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Miniature Bible unearthed in Leeds library

13 May 2022


A TINY Bible, which was claimed to be the world’s smallest when it was printed more than a century ago, has been unearthed in a city library’s archives.

Printed in 1911, it measures just 50mm (1.9 inches) by 35mm (1.3 inches). Its 876 pages contain both Testaments, but the type is so small that it can be read only with a magnifying glass.

It was found by library staff in Leeds who conducted a stock survey during lockdown which resulted in 3000 items being catalogued — some dating from the 15th century. The city’s special collections senior librarian, Rhian Isaac, said that they had no idea where it had come from.

“It’s a bit of a mystery,” she said. “A lot of items were either bought over time or they might have been donated. We’ve done quite a lot of work during lockdown, cataloguing our rare books and special collections. Before that, hardly any of these books had ever been seen by anyone or ever been found.

“It’s a massive thing for us. Now, people can come in and look at them. 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.

“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.”

The volume is attached by a chain to its own miniature wooden pulpit, and was possibly created as a novelty replica of Bibles installed in churches by Thomas Cromwell. In 1538, he directed clergy to provide: “One book of the Bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it.”

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