“What’s your smallest book in the library?” is a frequently asked question during stack tours.
Our smallest book is probably the ‘Ellen Terry’ Shakespeare, edited by J. Talfourd Blair and published by David Bryce and Son in Glasgow in 1904. It measures 50 mm by 35 mm. As mentioned in a previous blog, the Scottish publisher Bryce specialised in small text editions and produced a diminutive Bible and Koran.
The 39 volumes are shelved on a purpose built revolving wooden book case. Ms A. H. Taylor donated nineteen volumes and the book case in 1957; in 2002 the set was completed by an anonymous donor.
The edition is dedicated to the actress Ellen Terry, a renowned Shakespeare actor and one of the most famous actresses of her time. In 1904 she went on a provincial tour appearing in Shakespeare plays and the publication of this miniature set might have been intended to coincide with her tour.
Some of the volumes are in a very fine condition, whilst others show signs of wear and tear. Perhaps they were handled, possibly by a child, and this set is the perfect accessory for a library in a dollhouse.