World’s smallest dictionary returned to Brisbane

Recognised as one of the world’s smallest dictionaries, the 364-page dictionary was printed 113 years ago and is roughly 3cm in length. It had been in the possession of a Canadian collector who, after seeing the company’s name in the book, contacted Watson Ferguson and Company and offered it for sale for $377.

According to Dan Kelly, Watson Ferguson general manager, it is not known how many of the dictionaries were printed in the 1890s, but many had become collectible items across the globe.

The dictionary was hand typeset in lead before being photographically reduced. It was then reproduced on a copper engraving plate and printed on a letterpress in 28 page sections.
The dictionary was then hand-stitched and glued with its end papers into its tiny gold embossed leather cover. It contains about 13,000 words printed in one-point type, printed using custom inks and very fine “Bible paper”. Each dictionary came in its own tiny metal case with a magnifying glass on the lid.

According to Kelly, the company is glad that it passed up a similar offer from the Canadian collector several years ago as that dictionary was deemed to be in poor condition.

Watson Ferguson and Company was well known in its early years for producing such novelty print jobs, with its repertoire including tiny Bibles in metal containers and artistic biscuit tins.

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