CTS logo
Hockliffe logo
Fables and Fairy Tales Stories Before 1850 Stories After 1850 Periodicals and Annuals Religious Books, Bibles, Hymns, etc Books of Instruction Nursery Rhymes and Alphabets
Movable and Toy Books; Myths and Heroes Poetry, Verse and Rhymes; Games Games and Pastimes Natural Science Geography and Travel History and Biography Mathematics
Previous Next

Stories Before 1850. 0198A: Anon., Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books: A Description of England and Wales

Author: Anon.
Title: Pocket library of Lilliputian folio books: A Description of England and Wales
Cat. Number: 0198 A
Date: 1802
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: R. Snagg, 13, Brunswick-street, Surry-road
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., 122pp.
Size: 3.5 x 2.5 cm (in a 10 x 7.5 cm case for the 12-volume set)
Illustrations: None
Note: Part of a 12 volume set, contained wihin a custom-made case. One of the volumes is missing

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0198A

Introductory essay

The Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books consists of eleven tiny volumes, each less that two inches high and about an inch wide. All of them fit snugly, in two layers, into a neat box designed to resemble a larger book. One of the constituent volumes has been lost from the Hockliffe Collection set, but the case remains (although no image of it is currently available on this website).

The tradition of this kind of tiny book might have originated from the miniature Bibles and other religious texts which were published in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. From the middle of the eighteenth century these began to diversify, and the link between small books and young readers began to be forged. Probably the most famous early example of non-religious miniature books for children were the ironically-titled Gigantick Histories of Thomas Boreman which appeared from 1740 to 1743 (see Stone 1933). By the beginning of the nineteenth century, such books were becoming reasonably common, as Brian Alderson has shown in his 'Preliminary Check-list of Miniature Libraries in Boxes 1800-1820' (Alderson 1983: 3-46). Alderson has identified 14 such sets, each in their own box, published between 1800 and 1806. Others followed, but neither demand nor supply ever again matched these very first years of the nineteenth century. What was responsible for this craze for miniature books in boxes is impossible to say. Alderson has suggested that the craze came about because of developments in both the box-making and the decorative-paper-making industries. The idea of 'education through play', Alderson notes, might also have contributed to the popularity of books which were designed to instruct (for most of these sets of books contained steadfastly didactic material), but simultaneously to amuse and delight simply by virtue of their physical appearance (Alderson 1983: 3). Yet the idea of education through play was hardly new in the first years of the nineteenth century, and nor was it confined to that decade alone. It seems most probable, then, that John Marshall had a hit with his Juvenile, or Child's Library and Infant's Library - for these, in 1800, were the first to appear - and that other publishers quickly leapt onto the bandwagon.

One such rival publisher was the obscure R. Snagg. His set of twelve books, contained in the Hockliffe Collection, is unusual for several reasons. First, the tiny dimensions of the books set them apart from the other miniature books. They are the smallest of any of the books detailed by Alderson, except for those in a Doll's Casket of c.1819. Second, the set is unique in that it is stored in a box made to appear like a larger book. It was far more usual for the box to take the form of a small book-case. Third, Snagg apparently pirated and abridged existing texts for his books, rather than commissioning new ones. Thus, classics like Gulliver's Travels or Perrault's fairy tales appear in his set, rather than deliberately small-scale works like An Abridgement of Geography or 'The Alphabet' which fill the others. So determined was Snagg to cram the whole of existing texts into his miniature volumes that he adopted a system of abbreviation which is detailed on the opening pages of each volume (e.g. 0095A: p.2-4). In his prefatory address he boasted that his abbreviation system meant that his books 'may have more reading than such diminutive books would be thought to contain' - a dig, perhaps, at his competitors (e.g. 0095A: p.5-6). On the other hand, Snagg refers to his books as 'LITERARY TOYS', and it seems that however interesting their subject matter, they were still designed to be valued primarily for their looks rather than their contents, and as a curiosity as much as a repository of useful knowledge or engaging entertainment.

From another copy of part of Snagg's Pocket Library, Alderson has deduced that the work was originally published as a set of just six volumes in 1801 (Alderson 1983: 23-24). A box, just big enough to contain these six volumes, still exists (but not in the Hockliffe Collection). These first six volumes, which continue to bear the date 1801 in the Hockliffe copies, are word-for-word reproductions of standard children's classics, namely:

1. Robinson Crusoe

2. Gulliver's Travels, containing His Voyages to Lilliput, etc.: 0198C

3. The Famous History of Valentine and Orson: 0198E

4. The History of the Seven Champions of Christendom: 0198H

5. A Collection of Tales of the Fairies: 0198I

6. The Fables of Pilpay, An ancient Indian Philosopher: 0198G

Snagg, it seems, was encouraged by the reception of this set, and produced another in the following year, issuing the dozen titles together in a new, larger box. This is what is to be found in the Hockliffe Collection, save that one volume from the first set - Robinson Crusoe - has been lost. The second set of volumes were more sober in character - either topographical, historical or religious books, although this is not to say that they had no entertainment value. They were:

7. The History of England: From Julius Cæsar to George III: 0198D

8. A Description of England and Wales: 0198A

9. A Description of the City of London: 0198J

10. A Description of the City of Westminster: 0198F

11. The History of the Holy Bible [i.e. the Old Testament]: 0198B

12. The History of the New Testament: 0198K

Snagg's edition of Gulliver's Travels covers only the trips to Lilliput and Brobdingnag. His Tales of the Fairies contains seven out of the nine fairy tales of Charles Perrault, published in 1697 as Histoires, ou contes du temps passé, avec des Moralitez (first translated into English by Robert Samber in 1729). Omitted are 'The Discreet Princess', one of the least popular of the tales, and, oddly, 'The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood'.

For more information on the development of miniature books, see Louis W. Bondy, Miniature Books. Their History from the beginnings to the present day, Brian Alderson, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', or the on-line annotated catalogue from an exhibition held at the University of Iowa in 1996:'Tiny Tomes: The Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books' (http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/exhibit/tinytomes/index.html).

Stone, Wilbur Macey, The gigantick histories of Thomas Boreman, Southworth Press, Maine?, 1933

Alderson, Brian, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', The Library, 3rd ser., 6 (1983), 3-46

Alderson, Brian, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', The Library, 3rd ser., 6 (1983), 3-46

Alderson, Brian, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', The Library, 3rd ser., 6 (1983), 3-46

Bondy, Louis W., Miniature Books. Their History from the beginnings to the present day, London: Sheppard Press, 1981

Alderson, Brian, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', The Library, 3rd ser., 6 (1983), 3-46