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Artist Books

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Recent additions
to the Artists' Books website

Art and Science


1980 to Present

artist Ian Hamilton Finlay

The spectrum of modern and contemporary Artists' Books in Reed College's Special Collections and collected on this website include traditional letterpress printed books of poetry, conceptual book works, sculptural and visual works, concrete poetry, and magazine works. This unique collection, which holds significant 20th century and contemporary artists’ books, gives students and the broader population insight into the significant role artist's books have played among the avant-garde of Eastern and Western Europe, Asia and the United States, from the turn of the last century to the present. This includes livre d’artiste works by David Hockney, avant-garde works by Sonia Delaunay, conceptualist works by Sol LeWitt, and contemporary works by Xu Bing.

Professor Lloyd Reynolds, who taught calligraphy, letterpress printing, graphic design, and art history  during his tenure at Reed College from 1929 through 1969, was the first to foster interest in the fine press book. He collected some of the college's most significant fine press books. This effort has been furthered by subsquent art department faculty, who now teach courses in illuminated manuscripts, iconoclasm, 20th century German art, and Chinese art history, and have purchased book works to support their courses. The exhibition Bibliocosmos held at Reed College Library's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery in 2004, featured several of these works, as well as items from Reed's modern and contemporary Artists’ Books collection.

The modern and contemporary Artists’ Books collection began as a resource for the course “Image Text, The Book as a Sculptural Object," which covers the history and fabrication of the book as an alternative space for art documentation and exhibition. This website supports and highlights the major historical categories taught in the course, which include the fine press, the avant-garde, the conceptualist and 1980 to present. These categories, although generally used by most historians, are not clear divisions, and many books are not limited to a single category. The website subsequently lists the majority of books in the collection; a selection of our most significant bookworks have individual web pages where one can navigate the entire work.

The history of modern and contemporary artists’ books does not run parallel with the functional formality of the history of art. The movement is often dated by the emergence of several art book presses at the turn of the 20th century, although examples of works and influence date back much further. In the early 20th century, Ambroise Vollard, a Paris art dealer, created the livre d’artiste book, or the deluxe edition book, when he produced books with well-known artists and authors. Simultaneously, the artist book became a significant tool for artists to express social and political ideas and promote revolution. The European avant-garde artists, such as Marinetti, not only deconstructed language and typography, but also the book itself. The American and European conceptual artists of the 1960’s, such as Ed Ruscha, took this a step further, de-materializing the book as an art object by running commercial printings with no signature.

Since its conception, the artist’s book has gone through many metamorphoses, allowing artists to widen their presence to places and people outside of the gallery. Contemporary artists’ books range from fine craft letterpress works to one-of-a-kind or limited-edition art objects, to political-based zines and comics.

“The book is a unique medium in that it only performs its function if the viewer interacts with it, and turns its pages. The artist’s book is above all a physical object with which we interact with the physical world.”1 This website makes available the physicality of the artist’s book to the broader community, allowing users or viewers to experience the entire book before coming in to see the work in person.


The collection of Artists’ Books at Reed College was made possible by a generous gift to the art department by John and Betty Gray and Sue and Ed Cooley.

The Artists’ Books archive project was designed and overseen by Geraldine Ondrizek, professor of art at Reed College.
Photography: Orin Zyvan
Research and organization: Sheena Campbell, Ella Gold, Gelsey Kurrasch, and Claire Siepser
Web links and copywriter: Luke Fidler
Webmaster: Tony Moreno
Reed Digital Collections support: Brooke Sansosti and Sarah Bavier

This website was developed as part of the Reed Digital Collections initiative to integrate digital assets into the liberal arts curriculum.

Copyright Usage

The Reed College Artists' Books website (design and descriptive material) is copyrighted © 2009 by Reed College and Geraldine Ondrizek. The images on the website are copyrighted by other third parties, and are provided in this website to support research, teaching and study. You may use any materials in this website on a fair use basis, in accordance with Title 17, Section 107 of U.S. copyright law. Other uses of these materials may require permission from the copyright holder. It is the user's responsibility to determine and/or clear any necessary rights. For images, please consult the copyright information provided in each image record in the "Copyright Holder" field. For use of any other website content, please contact Reed College. Inquiries regarding obtaining high resolution copies of images should be directed to the photographer, cited in the "Photographer" field.


1 Barbara Cinelli. “Artists’ Books and Futurist Theatre: Notes for a Possible Interpretation.” Il Libro Come Opera d’Arte/The Book as a Work of Art. Rome: Galleria Nazionale D’arte Moderna, 2006. 27.

Browse Artist Book Exhibitions held at
Reed College's Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery


Browse external exhibitions
that include Artists' Books from
Reed College's Special Collections

  • Object Focus: The Book
    Museum of Contemporary Craft
    in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art
    11/19/10 - 2/26/11