Tuesday 25th January 2022 - Cara Bentham
This petite publication pulled a pretty price!
One of the most minute books in the world has sold at auction for £3,500. The leather-bound book, which measures a mere 5mm by 5mm, contains the Lord's Prayer in multiple languages, including English, American English, German, Spanish, French, Swedish and Dutch.
The Brussels' auction house where it sold – Arenberg Auctions – valued the item between 1,000 and 1,500 euros but it fetched more than double this when it went under the hammer. The text contained within the tiny book cannot be read with the naked eye, but would require a strong magnifying glass, according to the auctioneer, Henri Godts.
The book was one of just a few hundred of its kind published by the Gutenberg Museum in 1952. Its publication was part of a fundraising initiative following the Second World War to pay for the museum's reconstruction.
Gutenberg Museum is one of the world's oldest printing museums, and was named after the pioneer of mechanical printing in Europe during the 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg.
The auctioneer stated, "The copy has been in a collection for dozens of years and is kept in a jewel box as if it were a gem. You could even incorporate it into a transparent jewel and wear it around your neck, if you so wish."
The copy, sold at auction last month, was unique for being sold with the metal printing plates used to make it. These plates are actually larger than the book itself.
Arenberg Auctions specialises in the sale of rare books, maps and manuscripts. The sale in which the minuscule book sold was the last of the year for the auction house and grossed 1.25 million euros in total.
There were many outstanding lots, including an edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle. This is one of the most famous illustrated incunabula, is over 500 years old; it sold for 38,000 euros. A 16th-century painting of Jose de Anchieta, signed by artist AntoonSallaert fetched 11,000 euros.
There has been a long history of miniature books being published, with some very early examples dating back to ancient Mesopotamia in 2325BC. Many were produced in the 16th century in Europe when printers aimed to test the technological limits of the printing press.
According to the Miniature Book Society based in the US, the definition of a miniature book is that it is no larger than three inches in width, thickness, or height.
The Guinness World Record for the most minute reproduction of a printed book is currently held by a title 'Teeny Ted from Turnip Town', which measures 100 micrometres by 70 micrometres, with a micrometre equivalent to 0.001mm!