MONTREAL -- A large collection of tiny books will be on display in Montreal next month, and they belonged to a woman whose life was anything but small.

The collection of 1,119 books that spans years, subjects and languages, but all have one thing in common: their unusual size.

"I was blown away, I'd never seen anything like this," said Eddie Paul, senior director of library and information services at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, who is preparing the books for a special exhibit.

They were donated to the library by the late Lilly Toth. She lost her parents in the Holocaust and was shot and thrown into a river in Budapest, where she and her family lived.

"I was a good swimmer, but the current was too strong," she recounted in a YouTube video published by the Montreal Holocaust Museum.

Against all odds, she survived, eventually immigrating to Canada in the 1950s.

"It's incredible that someone could survive that, that she could make a new life," said Eszter Andor of the Montreal Holocaust Museum. "It's a lot of resilience."

Paul said Toth loved the beauty of miniature books.

There are dictionaries, and cookbooks, the complete works of Shakespeare, and even a book of poetry that doubles as a broach.

"They had functional reasons of discretion. Prayer books during wartime were fashioned to fit in the pockets of soldiers’ fatigues," explained Paul.

The history of tiny books goes back centuries. They were especially popular in Hungary and are still being printed today.

Most of the books in Toth's collection are miniature books, about three inches high, but there are quite a few that are considered micro-miniature.

The smallest book in Toth's collection, The Lord’s Prayer, is just a few millimetres long and extremely rare. Its case doubles as a magnifying glass.

"If you have to leave in the middle of the night because something terrible is happening, you can pocket these books very easily and make a run for it," said Paul, who said he thinks that may explain why for Toth, these tiny treasures held such deep meaning.