Tiny Treat

As Jobi’s post last week pointed out, one of the rewards of shelf reading is discovering items in the collection which one has never noticed before. As Patrick and I were working our way through British Literature we ran across a petite pleasure: two copies of The Comic Bijou.

Comic Bijou. London: Rock Brothers & Paine. EL3 .A1bi copies 1 and 2

As you can tell from this picture, these volumes are truly tiny–only about an inch square. In fact, when Patrick peeked into the envelope containing the first copy, he thought it might be empty because he didn’t immediately see a book. It was only on a second glance that he saw the minuscule volume tucked inside.

Even though they are small,  the books are rather fetching, with gold-embossed covers and gilt edges (which hopefully you can make out in the photo below).

Comic Bijou. London: Rock Brothers & Paine. EL3 .A1bi

The interior of the book consists of comic wood-engraved illustrations. I can sympathize with this one, entitled “Opening of the Exhibition.”

Comic Bijou. London: Rock Brothers & Paine. EL3 .A1bi

We do try to plan a bit better here at the Rosenbach, but I can remember a few notable exhibits where we were hurriedly trying to finish up minutes before opening to the public (usually because of mis-behaving technology).

Comic Bijou was published in London by Rock Brothers & Payne and seems to date from around 1850, although there is no date on the title page and none in our catalog record. It looks like Rock & Payne produced a whole series of miniature Bijou books around this time, such as this 1852 Bijou Almanac,  a Bijou Bible, and volumes of travel illustrations, such as Bijou Picture of Paris and a volume of Illustrations of the United States. None of these are represented in the Rosenbach collection, but I’ll have to keep my eyes (and maybe a magnifying glass) open for them elsewhere!

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog