Hamlet in your pocket


Around 1909, Saul L. Kowarsky formed the Knickerbocker Leather & Novelty Company at 314 Broadway in New York City. Also on the board were Barnett Epstein as secretary, Morris Epstein, treasurer, and William Tager, director.

As an advertising promotion, Kowarsky printed a series of leather-bound miniature books, with plays by William Shakespeare; 24 in all, each measuring 3 x 2 inches, housed a tiny leather box. Seen here is Hamlet.

As the company grew, it leased 34,000 square feet in the Knickerbocker Building at 79 Fifth Avenue and 16th street, where they remained from 1914 to 1933.

Meanwhile the Cluett Peabody Company, famous for their Arrow shirt collars, suffered after the stock market crash and had to give up their Manhattan headquarters. The Knickerbocker Company moved into their space in the Cluett Building at 32 West 19th Street, continuing to print and sell the miniature Shakespeares.

Eventually, interest in the leather business also waned and Knickerbocker filed for bankruptcy in 1956. The palm-size books continue to appear here and there online.

Digital Shakespeare: http://shakespeare.mit.edu/index.html