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Artists' Books Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SCA-0069

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 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.

Historical Note

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.

Works consulted:

Museum of Modern Art. A century of artists’ books. Retrieved from

Printed Matter, Inc. What is an artists’ book? Retrieved from

Smithsonian Libraries. Smithsonian libraries artists’ books. Retrieved from


2.5 Linear Feet (three document cases and two flat boxes)

67 Volumes

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.

Related Materials

The Smithsonian Libraries has many artists’ books in their various collections. These artists’ books are presented in one informative and convenient page called Smithsonian Libraries Artists’ Books.

The Museum of Modern Art Library has the MoMA/Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection.

The New York Public Library has a guide to their artists’ books collection housed in the Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs.

Finally, Printed Matter, Inc., a shop in New York City and a non-profit organization dedicated to artists’ books, has an informative website and an expansive online catalog.

Artists' Books Collection
Patricia Reguyal
February 2020
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Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us