Tag Archives: What is an Artists Book?

What is an Artist(‘)s(‘) Book?


As I mentioned in my last post, I think an interesting part of being an artist is learning about what has come before. I know there are a group of artists who think that art history is a waste of time and we shouldn’t care what happened in art before they came along. I respectfully disagree.

So, I thought I’d share with you about No Longer Innocent – Book Art In America 1960-1980 as I read it. If you’ve read it, or this makes you curious enough to pick it up, let’s discuss it as we go along.

Obviously I can’t outline the whole book for you as I’m sure that Ms. Bright would not appreciate that. You’ll have to read the book. But, I have to admit, it’s very interesting reading so I’m hoping to tempt you to try it for yourself. If you learn something along the way, so much the better. I can tell you that after having read only two chapters so far, I feel like I have a much better understanding of the Book Art world and its history. Whereas I was dreading beginning the book, I’m now looking forward to the next chapter.

So, here we go:

In the introduction, Ms. Bright talks about the pre-occupation, by both artists and galleries/museums about the definition of artist’s books. And, she’s quite right. If you belong to the Book Arts ListServ you’ll know that this discussion comes up regularly. What is an artist book? Does the apostrophe go in front of or after the s? (Artists’ book or artist’s book?), etc. I’d recently read Alisa Golden’s discussion in her blog called, Defining Book Art: What’s in a Name?, and loved her last sentence, “I sigh and say, ‘look at my website.'”

Then, out of curiosity, I Googled “What is an artists book” and found that this is a subject written about over and over by book artists and libraries. Here are some of the more interesting blogs I found:

Artist’s Books – For Lack of a Better Name by Angela Lorenz (I love her opening statement: “WARNING: Artist’s books should come with a warning label. Once you know what they are, be warned, you have the burden of trying to explain them to others.” I also particularly like her list of what artist’s books are not.)

On the Book Arts Web, you’ll find a discussion thread from March 1998: Definition of the Artist’s Book; What is a Book, BSO’s (Book Shaped Objects); Art vs. Craft. (BSO was a new term for me. One of my favorite posts in this thread includes the questions: What is an artist? How do we define “read”?)

And, in case I haven’t lost you yet, here are several more:

What is an artists’ book by the State Library of Queensland

Artists’ Books by the Victoria and Albert Museum

What distinguishes an artist’s book from an art book? by the Lucy Scribner Library (While you’re there, use the sidebar on the right to browse their collection of 100 Artists’ Books. You’ll be inspired.)

What is an Artists’ Book by the Oberlin Art Library

Squirrel? I didn’t actually tell you much about Ms. Bright’s book, but I think this post is long enough. Already we’ve launched off into researching and pondering – which is the point of studying anyway.

How do you define an artists’ book? Please feel free to share in the comments.