Review of ‘In Miniature’ by Simon Garfield

This is my favourite kind of non-fiction book! I’d previously read two of Simon Garfield’s other books, To the Letter: A Curious History of Correspondence and Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, so I knew that In Miniature: How Small Things Illuminate the World was going to be full of fascinating facts, personal experiences, meetings with interesting (if obsessive) people and snippets of cultural history.

Why does humanity have a passion for miniature things? How are the objects created and what’s the point of them anyway? Simon Garfield ponders these questions and more in his very readable journey through this super study of smallness. Chapters include the trend for souvenir Eiffel Towers, the art of LSD tabs, dolls’ houses, the flea circus (I’m still scratching my head over that one…) and the model village (apparently, the best ones have model villages inside them, which themselves contain model villages). He follows his interests, so don’t expect a comprehensive study of mini stuff. Luckily, the kind of miniature things he’s interested in are likely to be yours, too. I mean, a microscopic Last Supper in the eye of a needle? Teeny tiny books? Adorable plates of food which are carefully prepared and then eaten in one mouthful? How can you not be completely fascinated by these and the fact that there are people who are obsessed with making or collecting them?

I think that a similar book about giant things just wouldn’t have the same effect.

If there’s any fault at all in the book, it’s perhaps that the author spends too long talking about model railways… as indeed a model railway enthusiast might do, if they cornered you at a party.

This book is about art, cultural history and psychology. Perfect if you enjoy non-fiction which blurs the categories.

Thank you to Canongate for the advance copy via NetGalley.

Published in 2018.

6 thoughts on “Review of ‘In Miniature’ by Simon Garfield”

  1. This sounds completely fascinating!! I love when an author makes you realize how fascinating a topic like this and the people who obsess over it are. I wouldn’t want to be cornered by a miniature railway enthusiast either, but sounds like the rest of it is really worthwhile. Great review!

    1. Thank you! 🙂
      You can tell I found the topic fascinating – it’s great when the author is clearly interested and is willing to investigate and talk to obsessive people and make a book out of it!

  2. This mad me chuckle! There was a programme on last night about people competing to build miniature railways in two days and they were so highly competitive. Some of the results were great! I think I might have to put in a request for this book even though I definitely do not have time to read it… whoops. Great post!

    1. I don’t think I could build anything miniature at all. It would drive me nuts. The book didn’t actually take me too long to read, the chapters are manageable – if you do read it, I hope you like it! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. “a microscopic Last Supper in the eye of a needle? Teeny tiny books? Adorable plates of food which are carefully prepared and then eaten in one mouthful?” <– SEND THESE MY WAY PLS!!! ;D Really fascinating! Wonder what made him choose this subject!

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