Bijou Gazetteer

W.H. Rosser. The Bijou Gazetteer of the World (London: Warne, c. 1871): 3 3/8 x 2 1/2 x 1 1/16 (8.5 x 6.5 x 2.8)

Seen at the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

Photo Feb 26, 2 52 43 PMMeasuring a comparatively large 3 3/8 cm by 2 1/2 cm, the Bijou Gazetteer of the World is a “macro-miniature,” slightly larger than an ordinary miniature book, but still small enough to be remarkable for its size. Bound in brown morocco leather with a fold-over cover to protect the pages from wear, the Bijou Gazetteer housed at the Lilly Library bears signs of serious wear, with a cracked binding and frayed edges. Gilt lettering on the front fold-over cover attributes the work primarily to its publisher, Frederick Warne, though it also acknowledges the author of the text, William Rosser, in the cover inscription: “Warne’s Bijou Gazetteer / Rosser.”

The Bijou Gazetteer, or fully named The Bijou Gazetteer of the World: Briefly describing, as regards position, area, and population, every country and state, their subdivisions, provinces, counties, principal towns, villages, mountains, rivers, lakes, capes, etc., gives its reader the predominant impression of massiveness in miniature. 636 pages of closely printed text offer compendious descriptions of 30,000 distinct places. In order to condense the content further, Rosser omits the prepositions “of” and “in” and abbreviates other words. As an explanatory page near the front of the volume notes, in this volume, Photo Feb 26, 2 53 01 PMA.” stands for “Asia” ; “aff.” for “affluent of a river”; “b.” for “by” and “bo.” for “contributory parliamentary borough,” among many others. Individual entries compact entire cities into a few closely printed lines; London, where the volume is printed, becomes: “London, cap. of England and metropolis of the British Empire; 51°31´N; in Middlesex and Surrey; total P. 2,803,989; P. of city & par. bo. 113,247;—on Thames r.”

The ostensible aim of this condensation, as Rosser explains in his preface, is to allow the reader to carry knowledge of the whole world in his or her pocket, so that it might be ready for easy reference. Rosser writes, “its aim and scope is . . . to produce . . . an EPITOME OF GEOGRAPHY useful to the GENERAL READER, and to furnish him with a ready source of information when a name occurs with which he is unfamiliar.” Rosser’s vocabulary underlines his sense of the power which accompanies this information; in carrying this volume in his or her pocket, the owner possesses a talismanic source of knowledge about the whole world. Yet while the size of this gazetteer makes it easy for an owner to carry, its physical dimensions present distinct difficulties for the owner who actually wishes to read it. The size of the font quickly tires the reader’s eyes, while the thin, miniature pages are difficult for the reader’s comparatively massive and clumsy fingers to turn. Despite the appearance of convenience, the volume requires considerable time and effort to read. As if in recognition of this difficulty, Rosser names this volume a “bijou gazetteer” — a jewel of practical knowledge.

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