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Miniature books

The collection of miniature editions of the Bibliology research department is among the most interesting in the library. In the Book Museum, the showcases with miniature books always attract the attention of both children and adults. The miniature book collection includes about 2,000 thousand items issued in an edition of one to 1 million copies.

Miniature editions, or small books, are small-size editions. In Belarus, as in other CIS countries, their maximum size is 100x100 mm. The first printed miniature book Diurnale Magnitinum was created at the dawn of printing by Peter Schaeffer, the apprentice of Johann Gutenberg, in 1468. Now its parts are kept in Paris, in the National Library of France.

The collection represents the early 17th –21st centuries. One of the oldest editions identified at the moment is the book of the Italian cardinal and writer Andriano Castellesi De sermone Latino... published in Cologne in 1612. Miniature books by the famous publishing house Elsevier have pride of place in the collection. The Elseviers printed both folios and very small books measuring 8.8 by 4.4 cm, such as the series Small Countries (or Republic). The Bibliology department keeps several publications from this series, in particular Respublica Sive Status Regni Poloniae, Lituaniae, Prussiae, Livoniae (1627), Respublica Hollandie (1630) (24°) – attributed to the Elseviers, Respublica et Status Regni Hungarie (Leyden, 1634), Portugallia(Leyden (1641), etc. In addition to the Elseviers, the collection represents miniature books of other Western European publishers of the 17th–18th centuries.

A large number of miniature books are those published in the Soviet period in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, etc. One of the smallest and most original books presented in the collection is the Moscow edition Miracle of Miracles (Чудо из чудес) (1985). Its size is 9 by 6 mm, with a circulation of 200 copies. This edition contains statements about the book of Alexander Pushkin and Maxim Gorky. Miracle of Miracles is the smallest miniature book published in the Soviet epoch.

The Belarusian book holds pride of place in the collection. The first Belarusian miniature book was published in Stefanovich’s Minsk printing house, in 1833. The publication was called A gift to well-mannered disciples for the new year 1834, or the Non-educational children's stories that serve to educate the mind and heart (Подарок благонравным ученикам и ученицам на новый 1834 год, или Нравоучительные детские повести, служащие к образованию ума и сердца). The National Library keeps a microfilm of this book.

The BSSR Constitution (Канстытуцыя БССР), which was released in 1948 in Baranovichi in an edition of 50 copies, had been considered for a long time as the first miniature book printed in Soviet Belarus. The size of the book is 60 by 45 mm. In fact, two miniature books were printed in Belarusian before the war. One of them – 23rd Dzershinsk regional Communist Party conference (3–7 May, 1930) (XXIII Дзяржынская раенная партканферэнцыя (3–7 мая 1930 г.)) – appeared in 1930 in Gomel, in an edition of 2 thousand copies. The second – To overachievers of Bolshevik print (Ударнікам бальшавіцкага друку) – was published in 1932 in Minsk, edition of 3 thousand copies. The systematic release of a miniature book in Belarus began only in 1965 with a collection of poems and songs Clear Springs (Звонкія крыніцы) by the famous songwriter Adam Rusak. Then the collections of poems by Jakub Kolas and Janka Kupala translated into Russian appeared. The two-volume edition has a very original size and design. Its format is 37 by 47 mm equal to a matchbox, and the circulation was 6 thousand copies.

Since the 1960s to present day, a large number of Belarusian miniature publications have appeared. About 200 miniature books published in Belarus are stored in the Bibliology research department.