Mounting a Microscopic Book

One of the treasures I was recently asked to prepare for display was a book called The Smallest Book in the World. The library owns two copies printed by German typographer, Josua Reichert. The tiny book contains typography that was uniquely designed specifically for the binding. Each page contains a CMYK colored alphabet letter in an exquisitely designed font. While not currently the smallest book in the world, it is probably the smallest traditionally printed edition!

The Smallest Book in the WorldView under magnification through a stereo microscope.

Before putting a book on display, there are a few considerations to make to safely protect the book from unintended harm. A few questions that immediately pop into a conservator’s head when examining a book include:

  • Is it fragile?
  • Does it need conservation treatment in order to be handled?
  • Do the pages contain light sensitive media?
  • Where will the binding be displayed and at what height?
  • Will the book need cradle supports and supports to adjust the viewing angle?
  • How heavy is the book?
  • Can it be safely displayed as requested?
  • If so, how long is appropriate for display for the type of material?

In this case, how about if the book is 2-3 millimeters big?!

Well, I inquired with Benchmark Catalog (who constructed amazing cradles for our Audubon Birds of America elephant folios) who said pins are often used for holding small specimens in place. Other objects that are not paper related, such as gems or beads, may sometimes be secured for display with wax or archival hot glue.

In this case, tiny pins might have been a great solution. However, I decided to improvise with some materials already on hand in the lab.

The solution: mounting the book on a sliver of bent Vivak.

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Since the book was so light, I trimmed a piece of polyethylene strapping, roughly the thickness of a piece of thread and tied the book to the Vivak with the soft strapping.

This method worked to secure the book in place to prevent it from becoming lost, and held the book slightly open so you could see the font without anything obscuring the view.

The Vivak mount was secured into a piece of mat board and mounted to the display text.

As an added bonus, I took apart a hand magnifier and created an adjustable mount for viewing the book. The mount was constructed out of laminated mat board, PVA, and metal screws and washers.

Smallest book with magnifying glass

The Smallest book with description sheet

The stand for the smallest book

Ashleigh Schieszer (PLCH) — Book and Paper Conservator

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