets social media and yields progress! I have seen many posts on your Facebook about these tiny books — is there more about them on your site somewhere? I am curious why these tiny books were even made- art? novelty? It seems like such a strange thing to do.

  2. I would really like to know more about this! How did anyone make it so small? Is it sewn or glued? Are the pages made of regular paper? How were the letters printed? Details please!

  3. The Toppan Printing Co. is a large Japanese printing company and has printed a 22 page book only .75mm square! It will fit through the eye of a needle. Here is a link to some info.
    The Toppan Printing Co. is also mentioned in “Miniature Books” by Louis W. Bondy , London: Shepard Press, 1981.

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