Written by Lauren Galloway, student worker
Miniature books have delighted people for centuries. The first miniature book was made in 1601, and the tiny tomes have continued to be printed as novelty items since then. In general, miniature books are defined as being less than 3 inches in height.
Ever since the first printing of miniature books, religious themes have made up the bulk of their content. Bibles especially seem to have their own genre among the wide scope of miniature books. Two types of Bibles exist in the miniature world: miniature Bibles and thumb Bibles. Miniature editions of the Bible are exactly that, but thumb Bibles are paraphrased versions prepared for children, often emphasizing illustrations. The very early editions of thumb Bibles were written entirely in verse, but ones in prose soon followed. Thumb Bibles continued to be widely printed in the 18th and 19th centuries, with 300 different editions existing.
The term “thumb Bible” seems to stem from a couple of things. First, the Bibles were usually around the size of a thumb. Many, though, attribute the name to Tom Thumb, both the fairytale character and the man. Charles Stratton, or “General Tom Thumb,” toured Europe with P.T. Barnum in 1844. Both Tom Thumbs became very popular and were the center of a stream of miniature books being published at the time. During this time the terms “thumb” or “Tom Thumb” also became connotations for anything small. All of these things coming together probably influenced the name of thumb Bibles
Bromer, Anne C., and Julian I. Edison. Miniature Books: 4000 Years of Tiny Treasures. New York: Abrams, 2007. Print.
Gloss, Kenneth. “Miniature Books Are Big Collector Items.” The Somerville Times. 12 May 2012. Web. 07 July 2014. <http://www.thesomervillenews.com/archives/26182>.
"Thumb Bible." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Mar. 2013. Web. 07 July 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumb_Bible>.
"Thumb Bibles of Western Europe and America." 4000 Years of Miniature Books IU Lilly Library Exhibition. Indiana University, n.d. Web. 07 July 2014. <http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/miniatures/thumbbibles.shtml>.