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Artists' Books and the Book Arts Genre

This guide provides resources about artists' books and the Book Arts Collection in the Collections of Distinction in Norlin Library.

The Book Arts are a genre that arose early in the twentieth century, although some scholars refer to William Blake and his work Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789) for the origins of this artistic movement. The genre became recognized as a distinct art form at about the middle of the twentieth century. The lineage of the genre between Blake and the present includes the influences of a few notable artistic movements like the early twentieth-century avant-garde, Dada, and Surrealism, and mid-century artists Ed Ruscha and Dieter Roth. The book arts--or, artists' books--are creations in which an artist thematically ties the content of a book--a story or photographs or artwork--to its structure, and in doing so creates a book as a work of art itself.

The tabs in this guide link readers to information about the Book Arts Collection in Special Collections; a list of printed works: scholarship, artists' works, how-to manuals, and the basic principles of bookbinding; a list of links to several artists' webpages and presentations of some of their own works that are in Special Collections; and a list of some popular artists' books in the collection.

Several books in the list of references are available through the Libraries, and the rest are available from bookshops and online booksellers.  Use the Prospector link in the Library Catalog to find libraries that have copies of books that are not at CU Boulder.

The reader may want to refer to the libguide about Bookbinding Structures. The guide includes a page of video tutorials that demonstrate some basic book structures that can be adapted for class assignments or artists’ books. There are, of course, many videos on the Internet that demonstrate how to make myriad book structures.

Local and online art suppliers sell tools and materials for bookbinding and artists' book structures.

Rare and Distinctive Collections


Classroom: Norlin N345

Reading Room: Norlin M350B



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