From photography to performance to the written word, art comes in many configurations. Artists' books are an interdisciplinary form that combine bookmaking and the visual arts to create new ways to tell stories through works of art. On this page, you will find multiple formal definitions of artists' books, sources from the Pratt Libraries for researching artists' books, and a video explaining some of the finer details of the discipline.
Interested in making your own artists' books or getting involved in the artistic community? This page is mostly for scholars looking for help in their research, but in-person activities, workshops, and experiences can be found on our Events, Environments, and Enrichments page.
Unlike an art book, catalog or monograph that tend to showcase artworks created in another medium, the term ‘artists’ books’ refers to publications that have been conceived as artworks in their own right. These ‘projects for the page’ are generally inexpensive, often produced in large or open editions, and are democratically available.
Artist Book. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://www.printedmatter.org/about/artist-book
Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus
Books, whether unique items or multiples, made or conceived by artists, including commercial publications (usually in limited editions), as well as unique items formed or arranged by the artist. For texts written by artists for the sake of their informational content, use "writings." For artists' books that emphasize the physical book as a work of art rather than the content, use "bookworks." For works that look like or incorporate books but do not communicate in the ways characteristic of books, see "book objects."
Art & Architecture Thesaurus Full Record Display (Getty Research). (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from http://www.getty.edu/vow/AATFullDisplay?find=artists%27+books&logic=AND¬e=&english=N&prev_page=1&subjectid=300123016
Artists' Books are books or book-like objects, over the final appearance of which an artists has had a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself. They are not books of reproductions of an artist's work, about an artist, or with just a text or illustrations by an artist. In practice, this definition breaks down as artists challenge it, pushing the book format in unexpected directions.
Bury, S. (1995). Artists' Books: The book as a work of art, 1963-1995. Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press.
Books made or conceived by artists.
Phillpot, C. (1982). Books, bookworks, book objects, artists’ books. Artforum. New York. New York, 20(9).
There are no specific criteria for defining what an artist's book is, but there are many criteria for defining what it is not, or what it partakes of, or what it distinguishes itself from.
Drucker, J. (2004). The century of artists' books. New York: Granary Books.
What truly makes an artist’s book is the artist’s intent, and artists have used the book as inspiration in a myriad of ways and techniques, from traditional to the experimental. The book could be made through fine press printing or hand-crafted, the pages illustrated with computer-generated images or cheap photocopies; books became sculptures, tiny and gargantuan; books were sliced up and reconfigured, made from all kinds of materials with unconventional objects incorporated, in unique or limited editions, or produced in multiple copies. With all sorts of ideas behind them, artists continue to challenge the idea, content and structure of the traditional book.
What is an artist’s book? – Smithsonian Libraries Unbound. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from https://blog.library.si.edu/blog/2012/06/01/what-is-an-artists-book/