The Library of Joy Wants YOU to Help Make Tiny Books!

21 March 2014 by 15 Comments

I’d like you to do something for me. Just real quick, I mean honestly-five-seconds fast. Open up a google image search in a new tab and type in miniature books. Glance at the results. Just a brief little browse. Then come back here. I’ll wait.

Okay, you’re back. Is your pulse raised? Is your heart full of longing? Do you feel covetous and greedy as a child with someone else’s shiny toys? I hope you do. Because if there’s one experience that seems to be common among readers, no matter how diverse their desires otherwise, it’s the throb of delight brought on by tiny books.

TINY BOOKS! Why are they so magical, exactly? My theory is that something happens when you take an object that is powerful in its own right and you shrink it down: somehow the amount of power in it doesn’t shrink with it, and so the tiny version is not only just as potent but somehow more so, because there’s this itty bitty thing containing all the vitality and energy of something much larger. That’s a kind of magic. Think of amulets in the shape of animals or human hands or hearts or eyes, like Zuni fetishes and milagros, versus a dollhouse miniature of a table and chair: the furniture might be cute, but tables and chairs don’t mean anything by themselves, so the small version isn’t something you’d carry around with you as a  good luck charm or a talisman against evil. But a tiny silver heart, or a minute stone animal, has a special aura to it that comes from the liveliness of the thing it represents – both physically and spiritually, or at least metaphysically – being packed into something you can fit in a walnut shell.)*

And here is an actual book in a walnut shell, because I love you.

And here is an actual book in a walnut shell, because I love you and I want you to be happy. From the University of Virgina’s collection of tiny books.

Okay, sure, maybe, but whatever. TINY BOOKS ARE AWESOME, AMIRITE? Right. Okay, now do me another favor. Imagine you’re in your favorite bookstore. Or you’re at the library checking out a reference volume. Or you’re a kid at the laundromat picking through the faded, dog-eared romance novels on the one bedraggled take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf.  You’re just browsing. Nothing’s leaping out.

And then you spot it. Tucked away on the shelf is an Easter egg. A bright, shiny, brand-new Easter egg.

You pick it up, of course. There’s definitely something in it. You open it up – and there’s a tiny book inside. The book, a little slip of paper informs you, is a volume in a series called The Library of Joy, and it’s the tale of someone’s singular, wild, honest, heartfelt, joyous experience. And it belongs, you lucky finder you, to you.

Does this sound cool? Yes? (God, I really hope it sounds cool.) Well, the reason I’m telling you all of this is that I recently got a grant from the San Francisco chapter of the Awesome Foundation to make the Library of Joy a real thing. (You can read about the inspiration for the project, which also involved discovering magical book-related things left in a bookstore, here.) I’ll be leaving hollow eggs with tiny books in them all over book-related spaces in San Francisco over the US’s premier treasure-hunt-related weekend, April 19th & 20th. This year, both Passover (which involves finding hidden things in the tradition of the Afikomen and eggs in the form of a hardboiled egg on the Seder plate) and Easter (the special day of one of the most deeply weird animal anthropomorphizations ever) fall together on this weekend, and it seemed like the perfect chance to leave tiny books for people to discover.

Like this lovely washi egg. I mean, basically. By Brianjester (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

An egg like this one! Um, in an ideal world, anyway.
By Brianjester (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

But in order to make it happen, I need your help. The whole point of the Library of Joy is to ask people to describe a moment of joy or a joyous experience – whatever comes to mind for you when you think about a time you felt joy – and leave the results in a form others can find, essentially as a gentle and much-needed reminder that the universe doesn’t always totally suck. So I’m asking you, dear friends, fellow booksluts, kind readers: will you send me your moments of joy? There’s a submission form here, or you can leave ‘em in the comments!

Just a short paragraph is all I need – nothing fancy, whatever comes out. All you gotta do is imagine that someone you like and feel comfortable with has said to you, “Hey, tell me about a moment of joy in your life.” Whatever you’re inspired to answer, send it my way. (All submissions will be kept anonymous.) If you submit to the Library project and you want a tiny book of your own, leave your mailing address in with the submission and I will send you one when the project is over as a thank you!

*My analysis of the properties of amulets comes from a 2012 blog post called M is for Miniature.


Jericha is an interdisciplinary artist and arts administrator based in San Francisco, where she runs The Museum of Joy, an inside-out museum dedicated to fostering the exploration and celebration of joyous experience.

15 thoughts on “The Library of Joy Wants YOU to Help Make Tiny Books!

  1. I actually have made some tiny books. The pages are little folded pockets that you could insert a tine piece of paper with a note on it. Like the little paper you find in a fortune cookie. Do you need books or just our joyous thoughts?

  2. That sounds like an awesome Easter project! BTW, as I was google-image-searching “miniature books,” I found an article about this guy who has, like, ALL THE MINI BOOKS! Some 4,500, at least. And apparently the whole idea of mini books started in the 15th century. So much neat information I’m learning today!

    • I got a grant from the Awesome Foundation for the Library of Joy, so I’d say yes, you can probably get strangers to give you money to scatter tiny books everywhere. I’m all for it! (Maybe Indiegogo, though? They’re better for non-businessy/more artsy stuff.) If you decide to do so and you want to give the The Museum of Joy a shoutout for the inspiration, that’d be cool…

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