Over 1,000 miniature books donated to the Jewish Public Library of Montreal – Montreal
Historian Kristen Howard smiles as she flips through a thumb-length English-Yiddish dictionary at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, one of several miniature books on display in May.
“Oh my God, there are so many reasons why they are so special,” she exclaimed.
Over 1,000 volumes were donated by Lily Toth, who arranged for them to be donated to the library upon her death.
Toth, a Holocaust survivor, died in May 2021 at age 96.
Before his death, Eddie Paul, Senior Director of Library and Learning Services, saw the collection for the first time.
“I was blown away by them,” he told Global News. “I had seen miniature books, like one here, one there. But a whole room? I had never seen anything like it.
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Howard, who catalogs the books, notes that this collection is remarkable and is among the smallest books that have ever existed.
“There are Bibles and books with Bible verses that are hundreds of years old,” she noted. “There are a lot of newer books, which collectors call mainstream minis.”
Howard added that there are poetry books, fine literature, children’s literature, cookbooks and even an English-Yiddish dictionary from the early 1900s.
“You can put it in your pocket if you’re walking around and can’t remember the English word (or) the Yiddish word and want to communicate,” she said.
There is also a collection of works by Shakespeare.
However, perhaps the smallest book in the collection is an ultra-micro-miniature book of the Lord’s Prayer, written in seven languages and measuring less than five millimeters.
According to Howard, people buy miniature books these days for artistic reasons, and collectors are rare.
That’s why library staff were surprised to learn of another collector, Toth’s friend, Daisy Gross, also a Holocaust survivor.
“I love books,” she said from a room in her house where she has small bookcases stacked with some of the 1,300 miniature books she says she has. “I read a lot and I like to read. It transports me to a different world each time I read.
Gross doesn’t know what will happen to his collection when it passes.
“It’s not my problem,” she laughed. “It’s to my children.”
She does not rule out donating it to the library.
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