When Jeff Ostrowski mentioned little tiny hand missals in his photo from World War II, I knew I had to show him these tiny treasures. I don’t have much background information on these as they came from secondhand bookshops. They seem to be fairly common, with a few friends on Facebook recognizing them. Some have treasured copies from their grandparents. Both of mine are made in Belgium but bear the names of Australian publishers.
They are in fairly poor condition. One particular seems to have been well used at Mass as the Method of Hearing Mass is particularly stained and worn. To give some idea of the scale, here are some pictures for comparison with some other small books: The Madonna Missal, Manual of the Children of Mary and The Imitation of Mary. Hmmm… quite a Marian theme going on here.
Now, let’s look inside! This first collection of photos comes from the older and smaller of the two. This one is dated 1905. The type is a little smaller and has an elegant red border around each page.
The other one comes from 1939 and has larger type and more illustrations. The front cover is detached and has a crucifix embedded inside with the indulgenced Prayer before a Crucifix printed on the facing flyleaf. It seems to be some sort of Mother of Pearl material used to make the cross. See here for a comparison with a more modern book using white plastic instead.
A quick web search revealed a similar such book under the same title is still available. It doesn’t look quite the same – for one thing this new edition is much larger measuring 6″x4″ whereas these older books are a tiny 4″x2.25″. It sounds like the idea is the same though.
It makes sense, when Mass and the Readings are in Latin, having a portable copy of your own vernacular translation makes sense. I wonder if Fr Gereon Goldman had such a book in German. I’ve heard stories of pocket prayer books or Bibles stopping bullets in wartime. There are even some made with a steel plate cover called Heart Shields.
All this goes to show that people did care about praying the Mass with understanding back in the days before ICEL.