For years, it’s been tucked away inside a jeweled pillbox in her desk drawer and taken out only when nostalgia hits. But Tina Bentrup of UT Libraries’ Interlibrary Services department has decided to share her unusual and diminutive treasure with the rest of us.
Bentrup recently donated a miniature book to the Special Collections Library, thereby adding to the library’s collection of about 20 tiny volumes. The Addresses of Abraham Lincoln, published by the former Kingsport Press in 1929, is shorter than a paperclip at just under two centimeters high and would appear to belong in a tiny dollhouse. But the book is no toy: at 139 pages, the volume includes four of Abraham Lincoln’s most important speeches. His “Gettysburg Address,” “Second Inaugural Speech,” “A House Divided,” and “Equality in a Republic” are all reproduced with painstaking care and are completely unabridged.
In fact, apart from its tiny size, the miniature volume is difficult to distinguish from any other hardback book from its era. The book has a title page, a dedication, page numbers, and even an index. Covered with what appears to be red leather, the book is bound in signatures, the traditional method of thread and cloth. Though seemingly delicate, the book is in good condition and shows relatively little wear for its 79 years.
Miniature books were often created to show off the skills of a press and its workers. According to Nick Wyman, research services specialist at UT’s Special Collections Library, very few copies were made of each book, making miniature books ideal finds for collectors.
The book was given to Bentrup’s father, Dr. George Lake Inge, by an employee of the Kingsport Press in Kingsport, Tennessee. While Bentrup is unsure of the exact details of the exchange, she has fond memories of trying to read the tiny print as a child. “I think I made it all the way through the Gettysburg Address, but after that I gave up,” she recalled.
Bentrup has owned the book all of her adult life. When she read an article in the Knoxville News Sentinel about the Special Collections Library’s tiny book collection, she knew she wanted to donate her book. “I knew that was where it belonged,” Bentrup said.
Wyman was greatly impressed with Bentrup’s donation. “It’s just wonderful. This will be the smallest miniature book we’ll have here at the library,” he said.
For more information about miniature books or other unique collections, contact the Special Collections Library at 974-4480.