Online Exhibitions

Small books have a visual impact that is inversely proportional to their size. A small book demands to be treated gently and read slowly: it is a fragile, highly portable, delicately ephemeral artifact.

Miniature books first came to popularity in the late 19th century. These tiny books, often beautifully bound in leather, were small enough to fit into travelers’ clothes or luggage and contained both practical and inspirational texts (dictionaries and religious volumes were popular choices for miniature bookmakers of the period).  Today, the term “miniature book” applies mostly to conventionally bound books that are fewer than three inches high. Contemporary book artists have taken innovative liberties with the original concept of the miniature book, creating small, often highly whimsical books that delight the eye.

This exhibit, curated by Wendy Burk and Sarah Kortemeier, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center from December 9, 2013 to January 29, 2014.

Small Devotional Books
Image of Book of Common Prayer (1764) and Flowers of Piety (1912?)

Book of Common Prayer. 1764. 13 x 7 cm.

Flowers of Piety. Dublin: John Arigho & Sons, [1912?]. 8 x 5 cm.

The Poetry Center’s holdings of small books include two tiny devotional volumes. The 1764 Book of Common Prayer is the oldest work in the Poetry Center’s library collection and is a gift of the estate of Jeremy Ingalls and Mary Dearing Lewis. This copy includes an ownership inscription (that of Catharine Carr of Liverpool) in beautiful copperplate handwriting, along with a tiny drawing of a ship. The Poetry Center copy of the Catholic prayer anthology Flowers of Piety probably dates to 1912 and is a true miniature book. It is a gift of Janet Smith.

Book of Common Prayer Interior Pages
Image of Book of Common Prayer (1764) Endpapers
Image of Book of Common Prayer (1764) Ownership Inscription

Book of Common Prayer. 1764. 13 x 7 cm.

These images show the hand-marbled endpapers and Catharine Carr's original ownership inscription, dating to the eighteenth century. This book may have been the property of a young woman who used it for her private devotions. Click on the image at right for an expanded view of her signature, her city (Liverpool), and her charming drawing of a ship.

Flowers of Piety Interior Pages

Flowers of Piety. Dublin: John Arigho & Sons, [1912?]. 8 x 5 cm.

These images show the title page, which includes publication information.  Prayers for before and after meals are also pictured.

Three Works by Alice Vinson

Vinson, Alice. Mexico. [Tucson: Alice M. Vinson], [2006]. 5 x 5 cm (folded).

Vinson, Alice. Soft. [Tucson: Alice M. Vinson], [2009]. 8 cm (diameter).

Vinson, Alice. ATypical Day. [Tucson]: Alice M. Vinson, [2009]. 5 x 5 cm (folded).

Book artist Alice Vinson specializes in innovative forms: her books are frequently small and highly tactile (for example, Soft, shown at left, enacts its title in its felted cover). There is a quality of discovery as we open an Alice Vinson book: the pages’ connections to one another are frequently tenuous and delicate, joined sometimes via folds of paper, sometimes only with single threads. One frequently gets the sense that these books could flutter away if we open them too quickly. Vinson’s work is mixed media; an accomplished letterpress printer, she blends common and found materials (such as cardstock and bottlecaps) with text.

Alice Vinson: Mexico and ATypical Day

Vinson, Alice. Mexico. [Tucson: Alice M. Vinson], [2006]. 5 x 5 cm (folded).

Vinson, Alice. ATypical Day. [Tucson]: Alice M. Vinson, [2009]. 5 x 5 cm (folded).

Mexico is shown folded at left, and ATypical Day is shown unfolded at right.
 

Dusie Kollektiv

Kathrin Schaeppi, Kai Fierle-Hedrick, and Cara Benson. Spell/ing () Bound. Basel: Ellectrique Press, 2008. 5 x 15 cm.

Elizabeth Bryant. No Subject: If Seal Is Broken. Dusie/Elizabeth Bryant, 2010. 12 x 6 cm.

Dana Teen Lomax. Rx. Dusie/Dana Teen Lomax, 2010. 8 cm (height).

The Dusie Kollektiv is an offshoot of Dusie Press, an experimental poetics venture that publishes an online journal and full-length collections of poetry. The Kollektiv is a community of poets associated with Dusie who produce a yearly collection of small, limited-edition chapbooks. Some of these chapbooks are traditionally bound; others are innovatively bound or not bound at all. A Dusie Kollektiv chap can be as simple as a folded sheet of paper or as whimsical as an empty toilet paper roll. These chapbooks are notable for their DIY spirit and their tendency to incorporate and reimagine found objects.

Spell/ing () Bound, shown here, is a collaborative work by three poets, all of whom have been associated with the Dusie Kollektiv. Dana Teen Lomax’s imaginative book object Rx and Elizabeth Bryant’s playful No Subject: If Seal is Broken were productions of the 2009 Kollektiv.

Dusie Kollektiv: No Subject: If Seal is Broken and Rx

Elizabeth Bryant. No Subject: If Seal Is Broken. Dusie/Elizabeth Bryant, 2010. 12 x 6 cm.

Dana Teen Lomax. Rx. Dusie/Dana Teen Lomax, 2010. 8 cm (height).

Pictured are chapbooks in the form of an empty toilet paper roll and a pill bottle.

Chapbooks can take many forms, and these poets show that imagination need not have any limits. 

John Crombie and Kickshaws

John Crombie. And. [Paris]: Kickshaws, 1998. 8 x 8 cm (folded).

John Crombie. Such is Life: Hard Lines for Silhouettes. [Paris]: Kickshaws, 1991. 8 x 8 cm (folded).

The English word kickshaws, derived from the French phrase quelque chose [“something”], means something small that takes one’s fancy. It is the perfect name for this highly acclaimed private press founded in 1979 in Paris and operated by author/printer/translator John Crombie and artist/printer Sheila Bourne.

Textual permutation is the focus of these two miniature artist books from Kickshaws. In And, Crombie riffs on a phrase from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, while in Such is Life, he unfolds a narrative in ingenious rhyming verse. The comb binding on all four sides of both books allows their pages to be sequenced and read (and re-sequenced and re-read) however the reader chooses.

And, on the left, and Such is LIfe, on the right, are shown unfolded.

 

Two Books by Sean Randolph

Sean Randolph. Quail Don’t Question Their Lack of Nipples. [San Diego: Sean T. Randolph, 2011]. 13 x 10 cm.

Sean Randolph. Telemarketers Envision Vacation Time at the Lake. [San Diego: Sean T. Randolph, 2011]. 12 x 7 cm.

Poet, artist, and musician Sean T. Randolph is from Tucson and currently resides in California. He earned a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona and an M.F.A. in creative writing and book arts from the University of California at San Diego. Randolph has the distinction of being the author and printer of the largest book in the Poetry Center’s library collection (“We think we know we are people,” 66 cm/26 in. high) as well as several of the smallest. Superb construction, arresting woodcut and drypoint images, an indefatigable imagination, and a posthuman perspective are among the hallmarks of his work.

Here, his works Quail Don’t Question Their Lack of Nipples and Telemarketers Envision Vacation Time at the Lake are depicted.

Fact-Simile Editions

Frank Sherlock. Very Different Animals. Cover painting by Nicole Donnelly. Philadelphia: Fact-Simile Editions, [2012]. 9 x 6 cm.

A Sh Anthology: A Collection of Artifacts. [Santa Fe]: Fact-Simile Editions, 2008. 9 x 8 cm.

In Fact-Simile Editions, poets and designers Travis MacDonald and JenMarie Davis have created an exploratory lab for poetics and publishing: one in which investigations are carried out with integrity and intention, and also playfulness. Their publications include a poetry Trading Card Series, issued monthly since 2010, and Mini Maxims, a set of poetry scratch-off tickets with language by Richard Kostelanetz, along with many other graceful and provocative innovations on the book form. One of the works displayed here, Very Different Animals, features a miniature painting on canvas as the front ‘cover’; artist Nicole Donnelly created an original work for each of the one hundred copies issued.

Fact-Simile Editions: Interior Views of A Sh Anthology and Very Different Animals

A Sh Anthology: A Collection of Artifacts. [Santa Fe]: Fact-Simile Editions, 2008. 9 x 8 cm.

Frank Sherlock. Very Different Animals. Cover painting by Nicole Donnelly. Philadelphia: Fact-Simile Editions, [2012]. 9 x 6 cm.

Shown on the left is the interior of A Sh Anthology, featuring poems on rolled scrolls that resemble cigarettes. Shown on the right is the long accordion structure of Very Different Animals. Click on each image for an expanded view.

Leafcutter Designs

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. “The Eagle.” [Berkeley]: Leafcutter Designs/The World's Smallest Post Service, 2009. 2.5 x 3.5 cm.

Matchbox Theater: Issa’s Insects. [Berkeley]: Leafcutter Designs, 2009. 5 x 3.5 cm.

Tactile Poetry #3: Always One Thing at a Time. [Berkeley]: Leafcutter Designs, 2009. 5 cm (diameter).

This creative studio operated in Berkeley, California by Lea Redmond with her brother, Devin, contains multitudes—all scaled to miniature. As The World’s Smallest Post Service, they offer miniature transcriptions of letters for all occasions; the “world’s smallest poem” was handwritten by Lea Redmond on a page the size of a postage stamp. Other projects, like Tactile Poetry and Matchbox Theater, pictured here, encourage users to get their hands directly on language. Working with small forms allows Leafcutter Designs to widely disseminate an artistically complex vision.

Leafcutter Designs: "The Eagle"

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. “The Eagle.” [Berkeley]: Leafcutter Designs/The World's Smallest Post Service, 2009. 2.5 x 3.5 cm.

Depicted are images of "The Eagle," the "world's smallest poem." A penny is shown for size comparison. Click on the image for an expanded view of the miniature writing.

Leafcutter Designs: Tactile Poetry #3

Tactile Poetry #3: Always One Thing at a Time. [Berkeley]: Leafcutter Designs, 2009. 5 cm (diameter).

Tacticle Poetry #3 shown closed and open.
 

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