Book Arts

One of our longest-standing (and broadest) collection areas, the term “book arts” documents the efforts of artists and artisans to express themselves through books in all their forms. The Rare Book Collection holds historical and contemporary examples of the evolution of book illustration, typography, and the creative experimentation with the materials that produce the book, from the first decades after the introduction of letterpress printing to its modern revivals and contemporary reinterpretations.

Our collections of fine press and contemporary artist books show particular depth in the early Anglo-American tradition and include the full run of books published by the Doves Press, along with significant editions from the Golden Cockerel and Kelmscott Presses. Printed materials are supplemented by drawings, proofs, and woodblocks from principal engravers and artists employed by those presses (among them William Morris, Eric Gill, and Emily and Jack Yeats).  The collection offers broad coverage of twentieth-century American fine presses, with particular depth in the work of Joseph Ishill (Oriole Press)—including pamphlets, cards and correspondence by Ishill—and select works by Latin American presses, such as the Taller Grafica Popular (Leopoldo Mendez) and the Puerto Rican printmakers Lorenzo Homar and Rafael Tufino. Books on paper and papermaking can be found from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, as well as type specimen books from Herman Zapf and Alembic Press, and artists’ books by contemporary book artists such as Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum.

A strength of the collection is the growing number of productions by artists in residence and students of bookmaking practice. The ARTBOUND Collection (initiated in 2010) is a distinct assortment of artists’ books featuring contemporary works from students pursuing the practice of bookmaking in book arts programs across the United States. The Coffey Residency Artists’ Book Publications series is another area of strength and continued growth.

These works, old and new, are captivating examples of how new life is layered on the words and pages of books.

Meet the Curator

Ellen Knudson

Associate in Book Arts

Ellen Knudson teaches letterpress and bookmaking in the School of Art & Art History. She acquires artists’ books for the Book Arts collection and directs the Coffey Residency in Book Arts

Photo of Ellen Knudson