Small Talk Tag: Miniature

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

A Tisket, A Tasket, A 17th C. Sewing Casket

Sewing Casket

This 1/12 scale sewing casket was inspired by a full-size sewing casket at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London that dates to 1671. The original was made by an embroiderer named Martha Edlin—at the age of 11 no less—and was passed down through her family for over 300 years. Cases like this one were often used by wealthy women of the time to store jewelry, sewing implements, and personal belongings, sort of like a 17th century Caboodle (remember those?).

Our miniature version was constructed by William R. Robertson from pearwood and has steel hinges and a mirror on the inside of the lid. Esther Robertson and Annelle Ferguson (both a few years older than 11) meticulously stitched the 26 petit point panels that cover the wooden structure. The miniature contents include a tortoiseshell needle case, a thimble, and various other ivory and mother-of-pearl accoutrements.

Love Chest

HadleyChest

The full-scale version of this Hadley Chest belonged to Hepzibah Dickinson. Carved with her initials in the inner panel, she received it as a wedding gift when she married Jonathan Belding of Northfield, Massachusetts in 1720. A traditional gift for the time, it would have been on every bride’s Target Wedding Registry (kidding!). Hadley chests are heavy, wide-board, mortise-and-tenoned chests painted and elaborately carved with leaves and flat flowers (tulips were the most popular). The chest’s name derives from its place and time period of origin: western Massachusetts between 1680 and 1740.

We doubt our version would store all of Hepzibah’s clothes and linens! The 1/12-inch scale chest by Linda LaRoche and James Hastrich is a replica of the full-scale version in the furniture collection of Historic Deerfield. The miniature Hadley chest was also the result of a happy union: it is the first collaborative piece of the artists. In 2011, LaRoche and Hastrich visited T/m to talk about their labor of love.

You Say Samovar, I Say Wine Fountain

Acquisto Wine Fountain

We originally thought that one of the more than 100 pieces of Pete Acquisto’s miniature silver work in the T/m collection was a samovar. That is until Acquisto came to visit the museum in 2011. He prefers making miniatures in the style of American and English silversmiths from the 16th to the 18th centuries. So, it makes sense that the silver piece we thought was a Russian samovar is actually a wine fountain.

Wine fountains were used to rinse glasses before they were refilled for guests at the dining table. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a similar wine fountain on loan in their collection. The V&A’s silver wine fountain was made by Pierre Platel, a prestigious Huguenot goldsmith, in London, England.

Similar to Platel, Acquisto is also prestigious, holding the International Guild of Miniature Artisans’s (IGMA) highest honor as a Fellow member. IGMA was founded in 1978 to promote fine miniatures as an art form. Fellow membership is awarded to those, like Acquisto, whose work develops into the epitome of excellence. We couldn’t agree with them more!

Cast Me a Samovar

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Like many miniature artists, Pete Acquisto transferred his skills in a full-scale craft (for him, jewelry making) to miniatures. After selecting and researching classic antique silver styles and forms, he uses casting to create each work. He likes to choose increasingly difficult pieces, such as this samovar, or beverage dispenser, in the T/m collection. Samovars were used in Central and Eastern European countries to heat water for tea.

Can’t imagine how someone can make something so intricate, so small? Check out this video from the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures to hear Acquisto talk about his work. Then, see more of Acquisto’s miniature reproductions of antique silver in 1:12 and 1:24 scale online at the Acquisto Gallery of Fine Art.

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