lost ancient art of librarian miniaturization

November 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm 7 comments

Book1BoingBoing’s no-text post showing this image is titled “Fragmentary evidence of the lost ancient art of librarian miniaturization,” which counts as a shenanigan, I think.

The image is all over the internet, sometimes with a citation to the Archives of Prague Castle. [UPDATE, November 14: I’ve just received an email from Martin Halata, head archivist at Prague Castle, who tells me the photograph is not from their archives.] It’s even got lolz versions in Czech [I found these a few days ago but now I can’t find them anymore and it’s driving me crazy].

I used Google’s nifty image search mechanism to discover that — as far as I can tell — this image first appeared on the internet on April 22, 2013, at Lost and Found in Prague. The photographer is M. Peterka and the date is unknown. [Some versions of the image appear with a date of ca. 1940; some say the person in the picture is a man; others say it is a woman.]

Entry filed under: archives, perpetrated by students or patrons, unusual libraries.

library slides flying a drone around the NYPL

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Barnabbas  |  September 2, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    It must be a woman because she’s got a necklace and her hair seems to be tied in the back (though with some librarians you just don’t know…)

  • 2. Yoshio Kusaba  |  May 15, 2016 at 4:12 am

    It is true that Western medieval books tend to be large, in part due to the use of parchment (sheep skin) and vellum (calf skin) animal skins for each page or folio. The book height of two feet with 100 folios bound together is not unusual. For instance, the sumptuously decorated Winchester Bible, the biggest of the surviving 12th-century bibles made in England, in the possession of Winchester Cathedral Library, has a page size of approximately 23″ x 15-3/4″ (583 x 396mm). The total number of folios is 486 folios of calf-skin, now bound in four volumes.

    If we assume that this “librarian” is about 5’10”, the height of this book in the photograph becomes close to four feet, double the size of the Winchester Bible. And if the “librarian” stands up straight, he will not reach the top of the second self. This photograph seems to have taken around 1940 in Prague.

    But this photo seems to a touch-up job using a Photoshop or other electronic means.

  • 3. Jonathan Burke  |  May 15, 2016 at 6:14 am

    This is definitely not real, it’s a Photoshop job. The proportions and lighting are wrong. Additionally, these books are bound in a manner which did not exist in the fourteenth century. The fourteenth century is the 1300s, Gutenberg didn’t even invent the printing press until the fifteenth century, and these books have bindings which date to the seventeenth century at earliest.

    • 4. Yoshio Kusaba  |  May 16, 2016 at 1:45 am

      Jonathan Burke, we cannot use bindings for the purpose of dating Western medieval manuscripts. Please note that bindings are repaired and updated so as to keep manuscripts together, especially when original bindings have been lost or damages.

  • 5. The Giant Library of Prague Castle | America's Final Days  |  February 3, 2017 at 11:56 am

    […] appeared. Though the image is often said to have come from the Archives of Prague Castle, the Librarian Shenanigans blog has chatted with the head archivist there who claims it is not from their archives. […]

  • […] Risulta quindi strano vedere accanto a libri di tale dimensione una signora minuta, intenta a sfogliarli. Sul web alcuni hanno suggerito che i libri siano degli “Antifonari”, libri liturgici cattolici, ma il suggerimento è aleatorio. A gettare ancor ombra sul mistero c’è la risposta ufficiale di Martin Halata, a capo dell’archivio del Castello di Praga, che afferma che l’immagine non appartiene ai loro archivi (Fonte: Library Shenanigans). […]

  • […] her part, Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College Jessy Randall wrote in her Library Shenanigans blog on November 13, 2013:I used Google’s nifty image search mechanism to discover that — as […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Recent Posts


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 438 other followers

%d bloggers like this: