What is an Artists' Book?

“Artists’ Books” are difficult to define, but Johanna Drucker explains in her book, The Century of Artists’ Books, “Artists’ books take every possible form, participate in every possible convention of book making, every possible ‘ism’ of mainstream art and literature, every possible mode of production, every shape, every degree of ephemerality or archival durability.” Artists take the bookmaking opportunity to disperse their work more widely than is often possible in a gallery setting, and often have control of the entire production process.

Artists’ books exist at the intersections of printmaking, photography, poetry, experimental narrative, visual arts, graphic design, and publishing. As well as the intersections of politics, gender, sexuality, civil rights, and social activism. Artists’ books have made a place for themselves in the collections of museums, libraries and bibliophiles, they have caught the interest of art historians and critics writing about art, and there are numerous studio programs in art schools dedicated to the art of the book, ushering in new generations of artists making books.

The Bridwell Art Library has 492 Artists' Books in our collection. For more information please contact artlib@louisville.edu.

Domicilia II

by Sam Garriott Antonacci

  • Miniature book: 2.125 x 2.125" closed, 11 x 3.8" open.
  • Single sheet folded extending from pastedowns of paper covered boards.
  • Epson print of prismacolor and ink on parchment.
  • Signed and numbered on backboard with handwritten colophon information.
  • Hand illustration on front board.
  • Housed in a 3 x 3 x 1" clamshell box with illustrations on cover and title handprinted on spine.
  • Laid in box with Antonacci's printed label on lid and printed specifics of book tipped in.

Artist's Statement: "Domicilia II is a map book of all the places that I have lived. It is a small document of personal history - once you open it up, it can be folded accordion-style in order to stand up for display."

What is a miniature book?

In the United States, a miniature book is usually considered to be one which is no more than three inches in height, width, or thickness. Some aficionados collect slightly larger books while others specialize in even smaller sizes. Outside of the United States, books up to four inches are often considered miniature.

The miniature book has a long and exceptional history, but why? That answer will vary with every collector, bookmaker, and tiny tome affiliate you ask. Some consider Sumerian clay tablets, with cuneiform writing, dated to as early as 2500 BC to be the first miniature books. Others say they originated in the Middle Ages.

It’s said that the earliest miniature books were produced primarily for convenience; large proclamations transcribed into miniature for ease of storage; miniature bibles for monks to carry tucked in their pockets; miniature books of etiquette for young Victorian ladies to discreetly reference for proper conduct. Queen Mary made them very popular when, in 1922, 200 miniature books were produced for display in the library of her miniature doll house.


By Kerri Miki-Lani Schroeder

  • Rolling cloth-covered box structure variation.
  • 5"x 7"x 6"closed; 43"x7"x1" extended.
  • 5 plexi-framed found items. Letterpress printed.
  • Found objects.
  • Signed and numbered by the artist.

Artist's Statement: "Reliquary memorializes forgotten objects found in the Mojave desert, with text centered around loss, memory, and decay. Questions asked in the text focus on where memory is held within objects and within our bodies, and do they erode at a similar rate? The rolling box structure reveals one compartment at a time, the items inside mirrored by their gold stamped 'sigils' on adjacent cloth. Items and sigils are arranged referencing trail markers and 'hobo code' to navigate the way. The last compartment holds a photograph of the area of the desert where the items were found, faded behind a fogged plexi-frame.

The gold foil sigils were developed referencing the shapes of the objects and objects were arranged with hobo code and alchemical symbols in mind. I chose to incorporate the symbols because of all the random signs I would see scratched into rocks or walls while exploring the desert. I tried to research the signs I saw but sometimes was unsure if they were secret code or just graffiti, old or new - either way it really added to the mystery and sense of danger in the desert."

What is a Found Object Book?

Found object is a loan translation from the French objet trouvé, describing art created from undisguised, but often modified, objects or products that are not normally considered materials from which art is made, often because they already have a non-art function.

Pablo Picasso first publicly utilized the idea when he pasted a printed image of chair caning onto his painting titled Still Life with Chair Caning (1912).

Marcel Duchamp is thought to have perfected the concept several years later when he made a series of ready-mades, consisting of completely unaltered everyday objects selected by Duchamp and designated as art. The most famous example is Fountain (1917), a standard urinal purchased from a hardware store and displayed on a pedestal, resting on its side. In its strictest sense the term "ready-made" is applied exclusively to works produced by Marcel Duchamp, who borrowed the term from the clothing industry (French: prêt-à-porter, lit. 'ready-to-wear') while living in New York, and especially to works dating from 1913 to 1921.


by Ginger Burrell

  • 9.25 x 4.25 x 2.125" wooden hinged box.
  • Boxed divided into two sections by wooden piece.
  • Sections contain coptic bound book on left side and four wooden spheres with accordion books on right side.
  • Sphere books signed and dated.
  • Coptic bound book numbered and signed.
  • Spheres measure 1.5" diameter with each a different color.
  • Each sphere is halved to contain an accordion structure book and has a magnetic closure.
  • Coptic bound book: 4.5 x .25", 64 pages, printed inkjet on Rives BFK paper, Dark Courier font, cloth-covered boards, patterned paper pastedowns.

Artist's Statement: "Inspired by Yoko Ono's 'Grapefruit,' this boxed set includes a Coptic-bound book with 60 Instructions to Save the Planet. Some sincere, some tongue-in-cheek, some meant to shock the reader into action, these instructions call attention to climate change and the real consequences that we're already beginning to experience. Along with the book are 4 Biospheres, wooden globes with accordion books held together magnetically."

What is a Coptic Binding?

Bindings produced by the Copts, or Egyptian Christians. The Coptic style of sewing is not unlike that of present-day machine edition sewing, in that it is also in the form of chain stitch linkings appearing as so many braids across the spine of the book. In addition, the covers of Coptic bindings were frequently sewn or laced to the text block by a number of hinging loops. Some Coptic bindings had wooden boards (from about the 4th century to the Middle Ages), but the majority had boards built up by layers of waste papyrus. They also had lined spines with flanges, as well as headbands. They were covered in leather as early as the 4th century and were tooled in blind, or by blind blocking. although decoration with inked and painted ornaments, as well as cut-out openwork backed with pieces of painted or gilded parchment were also used. Decoration consisting of openwork with parchment backing was executed before the leather (which was already cut to size) was attached. as was blind tooling or stamping when the fragile papyrus boards were employed. The tooling was in all likelihood done with unheated tools on moistened leather. Coptic bindings make up the oldest surviving "family" of leather book-bindings, and represent the ultimate source of all decorated leather bindings.

Bird Talk

Virginia Center for the Book

  • 11 x 12.5"; 11 leaves on each side with three flags each leaf.
  • Double-hinged flag book.
  • Hand printed and bound at the Virginia Center for the Book.
  • Numbered.
  • Laid in chip board box with title printed on yellow band across lid.

Artist's Statement: "Book artists at the Virginia Center for the Book celebrate Audubon's Year of the Bird with 'Bird Talk', marking the centennial anniversary of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act in a creative, cacophonous collaboration. Our book is an eclectic assemblage of 22 wild birds of North America along with their myriad songs and calls depicted by member artists using a variety of relief printing methods, bound in a double-hinged flag book that flutters open like a rising flock of birds. … 'Bird Talk' is the culmination of member artists exploring books, paper, and printmaking through a studio located in the Jefferson School in Charlottesville Virginia."

What is a Double-Hinged Flag Fold?

The foundation of the deceptively simple “flag book” structure is an accordion folded spine. Rows of flags attached to opposing sides of each of the spine’s “mountain” folds allow the artist to fragment and layer a number of complementary or contrasting images and narratives.

When read page by page, the viewer sees disjointed fragments of image and text. When the spine is pulled fully open, these fragments assemble a panoramic spread. This transformation is accompanied by a delightful flapping sound. The spine and covers provide opportunities for additional imagery.

Philadelphia book artist and conservator Hedi Kyle created the first flag book, April Diary in 1979.


A Topography of Ghosts

by Keri Miki-Lani Schroeder

  • 10” x 10”x2” (closed); 10” x 38”x1” (open).
  • Map-fold variation, 4-sided enclosed box variation.
  • Letterpress and pochoir.
  • Images and text created on a Poco Proof Press through a combination of pressure prints with pochoir, and text printed from photopolymer plates on Hahnemühle Ingres and Udagami paper.
  • Typeset in Diotima designed by Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse.
  • Cloth-covered casing with glass inset on front board.
  • Signed and numbered by the artist.

Artist's Statement: "Influxstructure: A Topography of Ghosts explores macro and micro human systems (both natural and artificial), and how we use the earth and our bodies to communicate and navigate space. When the book is closed, iron filings in the glass case are gathered in a tightly closed circle around a hidden magnet. When the book is open, the iron filings fall away from the magnet and scatter into formless dust. The map-fold variation structure allows images to be peeled back layer by layer, alternating between the miniscule (synapses, nerves, veins), to the immense (Nazca lines, US Highway systems, Atomic bomb test site). Holes in pages peek through to highlight the interconnectedness of the systems. Text alternates from prose poems to cited research."

What is Pochoir?

Pochoir is a refined stencil-based technique employed to create prints or to add color to pre-existing prints. It was most popular from the late 19th century through the 1930's with its center of activity in Paris. Pochoir was primarily used to create prints devoted to fashion, patterns, and architectural design and is most often associated with Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

The use of stencils dates back to as early as 500 C.E. and was also used in Europe from the 1500's onward to decorate playing cards, postcards and to create simple prints. It was, however, the increase in popularity of Japanese prints in the middle of the 19th century that spurred the refinement of the use of stencils culminating in the development of pochoir.

Pochoir begins with the analysis of the composition, including color tones and densities, of a color image. Numerous stencils were designed as a means of reproducing an image. A craftsman known as a découpeur would cut stencils with a straight-edged knife. The stencils were originally made of aluminum, copper, or zinc but eventually the material of choice was either celluloid or plastic. Along with this transition of stencil materials, there was a shift away from the use of watercolor towards the broad, soft, opaque layers of gouache. The technique was further refined in an effort to create the most vivid, accurately colored reproductions. Stencils created by the découpeur would be passed on to the coloristes. The coloristes applied the pigments using a variety of different brushes and methods of paint application to create the finished pochoir print.

Toot Toot!: A Book About Fruit

By the Typography and the Book Arts Class at Scripps College, 2018

  • 4.5 x 9.75"; 12 sections.
  • Each section in accordion format.
  • Piano hinge binding.
  • Letterpress printed using Scripps College Old Style and a selection of typefaces.
  • Linoleum, cut vinyl, and pressure prints.
  • Printed on Rives Lightweight and Langell handmade paper with Calendula petal inclusions.
  • Signed by the students.
  • Numbered.

Artist's Statement: "Scripps College and Harvey Mudd students worked collaboratively to create 'Toot Toot! A Book about Fruit', a limited-edition, letterpress book. Throughout the semester, Professor Tia Blassingame's Typography & Book Arts class viewed botanical illustrations, contemporary and archival documents at the Denison, Honnold, and Santa Ana Botanical Garden libraries in Claremont, California.

Students viewed fruit crate labels, landscape maps of the campus and region, agricultural journals, historic photographs and postcards, and ephemera related to the fruit trees that appear in the book and on the Scripps College campus. The class took a campus landscaping tour led by the head of the Grounds Department. Students had opportunities throughout the semester to sketch, photograph, and pick the fruit trees.

It may have started by looking at the fruit trees on the Scripps College campus, but it presents information pertinent to the Southern California region and state in general as it grapples with life after a drought - if such even exists - and the nation experiencing global warming, climate extremes, and what that means for the availability of fresh fruit."

What is an Accordion Fold?

An accordion fold refers to a document folding method that uses a series of alternating folds to create multiple panels of a similar size. The parallel pleats formed by the alternating folds resemble the expandable mid-section of an Accordion musical instrument, hence the name "Accordion Fold."

Printed pieces folded with the accordion method will open fully with minimal resistance. This is because each subsequent fold is made in the opposite direction of the fold preceding it. Also, unlike many other folding techniques, accordion folds help minimize the bulk of the finished piece so it will close compactly. The Accordion fold is sometimes referred to as a Zig-Zag fold or a Fan fold.

Modern Day Watermarking

by Helen Hiebert

  • 4.75 x 6.25"; 6 pages.
  • Single sheet book made from cotton paper made on a Tim Moore laid mould with watermarks hand-cut using Sure Stamp.
  • Letterpress printed by Diane Jacobs.
  • Unfolds to display four large watermarks.
  • Held in a transparent paper slip with colophon printed in black.

Artist's Statement:  "This is the first in a series of instructional pamphlets on modern day watermarking. Look for upcoming editions on fabric paint watermarks, wiremarks, and computer generated watermarks."

What is a watermark?

Although the art of papermaking can be traced back to the beginning of the first century it was not until the thirteenth century that watermarks emerged. The first examples provided by Italian papermakers. Watermarks were created by bending pieces of wire into filigree designs, taken from the French word “filigrane“ and secured to the wire mesh. Any design would displace fibres imparting a faint translucent image into the sheet particularly evident when held to the light. It was believed these early watermarks served to identify the work of individual paper makers. This was an extremely arduous activity and wages were earned on a piecework basis. Later watermarks became to serve as indicators of either type, size or category of paper, acting as the first trademarks.

Originally regarded as almost an art form by the early Italians the watermark soon became synonymous with security. Around 1700 when banknotes first began to appear from the newly founded national and central banks of Europe watermarks were introduced in an attempt to thwart counterfeiting.

The use of watermarks now extend from corporate and brand identity through to the creation of highly decorative and innovative products.

Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene

By Philip Zimmermann

  • 4.5 x 5.5".
  • Text block printed by offset at the Center for Book and Paper at Columbia College Chicago on their Heidelberg GTO.
  • Printed done by Brad Freeman and his Columbia College Book & Paper graduate students.
  • Bound in hard cover boards with end sheet pastedown.
  • Covers and end sheets printed by Philip Zimmermann using pigmented archival inkjet.
  • Foil-stamped on the cover and blind embossed title on the spine.
  • Includes information pamphlet of 8 pages.
  • Book signed, numbered and dated by the artist.

Artist's Statement: "Due to a general public concern about climate change, most people have become aware of the term 'anthropocene.' It’s a word relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. For the last two years I have been thinking about a way to make a new artists’ book related to the issues that prompted that term 'anthropocene.'"

What is offset printing?

Offset printing, also called offset lithography, or litho-offset, in commercial printing, widely used printing technique in which the inked image on a printing plate is printed on a rubber cylinder and then transferred (i.e., offset) to paper or other material. The rubber cylinder gives great flexibility, permitting printing on wood, cloth, metal, leather, and rough paper. An American printer, Ira W. Rubel, of Nutley, N.J., accidentally discovered the process in 1904 and soon built a press to exploit it.

In offset printing the matter to be printed is neither raised above the surface of the printing plate (as in letterpress) nor sunk below it (as in intaglio, or gravure, printing). Instead, it is flush with the surface of the plate; thus offset is classified as a planographic method of printing. Offset printing, as a development of lithography (q.v.), is based on the principle that water and grease do not mix, so that a greasy ink can be deposited on grease-treated printing areas of the plate, while nonprinting areas, which hold water, reject the ink. The offset plate is usually of zinc or aluminum or a combination of metals, with the surface treated to render it porous and then coated with a photosensitive material. Exposure to an image hardens the coating on printing areas; the coating on nonprinting areas is washed away, leaving wetted metal that will reject ink.