Big and Small, Books for All: An Exhibition Open Now in the Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library

By Grace D. Thu, November 2, 2017

Come join us in the Rare Book Department for our newest exhibition, where you will discover a world of books big, small, round, long, clay, flat, wearable, and more! As you make your way through Big and Small, Books for All, you will discover that looks can be deceiving. You may not be able to tell what is inside a book—or if it is even a book at all—without closer investigation. You can explore the meaning of a book as a physical object, and that meaning’s dependence on form and function.

In the gallery are artifacts as old as 1900 BCE and as recent as 2016, made here in Philadelphia and around the world. Some local representation includes two handwritten Pennsylvania German Tune Booklets from the early 1800s, made in Bucks County. These were used to teach kids church hymns and melodies, and sit in contrast with a beautifully painted medieval choir book from Italy. There are Civil War-era pamphlets from Philadelphia and elaborate Qurans from the Ottoman Empire. Some of the small books, historically created for convenience, thrift, and even the size of the reader (e.g. small books for small children), even contain more text than the largest tomes on display.

Venture into the section of wearable books for interactive fun for all ages. Some modern examples of wearable text will be on display for you and your friends to model, including a medieval-style leather girdle book for your cell phone and some miniature book necklaces.

Make sure you don’t miss The Actual Accordion Book, an artist’s book by California bookmakers Peter and Donna Thomas. This book takes the concept of accordion binding to the extreme—it is made from an actual accordion into traditional accordion binding and the accordion still functions as a musical instrument (kind of).

Visit the Dietrich Gallery in the Rare Book Department on the third floor of Parkway Central Library, Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., now through March 24, 2018, to take in the wonders of books—big and small with something for all!

Miniature books lined up with a penny for scale
Miniature books lined up with a penny for scale
Pennsylvania German Hymn Book from Early 1800s
Pennsylvania German Hymn Book from Early 1800s
A page from a Medieval Italian choir book
A page from a Medieval Italian choir book

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