What are artists’ books? There are innumerable descriptions but we like the one used by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries: “‘Artist's books’ don’t look like most volumes found in a library. They are art objects in the form of books. As with painting or sculpture, much of the “story” in these books is visual. An idea may be illustrated in the book’s shape or binding, in the materials used, or in the artist’s choice of images. Words may be used to reinforce a message, but they are not always essential to the book’s meaning. Book artists often design, typeset, illustrate, print, and bind their own work, or at least supervise all these stages of production. Instead of paper, an artist may use clay, metal, or other materials. Artist’s books, recognizable yet new, can challenge us to explore innovative ways of seeing, learning, and understanding.”
About the Collection
Our collection of artists’ books grew out of Alice S. Plaut’s interest in livres d’artiste. In the late 1950s, Mrs. Plaut (who, at the time, was the Head of the Art and Music Department) recognized the importance of this fascinating new contemporary art form. She began actively collecting volumes of rare and important works, along with materials devoted to that era’s trends in modern art. In recognition of her leadership, the Plaut Fund was established in 1968. This fund is used to expand the Library’s collection of artists’ books.
Today, our collection includes the work of international, national, and local artists. Notable titles include:.
- Double-unsupported Butterfly by Gabrielle Fox
- The Kiss by Mark Fox
- The Menu by Toby Lee Greenberg
- Bluestem by Karen Hanmer
- World Peace by Edward Hutchins
- Primary Books by Peter Huttinger
- Foreign Correspondence by Diana Duncan Holmes and Timothy Riordan
- Train Log by Heidi Kyle
- Attracted to Light by Mike and Doug Starn
- Paradise: Nature, Stardust, Music & Romance by Peter Thomas
- Brief Marks by Jan Voss
The collection is housed in the Main Library’s Local History and Genealogy Department. If you’d like to browse through some of the treasures in the collection, just stop by the department’s service desk—our staff will be happy to assist you!
- Artists’ Books: The Book as a Work of Art, 1963-1995 by Stephen Bury
- The Book as Art: Artists’ Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts by Krystyna Wasserman
- Structure of the Visual Book by Keith Smith
- Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook
- A Notebook for Binding Miniature Books by Gabrielle Fox
- The Essential Guide to Making Handmade Books by Gabrielle Fox
On the Web
- For the Art of the Book. A Publishers Weekly article about presses that are still using "time honored" printing and binding techniques.
- Book Arts Web. Links to book arts related sites on the Web, including educational opportunities, professional organizations, tutorials, reference materials, and galleries with images. Also the home of the Book Arts listserv.
- Brief History of Artists’ Books. Informative overview written by a Yale Univeristy librarian.
- Discovering Artists Books: The Art, the Artist and the Issues. This thesis, from a Goshen College professor, offers a more detailed chronology.
- Book Arts Links. Selected links to web resources about the book arts.
- The Cincinnati Book Arts Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the book arts, offers exhibitions, workshops, and lectures “for book lovers of all kinds, from beginners to seasoned professionals.”
- The College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati periodically hosts exhibits that showcase their artists’ book collection.