Miniature books are amongst some of the “hidden” treasures of the Huntington Library. Mr. Huntington did not set out to collect miniature books, but because of his method of purchasing many other libraries en bloc, many miniatures came to the library as part of these other large collections. The original library staff established the standard height for a miniature at 4 inches (10.16 cm.) or less, and that has remained in effect today. By the 1990s, at least 1,000 miniature titles made up part of the Huntington Library collection. These included the Ellesmere Travelling Library (ca. 1600), from the Bridgewater Library, several incunabula examples, a miniature copy of the Psalms in shorthand (1659), Mother Goose’s Melody, printed by Isaiah Thomas in 1794, and several examples of fine binding.
In 1991, the Library was honored to receive a significant gift of over 7,000 miniature books from Monsignor Francis J. Weber. The collection represents a wide example of the book arts over the centuries: incunabula, devotionals and Bibles, Greek and Latin classics, children’s books, dictionaries, atlases, literature and 20th-century limited edition presses. Robert Massmann’s Art Press, Bernhardt Wall, Achille J. St. Onge and Francis J. Weber’s own Junipero Serra Press are represented in their entirety. This collection is known as the Francis J. Weber Miniature Book Collection. The continued generosity of Msgr. Weber and other donors, like Grace E. Broecker who gave works from Barbara Raheb’s Pennyweight Press, have grown the collection to the present day. Additionally, miniature non-book formats are also represented: manuscripts, paintings, photographs, flipbooks, newsletters and ephemera.
Previously access and description to this collection was extremely limited. Some individual titles, mostly those at the Huntington prior to Msgr. Weber’s initial gift, are cataloged in the Huntington Library online catalog. But the majority of the materials were only discoverable on-site and in printed finding lists and a copy of A bibliography of miniature books (1470-1965) by Doris V. Welsh, 1989, which was annotated to list Huntington holdings. We are pleased to now be able to offer digital copies of these finding lists to researchers in the Huntington community and abroad. Digital images of items in the collection are not yet available. Individual items may be read by registered readers in the Ahmanson Reading Room. Any inquiries should be directed to the Rare Books Department.
The finding aids are the work of Lenora Shull, who completed the initial organization and listing of the Huntington’s miniature books in 1996, and Suzanne Oatey, who brought the listings up to date as of 2011.