Miniature Books With Sterling Silver Covers


After sharing pictures of a few miniature books with sterling silver covers on Facebook I was asked about what is inside such beautiful books. While I’m no expert, having just recently acquired the four at Booksby, I’ll do my best to lay some groundwork that you, kind reader, can use for further research.

The books are all bound in red or black morocco leather with elaborate gilt stamped spines with the silver relief clipped over the front cover or riveted to it. The relief is of .925 sterling and is hallmarked, as is all English silver, with the grade (standing lion for .925), year stamp, city of manufacture, and the silversmith’s mark. The text is printed on the finest, thin India paper and range from several hundred to over a thousand pages. All measure about 2 1/4 x 1 7/8 inches. Most if not all the titles were also bound in suede, cloth, vellum, and leather without the silver. The three primary publishers are: Oxford University Press, Eyre & Spottiswoode, and William Clowes & Sons. Most of these books seem to come from the first decade of the 20th century.


There are several titles you will find with this treatment. The most commonly encountered is The Book of Common prayer. Along with this you may find: Hymns Ancient & Modern, The Poetical Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Poetical Works of Longfellow, The Royal Bijou Birthday Book, and the Handbook of Practical Cookery, as well as miniature notebooks and address books. The Book of Common Prayer comes most often with a relief of “Five Angels” after a painting by Joshua Reynolds, but there are almost two dozen other covers for this title alone. Longfellow and Tennyson both sport fine portraits of the respective poets, Cookery has a cauldron suspended over a fire and the Birthday Book has a wonderful beer garden scene, among others.

In the literature of miniature books, Bondy makes mention of them on pages 120-121, 139, and 167-168. Bromer/Edison doesn’t say a lot about them but has two spectacular photos of almost three dozen different covers on pages 58 and 80-81.

You can find these in dealer’s catalogs or at auction for just under one hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, depending on condition and rarity. I’ll put more photos inside & out and descriptions of the four I have in the gallery in the next few days.

Bookbinding, Take One- The Roycroft Suede Binding

To improve the quality of books at Booksby Press, I’ve begun to attend workshops on bookbinding technique, and hopefully in the future, letterpress printing. The first workshop on January 17th, taught a group of eight students how to make a book structure similar to that used by Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters.

A Brief History

Roycroft was a community of craftspeople in Western New York around the turn of the 20th century. Founded by Elbert Hubbard in 1895 when he couldn’t find a publisher for his book, “Little Journeys”, it became a major proponent of the Arts & Crafts movement in the United States. Borrowed from a quote by John Ruskin, the Roycroft creed states: “A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness.” It was this philosophy that gathered nearly 500 crafters in multiple disciplines to the community at its height in the first decade of the century. The community began its slow decline after Hubbard was lost on the Lusitania in 1915. The Roycroft Press produced one known miniature book in 1922, an edition of “A Message to Garcia” that measures 2 1/8″ x 1 5/8″. It was printed in an edition of 12.

The Workshop

Along with the history of the Roycrofters we were shown examples of original Roycroft and non-Roycroft bindings of varying qualities from the very good hand sewn bindings of Roycroft to other cheaper bindings that were simply stapled through the entire textblock and the cover slapped on with glue.
As this was a beginner level workshop, every step was discussed in detail, from preparing the textblock to embellishing the finished book. We learned how to fold pages into signatures using a bone folder and how to punch holes in the individual signatures to sew them together. We learned that a kettle stitch is used to lock the signatures together at the head and tail of the textblock and a French link stitch was used to join signatures in the center. When all the sewing was done, the textblock was pressed and the spine was gluedtogether, right over the sewing.
While this gluing was drying, we prepared the inner boards. , which consists of a piece of heavy cardstock and some decorative paper glued together. While the boards were drying, we attached the suede cover to the textblock with more glue. Lastly, we glued the inner boards to the covers, and we now had a finished book.
The workshop lasted six hours which gave us enough time to make a second book. For this one we discussed traditional Roycroft techniques such as embossing and paper labels as well as non-traditional though appropriate techniques like leather punching and embroidery, that are in the Roycroft spirit of handcraft. I chose an embossed design for my second book.
In addition, I was shown a simple pamphlet stitch, which will give even my booklets like “Book People” a more handcrafted look and will remove the stapler from my tool list.
All this was done, unfortunately, with one hand as I damaged my left hand at work in mid-December and it was completely immobilized beyond the wrist and nearly useless. I hope to be in much better shape fir the next workshop.


My two finished project books, the red one with embossed cover.


Here are the inner boards, the first with decorative printed papers and the second with book cloth similar to that used by the Roycroft Press.


The spine from the top. You can see the seven signatures sewn together.


I’m so excited by my newly acquired skills that I’ve already started on my next book. It will be a short collection of sayings entitled “Wise Man, Wise Guy”. It will measure 2 3/4″ x 2″ and be in a maroon suede with marbled inner boards. Look for it in the not too distant future in the store here.

The next bookbinding workshop will be Laced-in Paper Case Binding on February 21,2015 so stay tuned for what’s next!

Miniature Association Books- Part II

In the first part of this article I reviewed five different categories of associations that I’ve identified. Today we’ll look at five more.

6. Books With Accompanying Notes

This is my absolute favorite category because this is where we get the most intimate look at the relationship. The accompanying must however, shed some light on the book to be considered here.
At 4 3/4 x 3 3/8 inches, this one doesn’t even qualify as an honorary miniature book but I’ve included it here because both the publisher and collector are important in miniature books,and I like it.

Not only is there a letter but the book is also inscribed with a cute note. This book with it’s corresponding letter is also the inspiration for “Book People”, available on the store page here.

Beau-Beau’s 123 was published by Kurbel Books with illustrations by E. Helene Sherman and layout by Robert Massmann. It came from the collection of Paige Thornton and and was personalized for her by REM.

This one’s fun in that not only is the book miniature but the note is as well, and the book has a second, personalized slipcover.

7. Autograph Books

Again, this is similar to type one books in that it’s a loose association, putting the book in the signer’s hands for but a brief moment. These can be fun though, and if you like to name drop, very handy.

Here are three examples from Booksby.


This is a keepsake from an early MBS conclave and belonged to long time collector/dealer, Paige Thornton. It has many of the biggest names in miniature books of the second half of the 20th century. I would have loved to be at this one.


This is my own book pin that I used to wear everywhere. It went with me to Conclave XXXII in Boston last year and I wish I could say it was my idea to have it signed but no, it was someone else’s suggestion. It has the signatures of many good friends who are also important in the miniature book world.


I know very little about this one but I like it because it’s so tiny. It’s 7/8 x 5/8 and has many signatures, all from the mid 70’s. It came from the Thornton collection also.

8. Holographic Author’s Drafts

I don’t know how common this is for miniature books (all my books started out in an 8 1/2 x 11 spiral notebook), but I do have one.


Here’s the author’s draft of “Scrimshaw”, written by Carolyn Grabhorn Orr, with the finished book. The draft was purchased from Mrs. Orr’s estate and the published book directly from Miriam.


The book was published in 1986 but notice the earlier date and different title in the draft, all in Carolyn’s own hand.


9. Printer’s Proofs / Dummy Books

Not so much an association as a curiosity, these were trial pieces to make sure everything was right and were never meant to see the light of day. One famous dummy book is St. Onge’s “The Jewish Religious Calendar”, a copy can be seen at the Huntington library.


This one is “Christmas Carols”, published by Kitemaug Press in 1982. It will need to be compared to a numbered copy to determine if there were changes between this impression and and the final product.


Where the limitation should be it has instead the word proof written.

10. One of a Kind Book

This is the last type of association book we’ll take a look at. This can be just about anything from a unique binding to an artist’s sketchbook.


This one is very cool because it fits into several different categories but the outstanding feature is its one-of-a-kind binding done by Massmann.


It has Bob’s bookplate, designed by Helene Sherman.


It has been signed by the publisher. Elsewhere it has been signed by the binder. It also has a note from REM to REM explaining the binding, and finally it has the wonderful, purple binding.


These are two sketch books done by Carolyn Orr in the early 1980’s.


Even the title pages are beautiful.


The first is completely full of pen & ink drawings. The second however has many amazing watercolors. Unfortunately, they are perfect bound doll house books and the glue is letting go.

So these are the ten categories of association books I’ve identified at Booksby. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at an exciting sub-genera of miniature books, and thank you for reading.

Please, I covet your comments and criticisms so leave some feedback!

Miniature Triangle Books

I didn’t set out to collect triangles. They just come to me. As a result, I think that in the future, I’ll pursue with some purpose. With the arrival of my newest addition, the absolutely stunning ” Agathon’s Book of Dreams” came the idea to write about them, so herein I will describe four that are now in the library at Booksby, in chronological order.

Sukie’s Tiny Tepee
My earliest trianglebook is “Sukie’s Tiny Tepee, A Sketch Book”. Published by REM Miniatures in 1970, it contains 20+ pages of Helene Sherman’s delightful illustrations of her miniature poodle, Sukie, all hand colored by REM and his wife, Eloise.It has a conventional book structure with pages attached at a spine. Overall it is a 2 3/4″ equilateral triangle and was produced in 250 unnumbered copies.


About Art
The next representative is “About Art” published by Iron Bear Press in 2000.

The entire book is a series of illustrated adverbs as they relate to the word art, such as within art and beyond art.

The structure is quite different however, and functions like a three sided accordion. If you were try to view it by turning the pages, you would have to go through it three times to see the entire book. Again this one is a 2 3/4″ equilateral triangle with an overlaid, removable ribbon. Ink jet printedand hand bound by K. J. Miller, it is signed and numbered #38 of 100.

The Seventh Year of Bo Press
Here we have “The Seventh Year of Bo Press” by Pat Sweet, 2013. Leave it to Pat to be different. As it was her seventh year as a publisher this book is all in sevens. It is an isosceles triangle, one seventh of a heptagon, and it is an edition of seven, mine being copy red, one of the seven colors of the rainbow. Again, this is a conventional , all attached at the spine.

The contents are all the books and miniatures made at Bo Press in 2013. Includes a tiny bookmark.

Agathon’s Book of Dreams
Finally we come to the newest triangle book, “Agathon’s Book of Dreams” by Emil Goozairow, published in 2014. With velvet blue covers and a sterling relief outside and a lavishly illustrated dream sequence inside, this book is a supremely satisfying work of art. At 55 mm, this equilateral triangle is a little smaller then the standard edition

“Incomprehensible Animal”
The art work within is enchanting with fanciful creations and vibrant colors.

“Cats and Ship”

This one also has that unusual concertina construction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my new area of specialization. If you find any cool miniature triangle books, dropme a line, I’d love to have a look.

Miniature Association Books- Part I

As I’ve said before, one of the aspects of collecting miniature books I like best is the relationships that are formed between producers, sellers and collectors. Which is closely related to today’s topic, association copies. The narrowest definition, and the one most often encountered in booksellers’ catalogs is this: A copy of a book which has been inscribed by the author for a personal friend, colleague, or person of historical significance. I favor a more broad definition though. In his introduction to “Other Peoples Books Association Copies and the Stories They Tell”, Thomas Tanselle writes: “It is important to allow extreme breadth to take in every kind of documented assocation”. Let us then forage out on our own and explore the different types of associations found at Booksby.

1. Signed By The Author

The most commonly encountered type of association is a book signed by the author. Often times the books are hand signed factory style at book signings or before being released by the publisher. It’s not a close association but it does place the physical book into the hands of the author at one point.

This is "On Human Rights" by Carlos Fuentes and published by Somesuch Press in 1984. I believe Fuentes signed each of the 395 copies of this book before the s
This is “On Human Rights” by Carlos Fuentes and published by Somesuch Press in 1984. I believe Fuentes signed each of the 395 copies of this book before the sheets were folded and bound, In fact, his signature runs under the fold and reappears on the adjoining page of text. This is copy #267

2. Signed By The Publisher/Printer/Binder

Closely related to the first category is this, signed by someone, other than the author, related to the production of the book. In the world of private presses and fine bindings, this is a fairly common practice.

The Lullaby Book
Here we have “The Lullaby Book” by Eugene Field and published by the Schori Press in 1963. It is signed and numbered by the publisher/printer. This is copy #101 of 600.

Mardi Gras Customs & Costumes
Next up is “Mardi Gras Customs & Costumes by Susanne Smith Pruchnicki and published by her Bronte Press in 1992. Susanne did all the work on this book except the hand coloring, which was done by her husband. She signed and numbered this as copy #43 of 60.

3. Signed And Inscribed By The Author

This is the traditional sense of the term and one of my favorites.

Thy Joys of Collecting Children's Books
“The Joys of Collecting Children’s Books” was written by Alla T. Ford and published by her Ford Press in 1968. This one is inscribed with a flower doodle to Frances Dunn by the author. Frances was an important, early collector of miniature books and was mentioned in the last issue of “The Miniature Book Collector” in 1962 as having one of the seven largest collections in the U. S.

Ere E Eme
“Ere E Eme” is #47 of 59 copies for Robert E. Massmann’s 59th birthday in 1983. Except the printing, this book is REM, start to finish. He signed it and inscribed it to Hilda- being Hilda Neiman, an early member of the Miniature Book Society.

REM Acrostics
REM Acrostics is one of the harder to find REM Miniatures, being an edition of only 25. Again, Bob did all the work save the printing on this one, in 1972.I love that a couple if books ago we had a book from Alla Ford and now here’s to Alla Ford, signed and inscribed by Bob Massmann. This is #25.

4. Inscribed By The Publisher/Printer/Binder

Again similar to the last category. This one is fun as well.

The Strawberry Story
“The Strawberry Story” is an old Cherokee Tale printed by Frank Anderson at his Kitemaug Press in 1972. Frank signed and inscribed it to the Storms. Colton Storm ran the Storm Bindery in Sedona, Arizona. I believe the slipcase is Colton’s but I’m not sure about the binding. Of 125 copies, this is #12.

“Elusive Bon Mots” is a non-traditional book format by REM Miniatures, done in 1969. #14 of 250 copies, this one is signed and inscribed by Bob for Alla Ford and includes a quirky note on the slipcover that I just love.

5. Book With Collector’s Bookplate.

Bookplates don’t shed much light on the production of the books but tell us where they were in the past. I have some books that came to mt through some pretty important private collections.

Here is a small group of bookplates at Booksby.
1. & 2. Wilbur Macy Stone and James D. Henderson were the two most prominent collectors of miniature books from the turn of the century to the 1920’s. I wish I had books from their libraries. These bookplates are tipped-in examples in a book about collectors.
3. Arthur A. Houghton. The auction of his collection in 1979 was perhaps the largest sale of miniature books ever.
4. Stanley Marcus was chairman of Neiman-Marcus and published miniature books under his Somesuch Press imprint.
5. & 6. Robert E. Massmann was a charter member of the Miniature Book Society and published as REM Miniatures.
7. Kalman Levitan was co-founder and first president of the Miniature Book Society and published as Kaycee Press.
Also,the bookplate of Todd Sommerfeld (me) MBS member and publishes under the Booksby Press imprint.
8. Grace Broecker was a longtime collector of miniature books. Part of her collection went to the Huntington Library.
9. E. P. M. I have no information on this bookplate which is a shame because it is perhaps the most beautiful miniature bookplate I’ve ever seen. If you know who’s bookplate it is please let me know.

Well, that’s all for this week. Next week I’ll mention a few other types of associations that miniature books can have.

What Have YOU Done For Miniature Books?

I’ve always been a collector.Of everything and anything.Along with my favorite object set of the hour,there were books, from my early teen years. Weather it was a greater mastery of the English language through fiction or the knowledge housed in a reference work, I knew that books equal power. In my late teens miniature books were thrown into the mix, which added craftsmanship and art to the list of benefits that books provide.
Books are expensive though, and I’ve never been a man of means. Which has led me to some creative ways to acquire them. In my school years, while mom was scrimping and saving just to make ends meet, I was skipping lunch to save my lunch money for books. I also found out quickly that, as a youth, that if you have a legitimate interest and show a little knowledge, and are just cute most sellers will give you a pretty good break. I exploited that cute factor for as long as I could to build my library.
I found out early on, scrap dealers will pay you for aluminium cans, so yes, I am that guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot picking up dirty beer cans.
I would walk the ten miles downtown to save the $1.70 fare so I could spend it on books. I have skipped utility payments and driven without insurance to buy an especially nice or rare book. In fact, the book bill is the only one I’m always sure to pay on time, before everything else.
More recently, I’ve discovered that there are places that will pay you to “donate” the plasma part of your blood. I’ve started a small internet business selling nice things I don’t necessarily want or need so I can buy books that I do want but don’t need. All this while working as a machinist 55 hours a week.
I’m constantly searching bookstores and antique shops, thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales, trolling ebay and vialibri, and perusing dealer’s catalogs from coast to coast, in short, I go where ever the books are. All this I do just for one more volume.

So, what do YOU do for miniature books?

Grace Drayton and Miniature Books

IMG_5375IMG_5376American artist, Grace Drayton (1877-1936) is best known as the creator of the Campbells Kids, the cherub faced cuties that were friends to generations of soup eaters, and her Dolly Dingle paper dolls that first appeared in the Pictorial Review. Less well known are the several miniature books she wrote and illustrated. All of the books I’ve seen were published by John H. Eggers of New York, which would make an interesting study by itself. The first series that I’m aware of is the Baby Bear series published in 1920. The books are 2″ x 2 5/8″ with eight pages each and are illustrated in color. The twelve books are: Baby Bears Visit Grandma, and eleven other titles beginning with Baby Bears &… The Wishing Rings, The Honey Pot, April Showers, Christmas, The Robbers, The Snow Man, Elly El, The Valentines, Weather Cock, Mad Mark Hare, and Mrs Kitty.
The next series are the Dolly Dingle books of 1921 or 1922. They measure about 2 1/2″ x 3 1/4″ and contain eight pages as well but are illustrated in monotone. Three titles, Dolly Dingle in Belgium, Dolly Dingle in Ireland, and Dolly Dingle in Scotland are listed in Welsh as numbers 2517 -2519. There is also one for England in this series and another series including books for Holland, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland, but I haven’t seen any of these myself.
The last group of books are somewhat of a mystery to me as I haven’t been able to find any specific information on them yet. They are accordion fold of various sizes and are illustrated all in color, but are cur out of magazines, the Pictorial Review I strongly suspect. I have five of these oddities: Bobby and Dolly and the Fido Bank, Good Manners, Minty Mouse, The Little Quack Quacks, and Hippo. The first four came from Paige Thornton’s collection and the fifth from that of Hilda Neiman. If any of my gentle readers have any information that they would like to share about these or any other Grace Drayton miniature books, please email me and I will include it in an updated post sometime in the future. IMG_5374

Full Circle

I was born in a printing shop. Well, not really born in a printing shop, but dad was a printer and from the time I was born till my parents separated when I was seven, there was a press in the basement or garage. I still remember from when I was five or six going to the typesetter on the second floor that always had the iced oatmeal cookies or the big plant downtown with the whole row of giant horizontal cameras. I loved the smell of ink and the clickety-clack of the 1250 offset press. What a way to grow up! When I was eight or nine dad opened up a genuine storefront printing shop and called it Sommer Graphics. He specialized in menus for finer restaurants around town which is probably where I acqured my taste for expensive food. In my early teens I was occasionally allowed to help, with pay, around the shop. I learned how to saddle stitch booklets, gold stamp, run a small press, and putz around in the dark room.
Then dad got sick. he sold the shop and spent a year recovering. Afterward, he went to work for someone else which disappointed me terribly since I couldn’t wait to turn sixteen and be able to really work in my dad’s shop. In my junior I spurned the college prep track I was on and went in for a trade in what else… Graphic Communications. When dad heard of this he told me “don’t make it a family business.” which still strikes me as odd since there are so many men that would give everything to have a child follow in his footsteps. At any rate, I proceeded through the program excelling in layout, production bindery and equipment maintenance.
Then dad got sick again. Really sick. Two weeks before graduation, he died. So now the shop was gone and dad was gone and since I came of age at the exact same time as Kinkos, I moved on to other things…

I’ve always been a collector. As soon as I was old enough to notice, I started keeping pretty things from nature. Colored rocks, different leaves, and anything with more than four legs. About the time I was eight, I discovered that things in the mail came with little stickers on them. Different stickers. Thus, a stamp collector was made, and what is more natural to collect with postage stamps than coins? I mean, they come from the same store, right? While browsing one day in a thrift store with mom, I found a folding camera cheap, just like dad’s. (The one thing he collected long ago was antique cameras). I was hooked, which started an exciting new chapter in my life, that of an antique scout. In my search I found that cherry wood and leather bellows cameras were not the only things the Victorians made beautifully well, and one thing lead to another and by my mid-twenties I had and antique house full of 19th century antiques.
At about the same time I found my first antique camera, mom gave me an old book, Seaside and Fireside Fairies, published by L. B. Lippencott, copyright 1864, and I was amazed. A book that was 120 years old! How could anything be that old? Again, I was hooked and now have nearly five thousand volumes. I’m out of space and what to do? This brought me back to something that took a long time to develop but now is in full bloom. In the late 80’s I worked as a porter for an out-of-state antiquarian book dealer at book fairs. He would send me a bus ticket and I would meet him in whatever town he was in then and set him up and tear him down and carry all his boxes of books. Well, one time he had a cigar box, and as he didn’t smoke I asked him why. He told me to open it, and inside I found the most beautiful gems of books I’d ever seen. He had thumb Bibles, and almanacs, and Dew Drops. As part of my payment for the weekend, he gave me one very old and tired thumb Bible and again it was a start I didn’t think much about until a year later. I met this odd little old lady who had her huge collection of miniature book on display. She spoke of a miniature book she wrote years ago, and being enchanted, I asked if she would sell me one. Sadly they sold out years before and she had only one in her own collection. After that, I would buy miniature books when they found me but didn’t go looking for them. Except one. It took me twenty years to get that darn book, but once I did, I off running. It’s been almost six years now since The Little Cookie Book came to me. Today I am a member of the Miniature Book Society, have a collection of several hundred miniature books, and lecture about miniature books.
And I’ve come full circle form that dream of being a printer with my dad to publishing my own miniature books with the help of my sons here at Booksby Press. Our quality isn’t great now – but we’re learning. Just wait and see what’s next!

That’s about all I can stand of myself so I promise my next blog will be more scholarly. As a tease, I’ll tell you it will be “Grace Drayton and miniature books”.