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Art: Artists' Books

Art LibGuide

Artists' books at the Cheng Library

Artists' books (also called artist books) present a rich area for exploration. Many artists use the book form to create works of art, and some challenge the book form itself as an aesthetic opportunity. We make a lot of cultural assumptions about the shape of books and the ways they are read: artists' books often explore these assumptions in clever, curious, or creative ways. According to the curators at the Lucy Scribner Library, "Unlike an art book, which is a representation of artists’ works and ideas, an artists’ book is itself an original work of art, as visually and conceptually whole as a painting or sculpture."

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find examples of artists' books because they are shelved in multiple subject areas: by technique, historical period, artist, or thematic focus.  Many of the pop-up books in the Library's collection are shelved in the Curriculum Materials Collection.

Prof. David Horton, Art Dept., has published an artist's book titled, In Celebration of the Discovery of the Abandoned Star Factory.  The book includes paper sculptures, tipped-in black and white illustrations, and collages with tissue and glacine paper. One copy is available at the Cheng Library.  (See an image from this book to the right.)

Here are some sample searches in the Cheng Library online catalog:

Artists' books

Book design


Paper work

Paper sculpture

Stencil Work

Toy and movable books

Bookmaking Arts

Bookmaking incorporates several distinctive craft areas: papermaking, book binding, marbling, calligraphy, gilding, folding, and paper engineering. To find out more about the craft of bookmaking, visit these websites for examples of materials, techniques, and processes.

University of Washington Special Collections Online: Historical Book Arts  This exceptional university collection showcases material on the art and history of the book which includes examples of printing, type design and founding, illustration, handmade paper, and historic book bindings.

The University of Iowa Center for the Book  combines training in the technique and artistry of bookmaking with research into the history and culture of books. Site has galleries of student and faculty work, news and events, and links.

Paper Through Time Online exhibit from the University of Iowa's Center for the Book tracing the composition of paper from the 14th through 19th centuries. Very technical, but fascinating!

New York Center for Book Arts  Founded in 1974--the first such organization in the US--CBA explores and cultivates "contemporary aesthetic interpretations of the book as an art object while invigorating traditional artistic practices of the art of the book."

San Francisco Center for the Book Bay Area organization offering resources related to books and bookmaking. Events explore the history, artistry, and continuing presence of books in our culture.

Book Arts Guild  Seattle organization founded to support the diverse disciplines of the book arts and "dedicated to promoting all hand bookmaking crafts and contemporary book arts."

Book Arts Jam  Annual celebration of book arts, print arts, and paper arts. Website includes lots of links to exhibitors, printers, small presses, and book artists.

Guild of Bookworkers A national organization for all things books.

Artists' books online

A three-dimensional page from In Celebration of the Discovery of the Abandoned Star Factory, by Prof. David Horton, Art Dept., William Paterson University, published by Nexus Press, 1982.

Several excellent collections of artists' books are accessible online, including:

23 Sandy Gallery Artists Books Online  This lively Portland, Oregon gallery has been supporting paper and book artists for several years through exhibitions, sales, and collaborations by both emerging and established artists.

Reed College Digital Collections: Artists' Books This unique collection holds significant 20th century and contemporary artists’ books, featuring examples from Europe, Asia and the United States, from the turn of the last century to the present.

University of Wisconsin Digital Artists' Book Collection  This database is an illustrated, descriptive index to the UW Artists’ Book Collection, with over 800 titles. Approximately 500 examples have images to visually represent the structure and/or content of the book.

Otis College of Art and Design Artists' Book Collection  This online collection of over 2000 artists' books focuses on examples from contemporary artists from California and the West coast since the 1960s.

The Ruth Hughes Collection of Artists' Books at Oberlin College  This online, interactive exhibition features examples from the Ruth Hughes Collection at Oberlin College and was created to accompany the exhibit Show and Bestow (2010). Browse 100 artist books organized by theme.

Skidmore College Lucy Scribner Library: 100 Artists' Books from Special Collections Beautifully designed collection of artists' books with multiple images from each book.