The Smallest Printed Book in the World.
THOMPSON, Eben Francis. The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyam. Worcester, Mass., USA: Privately Printed by the Commonwealth Press, 1932.
Miniature book, 8 x 6mm approx, red morocco binding, housed in a pyrex case, pp. 28; together with a slightly larger prototype version (3.5 x 4.5cm), 4to, red morocco with gilt lettering to upper cover; pp. [ii], vi, 27, [i], in webbed glassine wrapper; and full-size enlarged facsimile version (13 x 15cm) in like binding and wrapper; also with A Thimbleful of Books, written by Thompson, 8vo., in red pebbled roan, titled in gilt to upper cover, also in glassine; pp. [ii], 36, [ii]; original folding thread counter magnifying glass in ormoulu gilt; proof sheet in textured card wraps, pp.[viii]; postcard from the Worcester Art Museum in which there is a permanent exhibition of the Smallest Printed Book in the World; The Real Omar Khayyam, being a review of the book by Henry Harmon Chamberlain, 4to., in red card wraps, pp. [ii], 20, [ii]; Kind Words about the smallest printed book in the world, also in pink card wraps, pp. [xxxii]; glassine bag with singular printed proof sheet; and three ephemeral photocopies later added; the first two being previous catalogue records, the last being a photocopy of the larger text, with annotations; all housed in a custom-made clamshell case, half pebbled red morocco over marbelled boards, ruled in gilt, with compartments in gold card; some rubbing to the case, particularly extremities, some glassines with a little loss and chips, proof sheet with some marks to upper cover, and some light spots to the books themselves. This remains a remarkably complete set, and as such is a rare find.
Limited to 150 copies.
At the time the smallest book ever printed, The Rose Garden of Omar Khayyam was a true innovation of its time. Twenty-four of these books fit into a standard-sized thimble, though the text remains completely legible with the aid of the included magnifying glass. Upon completion in 1932, a copy was sent to Queen Mary, to adorn the dolls house at Windsor. Her copy had a special cipher in gilt to the upper cover.
Thompson was the founder of the Omar Khayyam Club of America, and was its president from 1919 to 1921. His 1906 translation of The Quatrains of Omar Khayyam of Nishapur from the original Persian took him twenty years to finish, and was a precursor to this edition. The text is a selection of 46 stanzas (quatrains) of the Rubaiyat, which have been compressed into tetrameters, as opposed to the pentameters which are normally associated with the text as translated, typically, by Fitzgerald. This format was, in Thompson’s opinion, more suited to the lilt of the original Persian. Of these lines, only 18 had been originally utilised by Fitzgerald.
Though the record for the smallest book ever printed has now been eclipsed by a title which is 70 micrometres by 100 micrometres, this still remains the smallest readable book on the market. The new contender takes an electron microscope to read, making our copy a far more accessible, and attractive, option.