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Book Arts: Home

Photograph of a lunchbox with lunch box items in it, such as cookies and a sandwich and an apple.

The sandwich generation by Patty Bruce.  

"[A]n unbound book that addresses debt, meeting family obligations and responsibilities of the present economic times for this new group of Americans. The viewer can manually stack the pieces of the sandwich randomly or logically. But anyway you approach it the problem still exists and looks the same from any vantage point. This is a small edition of 12 artist books housed in authentic vintage plaid collectable lunch pails. The 60's era lunch box is filled with a chocolate milk carton combined with faux fruit, potato chips and a cookie."

"'The Sandwich Generation' is about Baby Boomers who are sandwiched between the debt incurred from children that failed-to-launch into society as financially independent Gen X'ers and their aging parents who were ill prepared for the present skyrocketing cost of living, healthcare, and increasing longevity.

What is an artist's book?

An artist’s book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of “book” as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object. A book that only contains text is simply a book; even if authored by an artist, it would be a book that belongs in a bookstore or the shelves of a library.

What truly makes an artist's book is the artist's intent. Artists have used the book as inspiration in a myriad of ways and techniques, from traditional to the experimental. The book can be made through fine press printing or hand-crafted, with pages illustrated by computer-generated images or cheap photocopies. Books can become sculptures, tiny and gargantuan; books can be sliced up and reconfigured, made from all kinds of materials with unconventional objects incorporated, in unique or limited editions, or produced in multiple copies. With all sorts of ideas behind them, artists continue to challenge the idea, content and structure of the traditional book. 

Evidence of art in books can be seen in the illuminated manuscripts of the medieval era, the illustrated work of 18th century artist William Blake, and in the work of livres de artistes of the early 20th century made by Picasso, Matisse, and Braque. The rise in popularity, however, in creating what we now define as an artist's book can be linked to a combination of new technologies and social movements. Artists in the 50's, 60's, and 70's embraced what were, at the time, new technologies, such as offset printing and copy machines to create easily reproduced and inexpensive books and artist manifestos. This early movement was about spreading messages in a democratic manner and addressing challenging issues. Today's book artists embrace both the traditional and new formats, structures, and materials, often collaborating with poets and writers to create works of art that inspire and challenge the reader/viewer to engage with the content. 

The items in the Collins Library collection of artists' books have been selected for a variety of reasons: to integrate with the Puget Sound curriculum, to feature artists and writers with a geographic connection to our region, books that showcase a variety of formats, as well as books that focus on the themes that reflect the values of our community. These values include diversity, social justice, sustainability, and personal narratives. Artists' books foster critical thinking, encourage discovery of interdisciplinary connections, and inspire new forms of personal expression. 

You can find photographs of the Collins Library's collection of artists' books in Artstor

Subject Guide

Collins Memorial Library has a variety of resources to help support research in the book arts. Members of the general public are welcome to visit the library to use our resources. If you are interested in learning more about borrowing options, please consult our community users page.

A good starting point for information is this freely accessible web guide:

Philip Zimmermann and Karen Zimmermann. “Book and Artists’ Books Bibliography: A List of Recommended Readings and Resources.” College Book Arts Association, Resource Lists. 10 Aug. 2010.