Two small random peptide libraries, one composed of 4550 dodecapeptides and one of 8000 tripeptides, were synthesized in newly developed credit-card format miniPEPSCAN cards (miniPEPSCAN libraries). Each peptide was synthesized in a discrete well (455 peptides/card). The two miniPEPSCAN libraries were screened with three different monoclonal antibodies (Mabs). Two other random peptide libraries, expressed on the wall of bacteria (recombinant libraries) and composed of 10(7) hexa- and octapeptides, were screened with the same three Mabs. The aim of this study was to compare the amino acid sequence of peptides selected from small and large pools of random peptides and, in this way, investigate the potential of small random peptide libraries. The screening of the two miniPEPSCAN libraries resulted in the identification of a surprisingly large number of antibody-binding peptides, while the screening of the large recombinant libraries, using the same Mabs, resulted in the identification of only a small number of peptides. The large number of peptides derived from the small random peptide libraries allowed the determination of consensus sequences. These consensus sequences could be related to small linear and nonlinear parts of the respective epitopes. The small number of peptides derived from the large random peptide libraries could only be related to linear epitopes that were previously mapped using small libraries of overlapping peptides covering the antigenic protein. Thus, with respect to the cost and speed of identifying peptides that resemble linear and nonlinear parts of epitopes, small diversity libraries based on synthetic peptides appear to be superior to large diversity libraries based on expression systems.