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Artists' Books

Knowing what a controversial topic this is, it's hard to begin. Artists' Books, obviously, are books made by artists. After that, the fur begins to fly when we get into defining artist -- and by extension, art -- and then defining "book." (For one view on the topic, see Philip Smith's "The Whatness of Bookness.")

If you come from a family of book lovers, in any guise, then you know what a book is, ... or do you? If you are from the generation we usually think of as users of the marvellous technology allowing you to read this text, you may well have a different idea of what a book can be, or what can be a book.

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Books, as objects, can mean many different things to different people, and artists' books come in as many varieties as there are artists who make them. Some start with a particular paper they have found or made, wondering how to fashion the sheets into a book. Others start with an idea -- a poem perhaps -- and work toward giving it a physical form. A few, who might be considered serious artists, have dedicated their energies solely to the making of books -- in some form. From humble to magnificent, from the sublime to the outrageous, the book has been the vehicle of inspiration and revolution, and for many, can still inspire awe, reverence, delight and disgust. Many artists have been captivated by this simple, but oh-so-magical, form which not only has obvious tactile qualities, but is ideal for carrying textual or visual messages from author/artist to reader/viewer.

This piece by Margaret Challenger, Book and Box, was exhibited in CBBAG's The Art of the Book '93 exhibition.

CBBAG's The Art of the Book '98 and The Art of the Book '03 exhibitions contain many beautiful examples of artists' books, as well as fine bindings, calligraphy, etc. Many more examples of artists' books may be found on some of the websites on the links page.


see also the Codex.



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