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How was Type for Miniature Books Made?

Started by Bill Nairn, January 12, 2013, 09:16:30 AM

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Bill Nairn

 Today I visited the National Library of N.Z. to see a display of rare religious books.

No-one at the library was able to explain to me how very small type was cast. A "miniature" Bible, measuring no more that around 2" x 1", which had a magnifying-glass supplied to enable it to be read! I was estimate the type size was less than 2pt.

I have a small Bible measuring three inches by one-and-a-half inches and containing 1216 pages, plus several maps in colour; c. 1850.

Can anyone explain how such tiny type was cut - never mind how the matrices were cut?

It seems almost a technical impossibility - but we know that it was done.

Can anyone help with this?


Although Mergenthaler produced a single matrix with the entire alphabet in 1pt type and Monotype produce a matrix mold with the Lords Prayer, I doubt if the Mini-Bibles were set using miniature type. The Mini-Bibles were I believe, printed by miniaturizing standard Bibles including colour plates using the photoengraving process invented in the early 1870s. Including the printing and binding the process would have required some real skill.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

Dave Hughes

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There is some discussion about hand set type sizes on Briar Press

Devils Tail Press
on 7 Feb 12 (02:57)
Updated 7 Feb 12 (02:58)

QuoteIn France, Didot produced a type in 1819 that was 2 1/2 points. The type was so small that it was cast 100 letters at a time. In the 1870s the Salmin brothers from Padua, Italy developed a 2 point type called "fly's eye", which damaged the eyesight of both the compositor and corrector. In 1895 Theodore Low de Vinne published a book that used a 3 1/2 point type called "Brilliants". Today the smallest type available is 5 point on a 6 point body, but the way the typeface fits can make it seem even smaller.

Stanislaus Pekala
on 8 Feb 12 (14:18)

QuotePage sixty-eight of Theodore Low DeVinne's "Plain Printing Types" 1914, states......Yet there is a text-type even smaller. In 1827 Henri Didot of Paris, then sixty-six years old, cut with his own hands a font of type on the body of 2-1/2 points by the Didot system, which he called "microscopique." Twenty-five lines of this type apparently fill the space of on American inch.
A later paragraph states...
These types are wonderful as evidence of skill; but they are of slight value in the practice of printing.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast


I've got 4pt Square Gothic on the Ludlow which can be set on a 4pt body but not worth the expense of buying a 4pt mould so I set it on 6pt and I've got 4¾pt Claritas (Linotype) which I set on 5pt body

Dave Hughes

I set a fair amount of 4¾pt Adsans for South London Press classifieds when I worked there.

Nice font with good clear figures for the telephone numbers.

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A couple of years back I bought a decent, newly cast, fount of "Gill Sans Titling 6 point No 4 " (no, not the Plate Gothic, proper 262) 
and the printed character on that  6 point body prints about 2 point, but of course its caps figures and points only.  You do indeed need a glass to set the stuff!. Interestingly,  the printed image is smaller than anything my computer printer can do.  Maybe thats why the average  computer doesn't offer Palace Script series 429.


Like Andy, I have some small faces on the Ludlow. I have a font of 4pt. Caslon that occasionally finds use. I also have several options in 6pt., and they have found use in miniature books.

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