June 12, 2008

Miniaturist of the Month: Miniature Books by Lee Ann Borgia

Note: Lee Ann made a wonderful miniature collector's edition of chapter 1 of SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT for my contest; see link. Photo coming as soon as it arrives in the mail. So check back and enter!

Today I'm talking with noted miniaturist Lee Ann Borgia of LABH Miniature Books. Lee Ann is a New Jersey maker of a series of miniature book replicas covering children's classics like Raggedy Ann and Andy, to vintage paper dolls, and tomes that will add the finishing touch to that haunted miniature library or medieval castle.

Lee Ann began collecting miniatures 28 years ago and started her business in the usual way - she needed books for her own project, A Gentlemen's Study. "The kind of books I wanted were too expensive for me," she says.

Given that her gentlemen's room (still in progress) contains three walls of floor to ceiling shelves to fill, her reticence is understandable.

Invention having always been the boon of creation, Lee Ann started reading up on bookbinding. She did some experimenting, and with adaptations for size, developed a method for making miniature books using traditional bookbinding techniques.

Her selection includes a 31/32" high volume of Shakespeare's works, to a delightful 11/16" wide copy of Johnny Gruelle's 'Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land', to a charming volume of Beatrix Potter's children's stories barely larger than a dime. Even the so-called "economy" (blank inside) books in various categories form gardening (1875 Garden Almanac), to classics by Louisa May Alcott ('Little Women'), the Raggedy Ann and Andy books, vintage children's books, and more, will add that certain "something" to a miniature scene with their realism. Prices range from $3 for economy books, to $19.50 and up for Shakespeare and certain editions, to hundreds of dollars for full sets.

(Pictured: Medieval Bestiary)

The results are charming, accurate editions, perfect for that dollhouse library, den, children's room or your favorite bookshelf. Lee Ann now has enough titles in her repertoire to fill even her miniature study shelves (if she ever gets to make them all!)

"I believe I now make 400 different book titles, not counting what I call economy books (with blank insides)," she says.

(Pictured: Chris' Raggedy Ann Room - for fun I've included a pic of the room I made which features Lee Ann's great books. And a closeup of the bookshelf.)

Four hundred - and counting

Make that 400-plus books.

Lee Ann just finished her Shakespeare collection - all 37 plays, plus a book of Sonnets and another book of Selected Poetry. Other new additions include Beowulf in Olde English and Edgar Allen Poe's classic poem, The Raven. Of special note is her 25-book set of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Each tale is featured in its own volume in Olde English with woodcuts. It is sold only as a complete set. Medieval books are also popular and realistic.

(Pictured: 13th Century Bible)

Always a "crafty" person, Lee Ann began sewing as a child and progressed to making most of her own and her daughter's clothes, She later learned some custom tailoring, and did both full-size and miniature crochet. Bookmaking (not the betting kind :>)) was another technique for her to learn and soon master.

"I love the design part of making a book work in miniature," she says. "I do a lot of computer manipulation for covers, but the greatest joy is when everything comes together and I hold the finished book in my hands."

With so many volumes to choose from, it's not surprising that Lee Ann has a hard time picking any one favorite.

"Oh dear, that's impossible for me to answer," she admits. "I love my medieval books--the artwork is fantastic. I've done some reading on the techniques used and am fascinated. But I also loved doing 'The Canterbury Tales.' Some of the children's books are so charming that I am enthralled. I also had a wonderful time doing my wizard books."

(Pictured: "Magical Poison Potions")

But if she had to pick just one favorite book... Well, maybe it was the one that she got the biggest kick out of: "I think the most fun was writing 'Magical Poison Potions.' Of course my family was sure I had finally gone over the edge as I kept laughing as I wrote it."

She needn't have worried. Laughter is surely the sign of a good book.

* For more information, contact Lee Ann at LBorgia993@aol.com.

* I'd love to hear your comments! Have a miniature book in mind? Make a suggestion and maybe Lee Ann will add it to her offerings!


parlance said...

Hi, I just came across your blog on a random search and I'll be visiting in future. I'm a miniaturist in Australia who's also a dog lover, so I reckon I'm going to be interested in whatever you say! I love miniature books. I've got a few from England and once I was in France on some important anniversary of the French Revolution (I guess it must have been 1989, but I actually forget) and picked up a small (but not tiny, unfortunately) copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. It's one of my treasures.

CA Verstraete said...

Welcome! Glad you stopped by! Please sign up for the newsletter and partcipate in the contest! I'll be adding more here as well as the days go on!
Chris V.