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World’s smallest printed book on display at National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh

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World’s smallest printed book, no bigger than a grain of rice, is part of a new exhibition of miniature books at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Old King Cole, published in 1985 by the Gleniffer Press in Paisley, measures only 0.9 mm in height.

It held the world record for the smallest printed book, for 20 years.

It is one of about 85 miniature books from the library’s collections which will be displayed to the public for free until November 17.

Exhibition curator James Mitchell said: “Many are works of art or miracles of technology and are highly collectable.”

A miniature book is generally defined as one that is less than 7.5 cm (3in) in height and width.


World’s smallest printed book, no bigger than a grain of rice, is part of a new exhibition of miniature books at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh

World’s smallest printed book, no bigger than a grain of rice, is part of a new exhibition of miniature books at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh

The first printed miniature book on record is an Officium Beatae Virginis Maria (5.2 cm x 4.5 cm) that was printed in 1475.

Scotland has been an important centre of miniature book production since the 19th century.

From the 1870s to World War I, Glasgow firm of David Bryce & Son became one of the most successful miniature book publishers in the world.

Early in his career, Bryce produced a full-size edition of the works of Robert Burns that only sold 5,000 copies in three years. He reformatted it into two miniature books and before long sold more than 100,000 copies.

In the latter part of the 20th century, the Gleniffer Press carried on the tradition of producing miniature books in Scotland.

The press was founded in 1967 by Helen and Ian Macdonald as a hobby private press, producing home and business stationery.

By the early 1970s, it became noted throughout the world for making miniature books and was active in this field until 2007, when it closed after 40 years, having produced 57 different titles.

James Mitchell said: “This display celebrates the miniature book and the worldwide contribution that Scotland has made to this highly skilled form of publishing.”