The handmade artists' book: space, materiality, and the dynamics of communication in book arts

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study considers the contemporary handmade artists' book - books that are art - as dynamic vessels of cultural communication and social transcripts worthy of collection in libraries and archives. Artists' books are reviewed in terms of their physicality and power as material objects, with special attention given to the one-of-a-kind artists' book type. While the history and definition of the term "artists' book" is discussed briefly, debates over definitions of terminology and rigid categorizations are largely avoided. Historiography regarding extant scholarship within the field of artists' books also is covered. Following a humanities approach that combines the fields of art history - which employs a decidedly visual approach to analysis - and library studies, these works of book art are examined in three manifestations: as art, as contained within the library or archive, and as container of knowledge. The tripartite division of this work likewise reflects a progression from historical consideration to practical application regarding institutional acquisition, cataloging, and collection development, and lastly theoretical analysis. Also explored is the relationship between viewer and object particularly in terms of intimacy, narrative or story, and the placement of the artists' book within space and time. This work argues for the importance of the physical book, and emphasizes viewer interaction with handmade artists' books as an intimate experience bound by time and space, an experience laden with cultural information and social knowledge. As a humanizing art medium and vessel of communication particularly well suited to library collections, the significant role of the librarian is summarized with respect to access to these records of the human experience. This dissertation urges librarians and scholars to value artists' books as source material for significant research, and assesses important pragmatic concerns faced by librarians who collect and promote them. Included in this study is an Appendix listing more than 200 artists' books handled and considered by the author, from selected college and university collections in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

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Library science, Art history