Tiny Books About Cats


Our Daily Correspondent


From Adlai Stevenson’s Veto 1949, illustrated by Alice Garman.

Given the passionate nature of bibliophiles, the fanatical devotion of cat fanciers, and the obsessive tendencies of miniaturists, it only stands to reason that when the three join forces, it is to form the most powerful coalition in the world. (Or the least powerful, I suppose, depending on how one quantifies these things.) In any event, what you end up with are miniature cat-themed books, a prominent subgenre.

I fell down this particular rabbit hole when I ran across the miniature bookstore on Berlin’s Torellstraße. It’s affiliated with Freundeskreis Miniaturbuch Berlin, one of many associations of miniature-book collectors; there are miniature-book societies around the world. (The best museum for miniature books is said to be in Baku.)

As Louis Wolfgang Bondy, an enthusiast, wrote in his 1988 book Miniaturbücher von den Anfängen bis Heute (Miniature Books from the Beginnings Until Today),

In this small world, books occupy a place of honor. They join to the great skill lavished on their creation the crowning glory of man’s spirit enshrined in their text. Small wonder then that the ranks of collectors who specialize in them and who cherish, nay adore, them is forever growing … An increasing number of people are convinced of the dictum that small is beautiful.

The workmanship displayed on these tiny objects is indeed remarkable. And there’s still a cottage industries of publishers putting out small runs of limited-edition miniature books. Historically, the genre has involved lots of religious tracts, some erotica, and various improving volumes. But cat literature forms a not-inconsiderable part of the canon. Oftentimes, out of respect for the volumes’ scale, the works printed are excerpts or essays rather than full-length books. The Bromer Booksellers site lists Mark Twain’s Jim Wolf and the Cats, a verse called “Old Pussy, Grave Pussy,” and an illustrated edition of a 1949 Adlai Stevenson veto of a bill by the Illinois State Legislature

that would have required cats to be leashed. “I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor’s yard … is a public nuisance,” Stevenson observes. “It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming.” 

Perhaps most intriguing of all is a tract called The Cat as a Musical Instrument, or, The Propagation of the Musical Art Assisted & Advanced by the Feline World, penned by a wag styling himself “Hugh Morist.” The catalog describes this as “an amusing defense of the back-fence serenade. Elegantly printed and fine in blue boards with printed label.”

Needless to say, the body of dog literature is considerably smaller—no pun intended.