Lilliput library: The tiny books that command big prices

Lilliput library: The tiny books that command big prices
Forget glasses, you’ll need a magnifying glass to read the tiny print in these antique miniature books.
But simply because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t tackle big subjects.

These thumbnail-sized publications – which are to be sold at auction after they were discovered in a house clearance – include The Bible and the London Almanack from 1842.

The smallest of the 16 books measures just 11/8in by 1in and the largest 31/8in by 31/8in – a perfect size for the tiny inhabitants of Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels.

You might need a magnifying glass to read it but the tiny books contain the exact same content as their full-sized versions

And yet, incredibly, each edition contains every word that the full-size version does.

Experts at Bamfords Auctioneers, in Derbyshire, who discovered the books, say they are expected to fetch a total of more than £2,000 when they go on sale next week.


Miniature books – defined as those smaller than 31/8in in height, width or thickness – became fashionable in 1475 when the first, a tiny version of religious text the Officium Beatae Virginis Maria, was produced.

The incredible thumbnail-sized novels expected to fetch thousands under the hammer this month

Originally novelty products, they quickly became a sign of a printer’s skill and rival firms competed to outdo each other.

And the fascination with mini-printing continues. In 1985 a 1/32in by 1/32in edition of nursery rhyme Old King Cole was produced in Scotland.

Auctioneer Steven Iredale said the newly found collection was incredibly rare.

‘Collections like these tend to belong to staunch book collectors. I have only really read about them in the past and have never come across them before,’ he said. ‘They can sell for thousands of pounds and we have had a lot of interest.

‘They started producing miniature books, usually The Bible, in the 15th century, but other books soon started getting the shrinking treatment.

‘This collection has come from a property we cleared and the books had been in the family for years.

‘They really are superb and the skill and detail is fantastic.’

The sale is part of a three-day event from March 16 to 18.

Miniature books are usually considered to be no more than 8cm in height, width, or thickness