Miniature books, which typically measure less than 3 inches (76mm) in height, have been around since the written word was developed: first with cuneiform clay tablets, then hand-written manuscripts. The introduction of the printing press and moveable type printing in Europe, in middle of the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, set the stage for the first early printed books known as incunabula. Surviving editions of miniature incunabules are very rare treasures with only a dozen still in existence today. The new printing process made the production of miniature volumes a challenge to all involved – not just the printers themselves, but also the paper makers and book binders. Readers were also confronted with issues in the reading and handling of these tiny tomes as the size of type and pages kept getting smaller. So why print them? Continue reading
One of my favourite aspects of work in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections is the opportunity to hold and examine so many wonderful and diverse books. When I was returning a book to the Quin Case a few days ago, I picked one out to look at because of its beautifully decorated spine – many of the books bequeathed to the College library by the wealthy graduate Henry Quin (1760-1805) have fine bindings. The boards, endpapers, fore-edge and text turned out to be equally attractive. The book in question was Quin 43, a 1786 printing of the story of Daphnis and Chloe, bound by Christian Samuel Kalthoeber of London. A German by birth, Kalthoeber emigrated to England where he became apprentice to his compatriot Johann Ernst Baumgarten, taking over his business in 1782. Continue reading
On Tuesday morning the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections had the pleasure of showing rare items from our Research Collections to members of the Grolier Club. Exquisite fine bindings from the Quin and Claudius Gilbert collections were displayed alongside sumptuous hand-coloured books from the Fagel collection.