A tiny Bible that requires a magnifying glass to be read and was designed to be worn in a locket close to your heart has been sent to Wellington for careful repair.
The “treasured” item belongs to Whanganui woman Lyn, who decided “against her better judgement” to relinquish the precious miniature so it can be rebound and repaired by a famed book repair specialist.
Lyn, whose family have lived in Whanganui for generations and who didn’t wish to reveal her last name, told the Herald the miniature Bible belonged to her great-grandmother’s brother, Thomas Richards.
“He was a bookbinder back in the late 1800s, early 1900s with a company called A. D. Willis here in Whanganui.
“He died in 1903 at the age of 26 as a result of an accident on a farm and the little Bible went into the possession of my grandmother, Jessie.”
Once Jessie died, the Bible was handed down through the generations until it came to the hands of Lyn and her sister Yvonne.
“It’s now very, very old and very delicate.”
At just 1 inch wide and an inch and a half long, the Bible is extremely small and is part of a historical set called “Bryce’s Midget Library”, made by David Bryce of Glasgow.
The collection is comprised of over 40 miniature titles including a copy of the Quran, dictionaries and of course - bibles.
The miniature copy of the New Testament, which Lyn owns, is the smallest in the series and was published in the tens of thousands, according to the National Library of Scotland.
It was first published in 1896 and comes with a case with a locket attachment so it could be worn close to the heart of the owner.
Many were presented to serving British soldiers, and there have been tales of copies of the Bible saving lives after they were struck by bullets which rebounded from the case of the wearer.
Lyn says the book is far too precious to be worn now, but it can still be read if the reader uses the tiny magnifying glass which comes with it.
The book now has so much sentimental value that Lyn doesn’t spend too much time leafing through it.
She’s so protective of the Bible that she refuses to tell the Herald where she keeps it.
“It’s very important, extremely important.”
After generations of people handing the Bible down through the family, it was slightly worse for wear and Lyn decided to have something done about it.
She enlisted the help of Bill Tito, a book repair specialist, who works from his studio in a remote part of Upper Hutt.
“I had to think long and hard about sending it down to Bill without me being there, standing with it but his reputation precedes him and he was the only one that I thought I could trust to actually fix the cover of it.”
Tito told the Herald he has worked on some extremely small books before, including a Māori dictionary and the works of Shakespeare.
“There’s not much I haven’t done, I’ve been doing this for 35 years!” he said.
Tito admitted there were some challenges with tiny books that made the work slightly tricker.
“Because my fingers are bigger than the book, I’ve gotta tell one finger ‘get out of the bloody way mate you’re pissing me off!’”.
Once the book has been restored to its former glory, Lyn intends to keep it safe in the hope it can continue its journey down the line of her family.
“It’s very, very treasured and very, very protected. For it to be with Bill without me being there is nerve-racking, but I know it’s in safe hands with Bill.”
Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021.