This Small Hungarian Village Is Home to the World’s Largest Handmade Book

Szinpetri, a quaint village of around 300 people located in northern Hungary, is mostly known for being home to the world’s largest handmade book, a 1.4-tonne heavy tome bound in the leather of 13 Argentinian cows.

The world’s largest handmade book was completed in 2010, by father-son duo Bela Varga and Gábor Varga, two masters in the art of traditional paper-making. It was crated using traditional book-binding techniques adjusted to a much larger scale than usual, and is currently on display at the Szinpetri paper mill, where Bela and Gábor Varga show off their paper-making skills to visitors. The book measures 4.18m x 3.77m, weighs a total of 1,420 kilograms and features 346 pages printed with information on the local flora and fauna.

Photo: / Neményi Márton

“It was impossible to make it larger,” 71-year-old Bela Varga recently said. “That’s why the dimensions of the book are 4.18m x 3.77m. I would rather cut one finger than make it smaller by five centimeters.”

“It’s unique not only because of the size but because of the techniques: it was made like ancient codes, with wooden tables from Sweden and with the leather of 13 cows from Argentina,” the paper-maker added.


Creating the Szinpetri book was a huge undertaking. Its five hinges were cut out by a laser, the paper was imported from an Austrian paper mill, and the printing was done on a large industrial printer used to make billboard ads. An industrial crane was used to lower the giant book into position inside the paper mill. Just turning one of its giant pages requires six people, to avoid accidental tearing.


Titled “Our Fragile Natural Heritage”, Bela Varga’s book was the largest book in the world for two years, until a company in Abu Dhabi unveiled a 5-meter-tall behemoth. Still the Szinpetri book remains the world’s largest book made by hand, using traditional techniques.