The Martin Bodmer Foundation presents its new exhibition, « Giants and Miniatures”, featuring 47 books of striking variation in size. The smallest measures a mere 4.5 mm.
For this newest display, the Foundation has dug deep into its collection of books rarely exhibited on account of their size – either too large or too small to fit classic showcase criteria.
The smallest book contains the Christian prayer Our Father in seven languages and consists of two volumes measuring 4,5 mm in size, each weighing less than one gram. The largest book measures 92 x 61 x 6.5 cm and weighs nearly 30 kgs. It depicts the Pitture a fresco del Campo Santo da Pisa, by Carlo Lasinio (Florence, 1812). The subject range of the books varies as extensively as their physical size: from religious works and literature to travel books, science, politics and art in striking formats: in-plano, in-folio, “minuscule”, “miniature” or “microscopic” items.
The larger publications are often illustrated. In fact, it is frequently the illustrations that determine the size chosen for these books. They are generally about travel, the natural sciences or prestigious political works in which the etchings are the key elements: the larger the book format, the greater the detail and precision of illustration possible.
The smaller formats, in contrast, generally consist of pure text, without illustration. Content is compressed to the very essentials to attain pocket-size, for convenient portability during travel or to avoid scrutiny by political police or customs officials in the case of clandestine publications.
This exceptional “outsized” collection for all ages presents a fascinating array of variety, reminding visitors that books (the “codex”) have adopted an infinite variety of forms throughout their 2,000-year history.
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