Miniature Books

There are many ways to collect books. You might even be a book collector without even knowing it. You might acquire a book here and there and then suddenly you need more. Collectors of children’s books, for example, often start their collecting habit by acquiring that special book they read as a child or that grandma read to them. And then it dawns on them. What started out as an accumulation has turned into a collection.

Collectors of miniature books might also fall into that category. Maybe they made an impulse purchase because they had never seen a miniature before. Maybe they thought it was cute. And then it grows on them. They have to have more.

You might even collect some miniatures as a sub-set of your main collection. Let’s say that you collect John Steinbeck. You definitely want all his first editions, but then maybe you decide to expand the collection to his appearances in anthologies, or maybe film posters from films made from his works, and then you want books about him. You realize that this collecting business has taken on a life of its own.

132 Central Avenue (actual size)

132 Central Avenue
(actual size)

And then you spot a miniature. Maybe it’s 132 Central Avenue. The book is a touch more than 2.5 inches wide by 2.5 inches tall. 132 Central Avenue happens to be the address of the Steinbeck family home in Salinas where the Nobel Prize-winning author was born and raised.

Frontispiece and title page (actual size)

Frontispiece and title page
(actual size)

In fact, there is a color photo of the Victorian-style home used as frontispiece. The book was written by and published by a miniaturist named Robert F. Hanson in Bradenton, Florida in 1985 via his Opuscula Press. Hanson had visited the Steinbeck home in 1982. His book reports on it and some of the other homes Steinbeck occupied in that area. As you can see by the colophon, 500 copies were printed and hand-bound by Hanson.



Hanson had earlier published Collecting Steinbeck authored by Maurice Dunbar, a long-time teacher and collector of John Steinbeck, but rather than bind the book in wrappers as he did with 132 Central Avenue, Collecting Steinbeck is a cloth-bound hardcover. It is just a touch wider than two inches and just short of three inches tall. It too has a photographic frontispiece, in this case a b&w photo of an aging Steinbeck. Hanson’s Opuscula Press published the book in 1983. He printed 250 numbered copies signed by himself and Dunbar.

Collecting Steinbeck actual size)

Collecting Steinbeck
actual size)

Photo frontispiece (actual size)

Photo frontispiece
(actual size)

According to its prospectus, the book has 62 pages of Dunbar discussing holographic material, galley proofs, first trade editions, limited editions, pirated books, paperbacks, anthologies, biographies, etc. In addition to the frontispiece, there is a tipped-in reproduction of Steinbeck’s Pigasus, a spoof caricature of the Greek flying horse Pegasus. Steinbeck’s pig with wings symbolized how Steinbeck categorized his own writing — earth-bound, but with aspirations.


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