The photographs in Alex Vadukul's New York Times story about Neale Albert, a 75-year-old collector of miniature books, are as squee-inducing as anything you might see on Cute Overload—except, of course, the subjects pictured are not piglets or puppies but books. Teeny-tiny adorable books. Albert has more than 4,000 of them, and "may be the most serious collector living in New York," writes Vadukul. The books are matchbox-sized, or "smaller than a tab of chewing gum." Many are too small to read, with illegibly tiny print. But they are all "properly printed and bound." Some are worth a lot of money. They are all books. (Albert collects other tiny things, too, but it would seem that the books are his favorites.)
On the website of the Miniature Book Society, a club for which Albert has served two terms as president, miniature books are defined as such in the U.S.: "no more than three inches in height, width, or thickness. Some aficionados collect slightly larger books while others specialize in even smaller sizes. Outside of the United States, books up to four inches are often considered miniature." That site offers mini-books for purchase, and began to publish its own fare in 2001, all the better for its 400 members. They also offer tiny solid pewter bookends, and normal-sized book totes (in limited supply!).
Albert's personal collection, which he stores partly in his Upper East Side apartment building, includes a miniature Twelfth Night, "an atlas of the British Empire contained a goatskin-bound globe the size of a softball, and a book purporting to contain Voltaire writings" with "a key embedded in its cover to open the little book of erotica hidden inside," Vadukul writes. "One miniature book was so small that its creator is said to have gone blind after setting its type." Albert has another special prize he keeps hidden behind a secret panel on a bookshelf in his Upper East Side apartment: "The book, an edition of a Chekhov short story, is recognized by Guinness World Records as the smallest ever printed, though the claim may be challenged by a book recently created in Japan." It is called The Chameleon. It's "less than a millimeter across" (see it in the Times) and he has never read it, but that's hardly the point.
Note: The image above is not from Albert's collection.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.