The portability of miniature bibles and prayer books appealed to travelers and soldiers who were far from home. In some cases, the creation of a miniature religious book was considered a religious act in itself, a ritualized activity that allowed for careful reflection and devotion. The Toth Collection is rich in a variety of religious books from both the Jewish and Christian traditions, and a small selection is highlighted here.
Albert Szenci Molnár (1574-1634) was a Hungarian Calvinist known for publishing the first Hungarian bible, the Vizsoly Bible, and translating John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and the Psalms. His Psalms translation has been reissued hundreds of times since its original publication in 1607, demonstrating the remarkable popularity of the Psalms. This beautifully embossed volume is a facsimile of an edition printed in Amsterdam in 1686, and features one of Lilly Toth’s earliest book plates (#2).
Albert Szenci Molnár, Szent Dávid kiralynak és profetanak szazötven soltari (Budapest: Helikon Kaidó, 1985).
Toth Collection 16.F.10
Seder Birkat ha-mazon
This lovely book is a facsimile edition of an eighteenth-century Hebrew manuscript held at the Hungarian Jewish Museum in Budapest. The velvet case also includes an informative study by art historian Iris Fishof in English and Hungarian. According to Fishof, the manuscript was a wedding gift from Koppel Broda to his bride Gitl Leidersdorf. The manuscript, known as the Grace After Meals, includes illustrations of various ceremonies and rituals including the hand washing ceremony, meal ceremony, and mitzvat niddah (the ritual bath), as well as Biblical scenes such as the hanging of Haman and Judith and (the beheaded) Holofernes.
Iris Fishof, סדר ברכת המזון : לסובע ולא לרזון. Seder Birkat ha-mazon : le-sovaʻ ṿe-lo le-razon (Budapest: Helikon, 1991).
Toth Collection 16.F.11
See also Toth Collection 3.D.1
Maxims and Counsels of St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Italian Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1697-1787) is one of the most widely-read Catholic authors of all time due to his prolific writing: he wrote over one hundred works that have been published in 21,500 editions and translated into 72 languages. This late nineteenth-century volume includes a thought for every day of the year drawn from his writings. The beautifully embossed binding includes a “G&S” logo on the back cover that likely alludes to the publisher, M. H. Gill & Son in Dublin. This copy features the handwritten name of a former owner, Margaret Healy, with the date 1930, when the book would already have been more than fifty years old. The Toth Collection copy is the only known copy of this book in a library in North America.
Anna T. Sadlier (translator), Maxims and Counsels of St. Alphonsus Liguori for Every Day of the Year (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1887).
Toth Collection 13.A.22
Small Rain Upon the Tender Herb
Originally printed around 1830, this devotional has been popular among miniature book collectors from the Victorian era to today. It contains short Bible extracts for each day of the year (including February 29). The title stems from Deuteronomy 32:2: “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” This edition is the 39th impression, which may have been the last edition and was likely printed around 1860. This copy seems to have been given as a gift according to the dated inscription on the flyleaf, which reads: “Katherine Bradwell, with love, J E Mes, Jan. 31, 26.” Lilly Toth kept this book in a small coin purse, as featured in the photographs.
Small Rain Upon the Tender Herb (London: Religious Tract Society, c. 1860).
Toth Collection 14.D.20
The Book of Common Prayer
This Book of Common Prayer, the standard religious book of the Church of England, is printed in the curious ‘finger size’, so-called because it is approximately the length of an index finger. Most authorities state that the earliest printings of this finger-shaped book occurred between 1892 and 1895, but our copy is dated January 1, 1890, indicating an even earlier printing of the book (perhaps as early as 1889). Although it has become a classic for miniature book collectors, there is some debate about whether the Finger Prayer Book qualifies as a miniature because its dimensions (3.5” x 1”) exceed the strict definition used for miniature books, leading it to be considered a ‘macrominiature’.
Church of England, The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments (Henry Frowde: c. 1890).
Toth Collection 3.B.42
Haggáda peszach estéjére
The Haggadah shel Pesach (the Passover narrative, or liturgy of the Passover Seder) is one of the most frequently miniaturized Jewish religious books. This Hungarian Haggadah is by tradition by Károly Pap (1897-1945), a Hungarian writer, and compiled by Ernő Naményi (1888-1957), the founder of the Isaiah Religious Association in Budapest. The volume is beautifully illustrated with woodcuts by Sándor Kolozsvári and features golden covers with a metallic blue title on the front. Although the title page is dated 1936, it appears (based on information from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America) to be a 1986 reproduction. Printed in a limited edition of 100, this copy is numbered 53.
Ernő Naményi, Haggáda peszach estéjére (Budapest: Ézsajás vallásos társaság, likely 1986).
Toth Collection 3.A.33
WWII Jewish Prayer Book
Created in the United States in 1917 just days after the U.S. declared war on Germany, the goal of the National Jewish Welfare Board was to provide religious support to Jewish soldiers during the conflict. The Jewish Publication Society of America offered to publish an abridged prayer book for the use of soldiers when they couldn’t attend services, leading to the first version of this book. It includes Hebrew text, an English translation of Singer’s Prayer Book, and festival services adopted from a similar prayer book prepared by the British armed forces. This copy, published in 1945, appears to have been given as a gift: the front cover has the inscription “Good luck + God’s blessings, Chaplain J.S. Shulman of Boston.” The back cover features a name, perhaps of the recipient: Clarianne Reinfeld Rauwitz.
National Jewish Welfare Board, Prayer Book: Abridged for Jews in the Armed Forces of the United States (New York: National Jewish Welfare Board, 2nd rev. ed., 1945).
Toth Collection 13.A.2
One of the few Spanish books in the Toth Collection, this miniature prayerbook is a devotional intended for children as demonstrated by its subtitle: libro pequeñin para pequeñines (little book for little ones). Originally published in 1947, our copy of Misalín is from the second edition published in 1953. At least five editions were published, demonstrating the popularity of this tiny book specially sized for children’s hands. The book is printed in red and purple, and nearly every other page features an illustration. The well-used blue cover features gilt decoration and an image of a young mother and child that appears to not be original to the book but rather pasted on at a later date.
Luis Ribera, Misalín: Libro Pequeñin Para Pequeñines, 2nd ed. (Barcelona: Editorial Regina, 1953).
Toth Collection 9.B.14