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Artistsí books

Artistsí books are not books about art; they are art expressed through book form. When the content and form of a book are considered together, and given equal significance, the book becomes more than a simple container for information. The goal of many book artists is to actively involve the reader in the viewing process and not only to see the words but to think about how the words, pictures, and physical form of the books all contribute to the meaning.

In the western tradition, readers are so familiar with the codex or traditional book format that they rarely consider anything other than the contents. To break out of this mindset, the format of the book must step out of the ordinary, in whatever small or large way, so that the reader will no longer take it for granted. Instead, the form of the book becomes an integral and dynamic part of the work and of the reader's experience. This can be achieved simply by changing the traditional codex form into a scroll or accordion, by altering the typography, or by the use of creative binding materials so that the work draws attention to itself as a whole. Some book artists go further, altering the form to the point that the book no longer functions for reading. Bindings have been torn, glued shut, or tied, text may be transformed or unintelligible. All that is left is the idea of the book and the viewer's reaction to it.

The University of Delaware Library has become well-known for its rich collection of artists books dating from the 1960s to the present. The collection continues to grow with the addition of older works by established presses as well as new works by emerging artists. This allows scholars to follow the progression of a single artistís work as well as changes in styles and emphasis over time. Special Collectionsí growing reputation in the field has led to several of the departmentís librarians being invited to speak and write on the subject.

  • Peter Rutledge Koch.
    Hard Words. Berkeley: Gallery 16 & Peter Koch, Printer, 2000.
  • Breyten Breytenbach.
    The Intimate Stranger. Sherman Oaks, Calif.: Ninja Press, 2006.
  • Lewis Warsh.
    Names (1944-65). New York: Lewis Warsh, 2006.
  • Clement Tobias Lange.
    Ohne Wonken Without Clouds. Hamburg Germany: CTL Presse, 2007.
  • Mary McCarthy.
    Mesa Verde. Boston: M. McCarthy, 2007.
Hard Words
Hard Words, 2000.
Intimate Stranger
The Intimate Stranger,
detail.
Intimate Stranger
The Intimate Stranger,
detail.

This page is maintained by Special Collections.
10/28/09

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