From May 15 through July 28 2007, an exhibition was held at the Grolier Club, New York, devoted to the art and history of the miniature book.
The exhibition showed examples of miniature books from the earliest times to our present day, such as clay tablets of ancient Mesopotamia and a New Testament, printed on a crystaline silicon chip, in 2001. On display were a number of miniature editions of the Rubáiyát, a text that has been a favorite subject for illustrators, printers and bookbinders, ever scince the last decades of the 19th century. There is no comprehensive list of mini Omars, so this is an opportunity to present an initial investigation. This means naturally that the list cannot be complete. Much of the work of printers of miniature books is hidden in the mainstream of book publishing, and is therefor not easy to be found. Here we confine ourselves to the domain of the three inch or less editions, which is more common in the U.S. than elsewhere. Many printers and collectors consider four inch editions also as miniatures.
Miniature books exist almost as long as ‘normal’ books, but they have always had a special attraction, because of their size. And as it is mankind’s nature to extend limits, the search for larger and smaller never ends. For a certain period the smallest book in the world was in fact a miniature Rubáiyát. It was produced by Meigs, in 1900. Another ‘smallest’ Rubáiyát was Thompson’s edition The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyám, 1932. The early mini-Omars were often used as gifts to friends, such as the Gem edition by Sewall (India, 1897). They sometimes
had jewelled bindings, like some of the Rosemary Press Omars, that were given to friends or members of the Omar Khayyam Club. Sometimes they were commissioned by club members.
One of the first, if not the first, miniature Rubáiyáts that we find in bibliographies is the edition produced by the Oonty Press (India, 1897) in an edition of 50 copies for Col. Sewall in India. It is referred to as the Bijou edition. Only a dozen copies or less are estimated to be in existence. However, measuring 24 mo., it is not strictly a miniature though it is listed in Welsh’ bibliography. Also beyond the miniature domain, and also listed in Welsh’ bibliography is the Gem edition (1905), issued by Sewall, in an edition of 105 copies of which 30 were printed on Japan paper, measuring 43/8 by 21/2 inch. It contained four illustrations by Elihu Vedder.
The second miniature, but the first within the 3-inch range, was the famous edition produced by Charles Hardy Meigs, in Cleveland (Ohio), in 1900. At that time it was the smallest book in the world, measuring 10 x 9 mm. Originally eight copies were done, from which fifty-seven copies were printed for subscribers. The plates were then destroyed to avoid duplication. The book was issued with a magnifying glass, in an ornamental metal box. A copy was sold at auction at $ 420.00 in 1928. Nowadays copies are for sale at $ 1,500 or more.
The Meigs edition is always regarded as the smallest Rubaiyat of its days. What is rather not known is that a few years after its appearance W. Cathcart of Cleveland, Ohio, succeeded in producing an even smaller copy. Cathcart was associated with the book department of a large store. He was approached by a Mr. Goebel who suggested that they should produce a smaller edition than the Meigs version. With the help of a publisher and a bookbinder they managed to produce a text that covered 1/4 of an inch. The final result was a volume measuring 9 by 9 mm., but only a few copies were printed. One source speaks of only two copies printed, of which one is supposed to remain in the British Library.
The famous firm of Sangorski and Sutcliffe did not only produce one of the largest and most valuable Rubáiyáts, the so called Great Omar, that went down with the Titanic. They also did a small number of deluxe leather miniature bindings, commissioned for private clients. The image shows a copy issued in London, 1911.
The firm of David Bryce and Sons was a large supplier of miniature books. One famous accomplishment was a complete Shakespeare, one volume per play (1904), and Bryce was the first to produce a complete miniature bible. The list of published books runs up to one hundred titles, some of these reaching 100.000 copies. Rubaiyats were published in 1904 and 1911.
Anthony Treherne also published a set of forty miniature Shakespeare editions. Three Rubaiyats were published between 1903 and 1906. One of them also bore the imprint of Treherne & Clafin. Treherne’s minibooks were published in the USA under the imprint of Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia.
Between 1906 and 1921 the Rosemary Press produced several miniature editions of the Rubáiyát. They were issued in very limited numbers, ranging from twenty to sixty copies, issued at special occasions or dedicated to the members of the American Omar Khayyám Club. The Rosemary Press produced about twenty-five other miniatures. The Rubaiyats were executed in various ways. Some were printed on fine paper or vellum, bound in different sorts of leather and many of them were bound with jewels. The operators of the Rosemary press, George W. and Winthrop M. Southworth were members of the Omar Khayyám Club, but more information on this press is not available.
This was a press operated by W. Hoyte Maness and Clarke W. Walton in Monroe, North Carolina. Four books were printed, all of them containing verses by Khayyam. In the Andrew Lang edition the prose translation of H. McCarthy were put to rhyme by Lang. The Stokes edition, listed by Bradbury (nr. 2827) measures 3,75 inches.
As Bondy says, The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyam by Eben Francis Thompson, was the result of a process of miniaturisation to produce smaller and smaller books that led to “books which are hardly more than specks of dust”. The Rose Garden was privately printed in 1932 and measures 4 by 6 mm. It was then the smallest book in the world and it still holds a high rank in the present list of ‘super miniatures’. Hamilton B. Wood and F.K. Vroom of the Commonwealth Press needed seven years of work to complete the job. 250 copies were printed and sold together with a version measuring 1,75 by 1,5 inches and a proof-sheet containing for pages of the smaller edition. It was also accompanied by a bibliography by Thompson, called A thimbleful of books. All these items were presented in a book-shaped box, together with a magnifying glass.
William Lewis Washburn, owner of the Palmetto Press, published a miniature newspaper as a young boy in Connecticut in the 1870s. Later he became associated with a newspaper and his languished hobby, playing with toy presses, turned into a “typus fever” again. His first productions breathe an Arts and Crafts air, where his later miniatures attracted attention. The Palmetto Press actually dates from 1875 but it wasn’t until 1900 that the press came into being. Washburn produced three mini Omars: The Pots. A cry to God, 1935, Chess, the game of life, 1936 and Wine songs from Omar Khayyam, 1936.
Burt Randle’s books are different from most other miniatures, because they were photographically reproduced from his very small handwriting. His other works are reproductions of type and illustrations. Bradbury remarks that Randle’s books create bibliographic problems, which make it difficult to give an accurate description of a certain edition. Some books have no date or place of publication and in some other cases it is doubtful whether Randle published the 5 books or whether he just printed them. Three Omars were produced between 1940 (estimated) and 1942. The earlier two of these editions consisted of two volumes.
The Black Sun Press was set up in 1927 in Paris, France, by Harry and Caresse Crosby. The press printed work by Joyce, Wilde, Poe and others. A miniature Rubaiyat was printed in 1930, one year after Harry Crosby’s death, the press being continued by his wife. Although 44 copies were printed only a few have survived.
Barbara Raheb and the Pennyweight Press, the imprint under which she started printing, issued six Omar miniatures between 1977 and 1993. The editions vary from 100 to 300 copies, two issues were bound with jewels. Raheb issued more than 500 miniature books, more than any other US publisher in the 20th century. Early miniatures by Raheb are highly collectable and are hard to find.
An imprint under which Miriam Owen Irwin, Cincinnati, Ohio prints miniatures since 1976. The list of editions runs up to more than 100 titles, mostly original texts from authors recruited by Irwin. The Mosaic Press Rubaiyat was printed in an edition of 360 copies, of which 60 were deluxe hand-coloured. Many Mosaic Press books are bound as orders are received, so not every book has a statement of the number of copies printed.
A family book binding company established in Weston-super-Mare. Most of the books are produced in two sizes: 2,9 cm. and 2 cm. Three Rubaiyats were produced shortly after another. The two recent editions of 2005 and 2006 have illustrated dustjackets.
The Miniaturbuchverlag, Leipzig is the only German book publishing company specialized in miniature books. Their list ranges from literary classics to law books. The Rubaiyat of this press was awarded “Schönstes Miniaturbuch Deutschland 1998”. This edition contains the translation by Omar Ali-Shah, together with a translation in German.
Catharijne Pers, 1994
The only Dutch miniature Omar was produced by The Catherijne Press, in 1994. The press was started in 1984 by Luce and Guus Thürkow. The printing was done by specialized presses, the rest of the work was done by themselves. In 2003 the press was taken over by Trijnie Duut and GerJan Hey. The Omar of the Catharijne Press was published in a standard edition of 175 numbered copies. A special edition was provided in a de luxe folding case and the owner’s name printed within. A miniaturized illustration from Ronald Balfour’s edition is tipped in.
The largest Omar, illustrated by E. Vedder in 1884, has recently been reduced to minimum size. However, there is only a front cover, taken from the 1894 edition, the rest of the book is a dummy with blank contents. It was made by Tree Feathers, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and measures 19 mm.
The number of miniature Omars rises immediately when we accept a wider definition of the miniature booksize than the 3 inches that are common in the US. Often 4 inch books are considered as miniatures as well. Actually, in Welsh’s bibliography of miniature books we find that 22 of the 53 listed Omars exceed the 3 inch limit. In this 4 inches and larger area we find editions by Siegle, Hill & Co., Collins, the Little Leather Library, Saalfield, Harrap and others.
Below is a shortlist of miniatures measuring 3 inches or less that I have been able to identify.
1. Rubaiyat. - Cleveland, Meigs, 1900. 10 by 10 mm.
2. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - London, Treherne, 1903. 65 by 65 mm.
3. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Glasgow, Bryce, 1904. 54 by 35 mm.
4. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Glasgow, Bryce, 1904. 62 by 78 mm.
5. Rubaiyat. - Cleveland, [s.n.], 1905. 9 by 9 mm.
6. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - London, Treherne; New York, Claflin, 1905. 67 by 51 mm.
7. Rubaiyat. - Philadelphia, Altemus, 1906. 70 mm.
8. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - London, Treherne, 1906. 68 by 54 mm.
9. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám the Astronomer-Poet pf Persia. - Venice, Rosen, 1906. 65 by 51 mm.
10. Rubaiyat. - London, Cowans, 1907. 54 by 73 mm.
11. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - St. Louis, Miniature Publishing Comp., 1910. 27 by 52 mm.
12. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám the Astronomer-Poet pf Persia. - London, Fisher Unwin, 1911. 65 by 51 mm.
13. The Rubaiyat. - London, [s.n.], 1911. 38 by 32 mm.
14. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1916. 24 x 73 mm.
15. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1916. 24 x 69 mm.
16. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1916. 25 x 73 mm.
17. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1916. [Exact size unknown]
18. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1917. 24 x 71 mm.
19. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1917. 24 x 73 mm.
20. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - New York, Crowel, [ca. 1917]. 64 by 51 mm.
21. Rubaiyat. - Paris, Nelson, 1918. 60 by 60 mm.
22. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1918. [Exact size unknown]
23. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur. - [S.l.], Rosemary Press, 1917. 25 x 75 mm.
24. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Needham, Rosemary Press, 1921. 25 by 70mm.
25. The soul gospel of Omar Khayyám. - Bombay, [s.n.], 1926. 50 by 130 mm.
26. Rubaiyat. - London & Glasgow, Gowans & Gray, 1927. 59 by 79 mm.
27. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - London, Sangorski and Sutcliffe, [ca. 1930]. 38 by 33 mm.
28. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Paris, Black Sun Press, 1930. 30 by 32 mm.
29. The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyam. - Worcester, [s.n.], 1932. 6 by 8 mm.
30. The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyam. - Worcester, [s.n.], 1932. 44 by 37 mm.
31. From Omar Khayyam. - Monroe, Lilliputian Press, 1935. 44 by 25 mm.
32. The pots, a cry to God ... - Collingswood, Washburne, 1935. 70 by 57 mm.
33. Chess, the game of life ... - Collingswood, Washburne, 1936. 70 by 54 mm.
34. Wine songs from Omar Khayyam. - Collingswood, Washburne, 1936. 64 x 47 mm.
35. Persian sentences from Omar Khayyam. - Monroe, Lilliputian Press, 1936. 44 by 25 mm.
36. Rubaiyat 12 x 4. - Monroe, The Liliputian Press, 1937. [Exact size unknown].
37. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Chicago, Randle, 1940. 2 v. 32 mm.
38. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Chicago [Pettigrew], Randle, 1940. 2 v. 47 by 47 mm.
39. Rubaiyat. - Jamaica, Wood, 1940. 60 by 38 mm.
40. Quatrains from the Rubaiyat. - Chicago [Pettigrew], Randle, 1942. 9 by 7,9 mm.
41. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Jamaica, Wood, 1943. 6 by 3,5 cm.
42. Rubaiyat. - London, Oxford University Press, H. Frowde, [196?]. 30 by 33 mm.
43. Rubaiyat. - Tarzana, Raheb, 1977. 19 by 17 mm.
44. Rubaiyat. - Tarzana, Raheb, 1977. 14 by 11 mm.
45. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Van Nuys, Raheb, 1977. 25 by 20 mm.
46. Excerpts from the Rubaiyat. - Lakewood, Miniature Book Studio, 1983. 19 by 14 mm.
47. The Rubaiyat. - Cincinnati, Mosaic Press,1983. 69 mm.
48. Omar Khaiam. Rubai. - Moscow, Poligrafia, 1989. 73 mm.
49. Rubaiyat. - Agoura Hills, Pennyweight Press, 1991. 24 by 16 mm.
50. Rubaiyat. - Agoura Hills, Pennyweight Press, 1991. 25 by 28,5 mm.
51. Rubaiyat. - Agoura Hills, Pennyweight Press, 1991. 24 by 16 mm.
52. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Agoura Hills, Pennyweight Press, 1993. 25 by 20 mm.
53. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. - Zuilichem, The Catharijne Press, 1994. 60 by 40 mm.
54. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Edinburgh: Diehard Craft Miniature, 1996. 60 by 55 mm.
55. Omar Khaiam. Rubai. - Moscow, Yaniko, 1998. 50 by 65 mm.
56. The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam = Die Rubaiyyat von Omar Khayaam. - Leipzig, Miniaturbuchverlag, 1998. 55 by 45 mm.
57. Omar Khayyam: a mini biography : plus selected quatrains from the Rubaiyat. - Edgewater, The JEN Press, 2000. 63 mm.
58. Omar Khayaam. Rubaiyyat. - Kazan, IDEL Press, 2001. 61 by 47 mm.
59. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Weston-super-Mare, Dateman Books, 2005. 30 by 28 mm.
60. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Weston-super-Mare, Dateman Books, 2005. 30 by 28 mm.
61. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Weston-super-Mare, Dateman Books, 2006. 20 by 18 mm.
62. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Tyne and Wear, Blythe Dollshouse Miniatures, 2007. 20 by 10 mm.
63. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. - Folkstone, Mitchell, [n.d.]. 28 by 38 mm.
Miniature books. 4,000 years of tiny treasures. Anne C. Bromer and Julian I. Edison. New York, Abrams, The Grolier Club, 2007.
Twentieth century United States miniature books. Robert C. Bradbury. Clarendon, The Microbibliophile, 2000.
A bibliography of miniature books (1470-1965). D.V. Welsh. Cobleskill, Richard, 1989.
The history of miniature books. D.V. Welsh. Albany, Fort Orange Press, 1987.
The private press. Roderick Cave. New York and London, Bowker, 1983
Miniature books. Their history from the beginnings to the present day. L.W. Bondy. London, Shepard Press, 1981.
A thimbleful of books. Eben Francis Thompson. Worcester, Privately printed, 1933.
Jos Coumans, November 2007