Small Talk / Exhibits

Magnifying Glasses Needed

ScotlandMiniatureBookExhibit

Scotland is famous for kilts, bagpipes, and the Loch Ness monster, but did you know it has been an important center of miniature book production since the 19th century? Neither did we!

In the 1870s, Glasgow publishing firm David Bryce & Son found that poorly selling books flew off—or perhaps blew off—the shelf when reformatted in miniature. The National Library of Scotland is exhibiting their collection of Bryce’s tiny tomes and other minuscule masterpieces, which they define as less than 3 inches in height and width. Bryce sold his books with a locket and magnifying glass for ease and accessibility. Yes, that’s right; people actually read the tiny volumes!

The library’s collection includes the first miniature book on record at 2 inches high and 1.8 inches wide. The library used to have the world record holder for smallest book: an edition of Old King Cole, a children’s nursery rhyme at 0.035 inches. Tokoyo-based Toppan Printing holds the current record with a needle-eye sized 22 page-illustrated guide to Japanese flora created using nanotechnology printing techniques. We think that’ll require a microscope!

Photo: National Library of Scotland

And The Winner Is…

2013 National Toy Hall of Fame Finalists

The National Toy Hall of Fame announced the newest honorees on Thursday. Selected from a field of 12 finalists, the lucky winners are… drum roll please… chess and the rubber duck!

Chess is one of the world’s oldest games, originating from an Indian war game where pieces represented different types of fighting men. By 1475, the English were playing the version we know today with bishops, knights, and pawns. Some chess players don’t mess around; they can be found in the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri.

The first rubber duck was different too… it didn’t float! Originally designed as a chew toy, the rubber duck floated its way into pop culture history when Sesame Street’s Ernie first sang “Rubber Duckie” to his favorite tub toy in 1970. Ernie was right, we still think rubber duck is the one for bubble baths!

Photo: Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.

Toys Go To War

German Toy Soldiers Set

True or False? World events, including war, have influenced toys. True! You may have even played with some of these toys, from green army men, first made in 1938 by Bergen Toy & Novelty Company to Hasbro’s 1964 action figure G.I. JoeWar Games, a new exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood explores the role of warfare in children’s play.

Toys have served as propaganda tools, entrenching children with militarism and nationalism. For example, did you know that G.I. Joe, “America’s moveable fighting man,” was repackaged in the United Kingdom as Action Man and was so popular that it won UK Toy of the Year in 1966 and UK Toy of the Decade in 1980? Well, as G.I. Joe says in one of his famous public service announcements, “knowing is half the battle!” If you don’t have a trip planned to London before March 9, 2014, visit the exhibit’s website to join the debate, explore the toys, and read visitor comments.

Photo: O.M. Hausser German Toy Soldier Set, c. 1936 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Toy World’s Highest Honor

2013 National Toy Hall of Fame Finalists

It’s the EGOT of the toy world! On October 1, the National Toy Hall of Fame announced the 2013 finalists for induction into the hall: bubbles, chess, Clue, Fisher-Price Little People, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, My Little Pony, Nerf toys, Pac-Man, rubber duck, scooter, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Only two lucky toys will join the prestigious list of hall of famers.

Although a national selection committee will choose the 2013 inductees, you can cast your vote in the public poll. So far, the 1980s toys are the front-runners… gnarly dude!

Don’t see your favorite toy? Then submit a nomination for 2014. But first, make sure your nominee passes the hall’s rigorous set of criteria: the toy must be widely recognized and respected; it must have longevity, having been enjoyed by generations; it must foster learning, creativity, or discovery; and it has to be innovative, having profoundly changed play or toy design. Does your favorite toy have what it takes?

Photo: Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.

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