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‘Smallest book in the world’ up for sale at Brussels auction house

The Gutenberg prayer book (© Arenberg Auctions / BELGA)
08:54 15/12/2021

A prayer book known as 'the smallest book in the world' will go under the hammer at the Arenberg auction house in Brussels at the end of this week. The prayer book measures five by five millimetres, no larger than a pencil tip.

Arenberg Auctions specialises in rare books, manuscripts and maps. For its last sale of the year, which will take place on Thursday and Friday, it will be presenting some exceptional pieces, including the miniature prayer book, a collector's item from 1952 made by the Gutenberg Museum. The German Printing Museum sold the mini booklet to a private collector to finance its renovation. The auction house estimates the value at €1,000-1,500.

"What is unique is that this piece is sold with the original metal letter sticks, larger than the booklet itself,” said Henri Godts, one of the experts at Arenberg Auctions. “The printed text is so minuscule that you cannot read it with the naked eye but need a strong magnifying glass."

Also on the auction list is the more than 500-year-old Chronicle of Nuremberg, one of the best-known and best illustrated ‘incunabula’, early printed books that usually dated from before 1501. The Chronicle is valued at €30,000-40,000. The monumental painting "José de Anchieta tames wild jaguars" is also a highlight on the list. This two-metre-high painting by the Brussels artist Antoon Sallaert (1594-1650) focuses on the Spanish Jesuit missionary José de Anchieta, one of the most influential figures in Brazilian history. It is expected to be sold for between €12,000 and €18,000.


Written by Nick Amies