Bryce’s English Dictionary

Bryce’s English Dictionary by Dr Samuel Johnson (David Bryce & Son, Glasgow, 1900)

Introduced by Anne Brichto of Addyman Books, Hay-on-Wye

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For this post I’ve put together a tea party with my peg doll and dolls house tea set. I have placed two tiny miniature books published by David Bryce of Glasgow in about 1900. They are both dictionaries and come in glass fronted metal lockers that can be worn on a chain as a necklace. You can read them but you need a good magnifying glass. It is such fun seeing all the tiny words and the portrait of Samuel Johnson. It was also great fun filling the tiny cups with tea and the milk jug with milk. The tea set was a gift from Marina Rendle owner of The End in Hay-on-Wye. I do love small things.

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David Bryce of Glasgow (1845-1923) was one of the world’s most prolific and successful makers of miniature books. Bryce entered the book trade at the age of 17 when he was made a partner in his father’s publishing house. He later became the sole proprietor when his father died in 1870. It was shortly after this that he started producing the miniature books that were to make him famous.

Photo reduction process

Bryce embraced the latest advances in photolithography — a type of photo reduction using electroplates — to reduce larger volumes to the smallest imaginable size. He also maintained strong connections with the printing houses associated with the universities of Glasgow and Oxford, which helped account for the clarity and legibility of the texts. His association with Oxford University Press was especially fortunate, as from 1875 they owned the process to make the ultra-thin opaque sheets called ‘India paper’, which enabled the production of extremely small textblocks.

Over 40 books published

Bryce eventually published over 40 miniature titles, becoming a wealthy man and a prominent figure in Glasgow business life. In 1900 he owned the yacht ‘Excelsior’ and was a member of the prestigious Royal Clyde Yacht Club. Unfortunately, the firm encountered financial difficulties around 1913 and the business was eventually sold to the firm of Gowans and Gray, who had shared the same building with them from around 1911.

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