Fragmentary evidence of the lost ancient art of librarian miniaturization




“Oh you need little teeny eyes for reading little teeny print…”

(Thank you, Tom Digby. Classic computer filk, but it seems appropriate.)

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Given the cut of the jacket, and unless male librarians in the 1940s were in the habit of wearing skirts, that’s a woman with a book. (Retronaut’s title notwithstanding.)


Holy crap those are big books.

I like big books and I cannot lie…
I thought perhaps we were dealing with the novel “Little Women”.
Original source for the photo: From the archives of Prague Castle photo by M. Peterka


From my experience working in libraries I’m sure an outside administrator decided to deal with the space problem by buying a miniaturizer and aiming it at the wrong target.


And I just assumed it was a solution to all the periodicals filed as microprint… (Though I presume that’s all being redone as digitized.)

Excellent Link!

Notice that page contains music, not words. Those are late-medieval choir books.

The book is so large so that everyone in the choir could read the music while performing.

Before paper replaced vellum, book production was hideously expensive. Making a copy of the music was a multi-year undertaking involving several skilled professionals (tanners, binders, icopyists, etc). The preferred solution was to have one massive book per cathedral that everyone read simultaneously. That one book needed to be huge so that the singers in the back row of the choir could also see the notes.

p.s. and yes, that librarian is a woman.


I thought this was a press photo from that new movie, “Honey! I Shrunk the Librarian!”

That reminds me of this song by Dave Ross of CBS radio: I Like Fat Books

Or the process was done by committee…

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Okay, I don’t want to see anyone bandying around the term ‘epic tome’ anymore unless they really mean it.

I’ve been trying to track down the source of this image. Many online versions say it’s from the Prague Castle archives, but I’ve just received a reply from the head archivist there, Martin Halata, who tells me the photograph is not from their institution.

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