The National Museum of American History

The Division of Graphic Arts

The Division of Graphics Arts houses some magnificent examples of microscopic engravings and printing. This is truly inspirational for those who love the Word of God. A French translation of Matthew’s Gospel in book form is said to be the smallest type ever cut. It was printed from about two and a half point movable type, by Henri Didot and published in Holland in 1900. The book contains 52 pages. Six words constitute each line, with 28 lines to an inch, and 45 lines to each page. On February 10th, 1924, Alfred McEwen engraved the Lord’s Prayer in a space of such microscopic dimensions that 13,500 of them would fit into one square inch. It can be seen through the eye of a sewing needle with the use of a microscope. This engraving was cut on glass by means of a diamond point and a pantograph. During the war, microscopic messages could be transmitted upon shoe nails, rings, brass buttons and the like.
The Lord’s Prayer appears to have been a very popular subject in the art of microscopic engraving. A number of different examples are here exemplified, such as the Lord’s Prayer engraved on 1/1,000th of a square inch; in 1/11,000th of a square inch; and upon 1/100,000th of a square inch. This was accomplished by William Webb between the years 1874-1885. On this scale, the entire Bible would occupy one-sixth of a square inch. For those who love intricate detail and precision, are three micro-engravings on paper, executed towards the middle of the 19th century. They comprise the Declaration of Independence, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.1

The Division of Textiles

The Division of Textiles affords many exquisite examples of 18th century English and early American samplers. These embroidered pieces were instrumental in preparing a young girl to function as a well-rounded Christian woman. On exhibition in the Textile Hall is a sampler executed in 1788 by 13-year-old Rachel Kester of Pennsylvania. (Removed from view). Her embroidered inscription reads:

Love the Lord
And He will be
A tender Father
Unto thee
The loss of treasures much
The loss of truth is more
The loss of Christ is such
As no one can restore
The lot of saints have been alway
Affliction here and scorns
And He that was best of men
Was mock and crown with thorns.

Satin, cross, tent, eyelet and stem stitches were used in this work. Another 18th century sampler was done by a ten-year-old girl, Esther Copp of Stonington, Connecticut. It reads:

Better it is to be of an humble
Spirit with the lowly than to
Divide the spoil with the proud

Completed in 1745, a silk-on-wool English sampler relates Psalm 37 in its entirety, commencing with an admonition against evildoers:

Fret not thyself because of evildoers
Neither be thou envious against the
workers of iniquity, for they shall
soon be cast down like the grass,
and with the green herb. Trust in
the Lord and do good, so shalt thou
dwell in the land, and verily thou
shalt be fed. Delight thyself in
the Lord, and He shall give thee the
desires of thine heart…

Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Taylor’s 1758 sampler displays the Ten Commandments embroidered upon two stone tablets of the law. Each tablet has a crown flanked by two lions. Vines, flowering plants and acorns surround her subject with a colorful border.

Rehearsed upon many of these early American samplers is a Scriptural format along these lines:

Katharine Mayo is my name
New England is my nation
Roxbury is my dwelling place
Christ is my salvation.
When I am dead and my bones are rotin
Here you may see my name
When I am forgotten.2



1 Photographic and descriptive documentation, Curator, Division of Graphic Arts, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
2 Descriptive Documentation, Curator, Division of Textiles, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.

(Excerpted from, God’s Signature over the Nation’s Capital – Evidence of Your Christian Heritage, © 1985, 1988 by Catherine Millard.)

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