Miniature Bible the Size of a Coin Found in UK Library Storage
A tiny Bible that can only be read with a magnifying glass is among thousands of mysterious treasures rediscovered at a Leeds library during the lockdown.
The 1911 miniature replica of the 16th century ‘chained Bible’ is about the size of a £2 coin but contains both the Old and New testaments printed on 876 gossamer-thin Indian paper pages.
Librarians said the origins of the bible, which measures 1.9in (50mm) by 1.3in (35mm), are a mystery.
Rhian Isaac, special collections senior librarian at Leeds City Library, said the book was billed as the smallest Bible in the world when it was printed, although this was almost certainly not true.
Asked where it came from, she said: ‘We don’t know. It’s a bit of a mystery, really. A lot of items in our collection were either bought over time or might have been donated.
‘We’ve done quite a lot of work during the lockdown on cataloging our rare books and special collections.
‘Before that, hardly any of these books had ever been seen by anyone or ever been found, really.’
Ms. Isaac said the Bible’s origins were a mystery because it only resurfaced when library staff decided to do a comprehensive survey during the Covid lockdowns.
More than 3,000 new items have been cataloged, including some dating back to the 15th century.
Among them was a copy of Nouveau Cours de Mathematique, by Bernard Forest de Bélidor (1725) and Oliver Twiss — a rip-off version of Oliver Twist which was printed by the creators of the Penny Dreadfuls.
The great Victorian novelist was so angered by the plagiarised works that he went to court to have them banned. But the judge in the case ruled that ‘no person who had ever seen the original could imagine the other to be anything else than a counterfeit’.
Also among the discoveries was a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, dating to 1497. Oddly, however, the Leeds City Library copy has the outline of a key pressed into it, suggesting one was hidden inside the book.
Librarians are now hoping the tiny Bible and other items found will be cherished by all visitors and not just academics and researchers.
‘It’s a massive thing for us,’ Ms. Isaac said. ‘Now people can come in and find them and look at them.’
She said anyone can come in and ask to see the tiny Bible.
‘We ask people to get in touch and we can bring them out for people to see. You don’t have to be an academic or a researcher.
‘If you’re just interested, we can get them out for you and you can come and read them in our beautiful Grade II-listed building, which is a wonderful place to come and do some studying,’ Ms. Isaac added.
‘We would rather these books were used and read. That’s what they were made for and that’s what we encourage people to come in and do, instead of locking them away.
‘They belong to everyone in Leeds. We’re just the guardians of them, really.’
Ms. Isaac said a visitor may even come in with a clue as to where the Bible came from.