By Timothea Haider
In the U.S. the requirements for a miniature book is that it must be under three inches in width, height and thickness. Aside from this one requirement, a miniature book can come in any form. In the library of Queen Mary's dollhouse are roughly 200 perfect miniature replicas of all the most popular literature of the time all bound by the company Sangorski & Sutcliffe. All these books are perfectly rendered and functional, but were never made to be read by a real human. It is quite the undertaking for such a futile purpose. A tiny copy of Arthur Conan Doyle's 'How Watson Learned The Trick' sits on a minuscule desk next to a remarkably diminutive tin of tobacco, all painstaking made for a resident who can't read, sit or smoke. One of these rare books is especially unique. 'J. Smith' by Fougasse is a fairy tale written specially for the dollhouse and exists only in miniature. It's the story of a fairy who falls into London and has many adventures before returning home to fairyland. This fish out of water story suits the format well as it is a real book in a fake room.
The tradition of making tiny books continues today through places like Pequeno Press in Arizona and The Creative Zone in Washington. These independent studios create work covering topics as diverse as the royal barges of Thailand to the life of Galileo. They all have different approaches to what a miniature book should be and what stories they'd like them to tell. Crane designs, operated by Marian Crane of Arizona creates particularly interesting works as most of them are not made with paper or bookboard. They tend to be embroidered and embellished with beaded tassels. Her book "Twilight Arc" is written in embroidery on turquoise cotton and illustrated with scrimshaw on mother of pearl disks, giving it a magical, whimsical feeling that is very different from what you might get from the standard hardcover. The title of the book refers to the shadow cast on the atmosphere during sunset or sunrise, but it's contents don't explain to us the scientific details of how this happens or give us a diagram, but suggests a feeling through the colors, materials and the mysterious poetry inside.
Where the books in Queen Mary's dollhouse aren't meant to be read, the books made by Marian Crane are not just meant to be read. Their fabric pages are meant to be felt, the tassels are meant to be dangled and toyed with, the size compels you to keep it in your pocket and show people. Crane Designs makes books meant to be experienced fully. Over the years, miniature bookmaking has become more than simply making existing books really small. It's growing into a way for bookmakers to innovate and try new ideas