The Library of Congress is home to all sorts of weird and unusual holdings, including several items that are not traditional books that anyone can sit down and read. One of the more fascinating artifacts is the former Guinness World Record holder for the smallest children’s book in the world, which was also the smallest printed book in the world.
According to its holdings record from the Library of Congress online catalog, Old King Cole was printed by Gleniffer Press in 1985 using “offset lithographic methods.” The book was issued in a edition of 85 copies, with final sizes measuring between 0.9 and 1.25 millimeters square (about 0.03 and 0.05 of an inch), which is around the size of a single grain of rice. The Library of Congress holds number 56 out of the 85 copies and also makes the text available in digital format on its website.
According to Culture24, Gleniffer Press was based out of Paisley, Scotland and run as an independent hobby press by Ian and Helen Macdonald starting in 1967. They produced 57 books during the 40 years Gleniffer Press existed; the National Library of Scotland holds the number 4 copy of Old King Cole. Curator James Mitchell noted that many miniature books “are works of art or miracles of technology and are highly collectable” and emphasized the “immense skill” necessary to recreate the features of traditionally sized books in miniature formats.
'Teeny Ted' is a tinier tome
Old King Cole is still the smallest children’s book within the Library of Congress, but as of 2007, it no longer held the record for smallest children’s book in the world. Per Guinness World Records, that honor now belongs to the smallest reproduction of a printed book, Teeny Ted From Turnip Town. Written by Malcolm Douglas Chaplin and published by his brother Robert Chaplin, it measures just 70 x 100 micrometers (making it smaller than the head of a pin) and was etched onto a pure crystalline silicon page at Simon Fraser University in Canada at a whopping cost of $15,000. According to Reuters, researchers noted that Teeny Ted From Turnip Town was tinier than two other books cited as the world’s smallest by Guinness World Records: a 2001 copy of the New Testament of the King James Bible and a 2002 production of Anton Chekhov’s Chameleon.
Reading Teeny Ted requires an electron microscope. People obviously find the very existence of Teeny Ted compelling; a 2012 Kickstarter campaign spearheaded by Robert Chaplin asked funders to donate toward making a large print version of the world’s smallest book. The project was funded with extra money to spare.
As of 2012, Guinness World Records reported that the smallest printed book in the world is Flowers of the Four Seasons, published in a run of 250 copies by Toppan Printing Co., Ltd Printing Museum in Bunkyo, Japan. It measures just 0.74 x 0.75 millimeters, or 0.0291 x 0.0295 inches.
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