Pocket Books of Yore

Ms. Joyet is the Assistant Head of Cataloguing. After graduating from Drexel University's iSchool in 2009, Ms. Joyet was hired...

There are many reasons to print a small book. The first being that you have a small pocket and would like to carry your book on your travels. Many of the APS miniature books are bibles and almanacks. Before the modern paperback was invented, priests, monks, and missionaries traveled the world with “pocket book bibles.” These were quite literally small enough to fit into a pocket.

In colonial America, small almanacks were very common. Almost all households would have had a small almanack as a way to orient the year for the household. These books provided weather predictions, sunrise and sunset times, and even funny quips (especially in the case of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack—of which we have a few).

Three recent acquisitions help to demonstrate just how tiny some of these books can be:

a short account
A short account of the first rise and progress of printing : with a compleat list of the first books that were printed.(655 P37s)

This item was presented to the Library by Richard Quandt in 2019. It is a small bibliography of books printed in London. It does not seem to be very convenient to an ordinary bibliofile, though it’s quite easy to read and is a very helpful added resource for our ready reference.

code civil
Code civil des français / Edition originale et seule officielle (340 F73c)

This second pocket book was also presented by Mr. Quandt in 2019. It is the French civil code for 1804. This was particularly dramatic year in French history. The Napoleonic Civil Code was established that spring. This civil code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs should go to the most qualified. Of course, by the fall of that same year, Napoleon was crowned Emperor and the French Empire was officially established.

librarian barbie
Two weeks in the Yellowstone (917.87 V46y)

We end on a much more light-hearted note with Librarian Barbie in the conservation lab, showing off a truly unique find from the Vaux Family Papers. William S. Vaux, Jr. took a trip to Yellowstone in 1886 and decided to commemorate this trip with a novelty item. Of course, Mr. Vaux very quickly discovered that printing is an arduous occupation. He explicitly omitted the trip to Yellowstone and all the “uninteresting” bits in an effort to save his back.