This is the World’s Smallest Book

Gabe Habash -- July 10th, 2012

It’s a fact that book people are superficial. There are a few books in my library that I love just a bit more because of how they look: my row of new Nabokov editions (which Vintage still hasn’t completed!), the shimmery Fitzgerald editions designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith (that have perforated bookmarks on the reverse flap that, of course, I’ll never, ever rip out), and every single Melville House novella.

I’m very gentle with my books, and just a little bit more gentle with the books in the aesthetically-pleasing camp. But there’s no more practical beautiful book I own than the two minibook poetry collections I have: The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright and Silence in the Snowy Fields by Robert Bly.

The books, published by Wesleyan University Press, are so small you can put them in your back pocket, your shirt pocket, or maybe even that little vestigial pocket inside the pocket of your jeans. They’re so small that I’ve used them as temporary bookmarks for other, regular-size books.

Here are some stats. For comparison, I’ll use hardcover leviathan 1Q84:

Dimensions

1Q84: 6.4 x 1.8. 9.4 inches

The Branch Will Not Break: 2.2 x 0.4 x 3 inches

Weight

1Q84: 2.8 pounds

The Branch Will Not Break: 1.4 ounces

Wright’s collection (which is better than Bly’s, but let’s not get into that) was published as a special 50th anniversary edition. I wouldn’t recommend it for people who have any sort of eye problem, but for my two years in grad school I kept it in the front pocket of my backpack and took it out to read on subway rides a few dozen times. There’s something comforting in waiting for the L train and realizing that the best poem of all time was on my person. And because the tiny Wright book has probably traveled (literally) with me more than any other book, it’s one of the most beat-up books I own, and also one of my favorites.

Now, if we could only get Wesleyan to do some more of these…

5 thoughts on “This is the World’s Smallest Book

  1. Mark Gustafson

    I, for one, think that Bly’s book is better than Wright’s–but, as you say, let’s not get into that. The main reason that Wright’s is so darn good, and a radical departure from his first two books, is that Bly’s influence is all over it (as Wright himself readily acknowledged).

  2. Taylorspeak

    Why would you say that it’s a fact book people are superficial? I have several miniature books and tons of others but I don’t consider my love of books as making me superficial. I can tell you for sure that I don’t like sweeping generalizations.

  3. Carole Blake

    These are not the world’s smallest books. I have 100s of real books in my dolls house library. Some are just half an inch high, some bound in leather. All can be read itch a magnifying glass.

  4. Stacy Whitman

    I have a Golden Book given to me by my grandmother that is roughly that size (possibly smaller, but I don’t have it here in front of me). They were called Tiny Golden Books, and according to this, they were 3 inches tall and 2 inches wide (though I found this through a Google search and couldn’t find anything that showed the scale of them). Mine doesn’t look like that, though–it is square and has the same binding as the big Golden Books did in the 70s, that gold binding. Aha, here’s a good example.

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