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The Dawning of a New Page

Artists' books have been produced around the world and across artistic disciplines for nearly 200 years, but weren’t established as an official book (or art!) genre until the 1970s. Simply defined, artists' books can be thought of as unique works of art in book format—though they do tend to challenge traditional concepts of what constitutes a "book." Often constructed from unusual materials, some artists' books in the Oviatt's collection are made from rubber, metal, plastic, fabric, and wood, as well as remarkable handmade papers. A book created by a group of students at Scripps College in Claremont, California, Square², includes an embossed aluminum cover and rubber-like pages. Pamela Moore's Offset & Finely Pressed Book, is another curious and rare metal book made in California.

Several books in the collection include wooden elements, such as the binding of Tropos by Kevin Osborn. The book stands on a slant, forming a rhomboidal solid. British artist Ronald King assembled wooden boards for the covers of Alphabeta Concertina, which contains delicately crafted paper pop-up pages within. One Psalm by Sue Bucholz was created at the Women's Studio Workshop Print Center in Rosendale, New York from soft, hand-made paper, folded several times into a small square and contained in a paper pocket.

Bruce Schnabel's Tikal Codex is a paperless book, crafted from hand-dyed silk and beads. This triangular book was patterned after a pre-Columbian codex found in Guatemala. It contains no text nor page numbers, so it’s unclear which side is meant to be the front and which way the pages are meant to turn, leaving these decisions up to the "reader." Many artists' books function similarly, allowing readers to create their own individual experiences as they interact with these books – folding and unfolding pages, exploring hidden panels, cutouts, and objects. Created in Los Angeles, Karen Holden's book, Behind My Own Disguise, comes with directions for navigating a "mask" printed on vellum folds.

Many of the artists' books in the collection were masterfully bound by hand, some are not bound at all, and thanks to Richard Olson's Wisconsin publication, at least one book in the collection is double-bound!

Special Collections has more than 100 artists' books and also includes resources to expand appreciation for this art form, such as Speaking of Book Art: Interviews with British and American Book Artists, by Cathy Courtney. To view a list of holdings, search the library catalog by subject: artists' books and limit results to Special Collections in the drop down menu. Then visit us on the second floor of the library to explore these unique art objects in person!

Aluminum binding and front cover, Square² shaped by the typography students and strengthened by Kitty Maryatt at the Scripps College Press. N7433.4 .S3956 S78 2003
Cover page crafted from rubber-like material with linoleum block printed title page, Square² shaped by the typography students and strengthened by Kitty Maryatt at the Scripps College Press. N7433.4 .S3956 S78 2003
Wooden binding, front cover, Tropos by Kevin Osborn. N7433.4.O83 A4 1988
Printed illustration with cutouts, Tropos by Kevin Osborn (p.12). N7433.4.O83 A4 1988
Front cover crafted from wooden boards, Alphabeta Concertina by Ronald King.  N7433.4.K554 A424 1983
Pop-up letter H on folded accordion-style pages, Alphabeta Concertina by Ronald King.  N7433.4.K554 A424 1983
Folded book and paper pocket, limited edition of 50 copies, One Psalm by Sue Bucholz. N7433.4.B82 O6
Front or back cover crafted from hand-dyed silk and beads, Tikal Codex by Bruce Schnabel. N7433.4.S362 A8 1982
Silk pieces stitched and patterned after a pre-Columbian codex found in Guatemala, Tikal Codex by Bruce Schnabel. N7433.4.S362 A8 1982
Front cover printed on vellum, Behind My Own Disguise by Karen Holden. N7433.4.H65 A4 1984
Directions for navigating Behind My Own Disguise by Karen Holden. N7433.4.H65 A4 1984
Front cover crafted from fabric with unique binding technique, The Grazer created by Peggy Heigold Strong. N7433.4.S775 G7 1996
Printed illustration, limited edition of 100 copies, The Grazer created by Peggy Heigold Strong. N7433.4.S775 G7 1996
An example of an unbound artists' book, On the Impact of Expectations by S. Boyer et al. is contained in a mother of pearl-like box with seven tabbed index folders. N7433.4.M37 O5 2001
An example of an unbound artists' book, The Lightness of Being by T. Ellis Schlod is contained in this box. N7433.4.S36 L45 1988
One of eight loose pages, an original print, The Lightness of Being by T. Ellis Schlod, N7433.4.S36 L45 1988
Front or back cover, Doublebind by Richard Olson. N7433.4.O57 D58 1979
A view of the book from above, Doublebind by Richard Olson. N7433.4.O57 D58 1979

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