A painter’s 40-year collection of miniature books

Miniature books and their delicate appearance have bewitched painter Nguyen Thanh Dam. He himself made some tiny, beautiful work of arts and also collected them from far and wide.

The “Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam”, one of the most precious books in painter Dam’s bookcase. It was even taken into space by Hero Pham Tuan. 

Dam made the book himself. He used “giấy dó” (rhamnoneuron paper), which is traditionally produced in many villages and famed for its durability. 

He said: “At that time, I worked at the Authority of Publication and decided to make three books; the Declaration of Independence, Binh Ngo Dai Cao (Proclamation of Victory over Foreign Aggression) and Hich Tuong Si (Proclamation to the Officers) - three declarations from different periods for Pham Tuan to bring with him into space. 

“Nhat ky trong tu” (Prison Diary), printed by the Information Publishing House in 1989, is 5.5cm long, 5.5cm wide and 1.5cm thick. The 1989 comic book “Sat That” by the Kim Dong Publishing House is 6cm wide, 4.5cm long and 1cm thick. There are hundreds of Vietnamese and foreign books like these on his bookcase. 

The “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, written by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, holds many memories for the painter. The 340-page German book was printed in 1978 and measures 3cm by 4cm. The book’s cover is adorned with intaglio-printed and gold-plated characters. 

Dam recalled that he saw this book in a secondhand shop when he attended an exhibition in Germany in 1982. At the shop, they had a number of books, but this one was unique and was not cheap. He used the money he had saved to buy a quality German bicycle to buy this book instead. 

According to UNESCO, a book that is less than 8cm in width is considered a miniature . There are hundreds of miniature books on painter Dam’s shelves. 

The painter said he has collected miniature books for their compactness and delicate appearance, noting that these books take a high level of skill and effort to make, so prices can be 10 times more than an ordinary book. 

To preserve these works of art, he made a miniature bookcase too. His bookcase is a bank of knowledge and a destination for his soul mates.

One of his frienda, painter Luong Xuan Doan, said we can see the essence of human beings through Dam’s bookcase, especially of the miniature book makers. 

As former Deputy Director of Department of Culture and Arts of the Central Propaganda and Training Commission, Doan noted that the Vietnamese publishing industry should work with this kind of book to meet readers’ demands nowadays.

A number of people have offered to buy Dam’s books, but he refuses as they have been part of his life for 40 years.

VNA/VOV online