Artists' Books Collection
Scope and Contents
Artists’ books are works of art in the form of a book. This collection consists of 67 artists’ books created between 1976 and 2012. It includes works by famous artists like Chuck Close and Ed Ruscha as well as young emerging artists during the period.
- 1976 - 2014
Conditions Governing Access
Appointments to examine materials must be made in advance. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
Reproductions may be provided to users to support research and scholarship. However, collection use is subject to all copyright laws. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Artists’ books are works of art in the form of a book. As an art form, it is not as well-known as photography, painting, or sculpture. Even its terminology is unclear, with various renderings of the plural and/or possessive form. (This finding aid follows the usage in the title of The Journal of Artists’ Books.)
While artists have been adding illustrations and other graphic elements to books since the age of medieval manuscripts and the earliest printed books, artists’ books emerged in the twentieth century, with early examples made by the Futurists and Dadaists in the early decades.
Artists’ books come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Some are rare and handmade; some are printed in limited editions and numbered; and some are published for the general market. The form makes use of texts, photographs, drawings, paintings, collages, even paper sculptures in the pop-up books.
Some practitioners and patrons make the case that artists’ books are a democratic medium for artistic expression and distribution. Books are easily made and passed around. They are simple and do not have to circulate through the usual institutional channels. Printed Matter, Inc. is a store in New York City that specializes in artists’ books and offers materials at affordable prices. It also allows artists an easy way to submit and get their works published.
But artists’ books can also be rare and precious. Museums collect them and present them in glass cases, which is necessary for preservation but also, some contend, a contradiction of their identities as books which are meant to be held and perused. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City had an exhibit in 1995 entitled "A Century of Artists Books" and included artists’ books by Chagall, Matisse, and Picasso.
Artists’ books are hybrid materials. They occupy the intersection between art and literature, between object and book. They tell stories. They make political statements and social commentaries. They ask questions. And sometimes, like one book in this collection, they can create a rainbow in your hand.
Museum of Modern Art. A century of artists’ books. Retrieved from https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/439?
Printed Matter, Inc. What is an artists’ book? Retrieved from https://www.printedmatter.org/about/artist-book
Smithsonian Libraries. Smithsonian libraries artists’ books. Retrieved from https://library.si.edu/collection/artists-books
2.5 Linear Feet (three document cases and two flat boxes)
Language of Materials
Materials have been intellectually arranged chronologically according to copyright or publication date, starting with the earliest in the collection, Memories, from 1976, and ending with 4,582 Stars, from 2014. Items are physically arranged based on preservation needs/format.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection of artists' books was purchased by the Head of Special Collections and Archives, circa 2010-2013, in order to provide a robust sample of the format for teaching and research, and in order to complement other holdings that provide evidence of the history of the book.
- Artists' Books Collection
- Patricia Reguyal
- February 2020
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script