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Seiho Junishi Jo (An Album of the Twelve Zodiacal Signs by Seiho). Kyoto, Geisodo Yamada Naosaburo, 1911.
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(Boston, Massachusetts, January 25, 2012): Anne C. and David J. Bromer have made an important gift to endow the Anne C. and David J. Bromer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Boston Athenaeum, the Athenæum announced today.The Bromers are the proprietors of Bromer Booksellers, specializing in aesthetically significant rare books, located in Copley Square since 1980. They are noted authorities in such specialties as private press books, “fore-edge” painting, one-of-a-kind fine binding designs, early children’s books, and miniature books. Anne studied Library Science at Simmons College, and David holds three degrees, including a Ph.D., from MIT. They are longtime supporters of the Boston Athenæum.“The Bromers are among the lucky few who found a way to turn a great passion into a successful business as well as an avocation and a scholarly pursuit,” commented Paula D. Matthews, the Boston Athenæum’s Stanford Calderwood Director and Librarian. “Their love, nurtured since their student days, has included a wide-eyed appreciation of the joys of books as physical objects and a deep empathy for the sensuous beauty books possess at their finest.”
L to R: David J. Bromer, Anne C. Bromer, Stanley Ellis Cushing. Photo: Megan Manton.The first Bromer Curator will be Stanley Ellis Cushing, current curator of rare books and manuscripts and a staff member of the Boston Athenæum since 1971. Cushing is the organizer of the exhibition, “Artists’ Books, Books by Artists,” which is on view in the Athenæum’s Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery until March.“The Bromers’ gift and the appointment represent a true confluence of sympathies,” Matthews continued, “for the book as a magical thing with inks, textures, bindings, materials, and physical dimensions as well as words and pictures.“Historically, most libraries have been the property of something larger: a private collector, a book-loving monarch, a government, school, or other larger institution, and subject to changes in their budgets, priorities, and tastes. Gifts like the Bromers help keep the Boston Athenæum independent, able to preserve its values and collections for generation after generation.”“We are so honored to endow the Curatorship of Rare Books and Manuscripts, now and evermore,” said the Bromers. “That Stanley should be the present curator gives us even more pleasure. Books are more than just information. We feel the future of rare books, of books as beautiful objects, is with book-loving institutions like the Boston Athenæum. That future is in good hands with Stanley and Paula.”“Our gift is a perfect fit with our interests in rare books and in the values and focus of the Boston Athenæum. It is also a way to honor the legacy of a half century of conducting a rare book business in our home city of Boston.”Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenæum is Boston’s first cultural institution. Information about membership, programs, and hours can be found at www.bostonathenaeum.org.
Louis Bondy wrote of David Bryce: “His contribution to the totality of miniature books has been of the greatest significance and we do not hesitate to describe the Glasgow publisher as a giant towering over the world of dwarf books” (p. 116). Bryce published miniature books on a variety of topics, including language, religion, literature, the sciences, and more. When one thinks of the publishing house of David Bryce and Son, what comes to mind is usually his “Smallest Bible in the World,” set of Shakespeare, Koran, or even his Scotland-themed books, such as the Burns’ Family Bible. What is not so well known and does not fit so easily with Bryce’s other miniature publications is the children’s book My Tiny Alphabet Book (1 1/8 by 7/8 inches), issued around 1900.
Our thanks to Jim Brogan for permission to post this article here. The Microbibliophile is an excellent journal that publishes news about miniature books, miniature book publishers, and the book arts and related events. It is available from Mr. Brogan for a yearly subscription of $36 (in the US) or $7 for a single issue.As the title suggests, it is an ABC book containing two separate alphabets, “Tiny Alphabet of Animals” and “Tiny Alphabet of Birds,” each with its own title page and followed by a page of numeric figures and arithmetic problems. Both alphabets are delightfully illustrated with pictures of representative animals and birds, 52 in total, and printed using color lithography. Bromer and Edison note that this volume “held the distinction of being the smallest book printed in color to that time” (p. 131).Unlike many Bryce publications, which were usually reduced versions of larger works, Spielmann indicates that My Tiny Alphabet Book was created specifically to appear in miniature format (no. 489). Bryce advertised the book as part of the Mite Series, and it was listed in the contents of Bryce’s Bijou Bookcase, along with other volumes from the Mite, Thumb, and Pearl Series. There is some variation of bindings, but the one described most often is gilt-stamped red leather, often with an advertisement for Mellins Food on the lower cover. Some copies have a boy and a girl holding ABC books within the title “My Tiny Alphabet Book” on the front cover, while Bondy notes that others “show a horse and a bird in flight on both covers” (p. 72). The version examined for this article is bound in black leather with only the boy and the girl stamped in gilt on the front cover.Bryce published additional books for children, but no others that fit the standard definition of a miniature book, that is, measuring less than three inches. In addition to a collection of folklore aimed at children that was just over three inches tall, Bryce issued religious and moral tracts and instructional texts, all between 24mo and octavo in size. It is unclear how popular My Tiny Alphabet Book was with children; however, if there is one thing small people seem to consistently like, it is other small things, including books. Even when they are not able to read them, or when they are just starting to learn their ABCs, children like to hold tiny books in their hands, look at the text, and especially look at the illustrations. Perhaps it is a sense of shared affinity, as if the miniature books were made just for them, or the novelty of interacting with something on their scale in a world sized to adults, but children seem to connect with miniature books on a level that they might not experience with full-sized books. For this reason, it makes sense that publishers like David Bryce and Son would produce miniature, or near-miniature, books especially for children, and that those books would be read and well-loved by the young minds for which they were produced.MyTiny Alphabet Book. Glasgow, David Bryce and Son, (c. 1900). Top edge shows one spot of wear, else a fine copy. A.e.g. $650References: Bromer, Anne and Julian Edison. Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (New York: Abrams, 2007), 131; Bondy, Louis W. Miniature Books: Their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day (London: Sheppard Press, 1981), 72, 116; Spielmann, Percy Edwin. Catalogue of the Library of Miniature Books (London: Edward Arnold, 1961), 489; David Bryce catalogue, c. 1912.