Smithsonian Libraries Artists' Books

Introduction

An artist’s book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the structure or function of “book” as inspiration—a work of art in book form. Although artists have illustrated the words of others for centuries, the book as art object is relatively recent, and the Smithsonian Libraries has a rich, diverse collection of artist-made books from the early 20th century to today. 

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Click below to see all of the Artists' Books in the Smithsonian Collections Search Center. There, you can get more details and filter on topic, name, language and more.

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  • Photo of Artist book: Fenway Park by Laura Davidson, 2007-2008.
    Fenway Park by Laura Davidson, 2007-2008. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Slurring at bottom by Robin Price and Emily K. Larned , 2001.
    Slurring at bottom by Robin Price and Emily K. Larned , 2001. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Storm Sequence by Alisa Banks, 2011.
    Storm Sequence by Alisa Banks, 2011. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Cumulus by Thomas Parker Williams, 2009.
    Cumulus by Thomas Parker Williams, 2009. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Seeing by Emily K. Larned, 2000.
    Seeing by Emily K. Larned, 2000. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Hansel and Gretel: a shadow theatre book by Virginia Flynn, 2013.
    Hansel and Gretel: a shadow theatre book by Virginia Flynn, 2013. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Smoke in my Dreams by Mark Wagner, 1998.
    Smoke in my Dreams by Mark Wagner, 1998. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Freedom by Maria G. Pisano, 2000.
    Freedom by Maria G. Pisano, 2000. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Gifts from our Elders by Kerry McAleer-Keeler, 2007-2008.
    Gifts from our Elders by Kerry McAleer-Keeler, 2007-2008. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Glimpse by Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen, 2011.
    Glimpse by Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen, 2011. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Visible Invisible by Laura Davidson, 1992.
    Visible Invisible by Laura Davidson, 1992. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: AAPG Artists Books, Group Shot
    AAPG Artists Books, Group Shot
  • Photo of Artist book: Patterns by Artichoke Yink Press, in collaboration with Blue Barrel Press, 2001.
    Patterns by Artichoke Yink Press, in collaboration with Blue Barrel Press, 2001. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Visible Invisible by Laura Davidson, 1992.
    Visible Invisible by Laura Davidson, 1992. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Estancias by Javier Pérez, 1997 published by Musées de Strasbourg, Strasbourg. Catalog of an exhibition held Oct. 18, 1997-Feb. 8, 1998. Book has rubber "reptile skin" cover; postcards in front pocket and booklet in back pocket of cover. Accompanying booklet includes interview with the artist.
    Estancias by Javier Pérez, 1997 published by Musées de Strasbourg, Strasbourg. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Hypothetical Analysis of the Twinkle in Stars (as told by a child to a teacher) by Katherine Ng, 1994.
    Hypothetical Analysis of the Twinkle in Stars (as told by a child to a teacher) by Katherine Ng, 1994. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Plinitude by M.L. Van Nice, 1994.
    Plinitude by M.L. Van Nice, 1994. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Bird Wing and Plain Planes by John Wood, 1994.
    Bird Wing and Plain Planes by John Wood, 1994.View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Elektromagnetism by Philip Zimmermann, 1995.
    Elektromagnetism by Philip Zimmermann, 1995. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Elements of geometry by Euclid by Sjoerd Hofstra, 1994.
    Elements of geometry by Euclid by Sjoerd Hofstra, 1994. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Sonorous Figures by Laurie Sieverts Snyder, 1994.
    Sonorous Figures by Laurie Sieverts Snyder, 1994. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: An African folktale by Willow Legge, 1979. Why the Sun. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    An African folktale by Willow Legge, 1979. Why the Sun. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: The artist Nani Croze in Africa, by Nani Croze, 1998. Pages 23-24. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image
    The artist Nani Croze in Africa, by Nani Croze, 1998. Pages 23-24. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Bruce Onobrakpeya portfolio of art and literature by Bruce Onobrakpeya, 2003. Plate 16 Ibaden. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Bruce Onobrakpeya portfolio of art and literature by Bruce Onobrakpeya, 2003. Plate 16 Ibaden.
  • Photo of Artist book: Colored people by Blake J. Nolan, 2008. Cover Open Book. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Colored people by Blake J. Nolan, 2008. Cover Open Book. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Desire in representation by Peggy Buth, 2008. No. 33 Single Page. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Desire in representation by Peggy Buth, 2008. No. 33 Single Page. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Dolls of Africa by Freya Diamond, 2011. Pop Up. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Dolls of Africa by Freya Diamond, 2011. Pop Up. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Egyptian green : views from Egypt with the writing of Amelia Edwards, Herodotus, Catullus, ancient coffin texts & various other descriptions by Susan Allix, 2003. Cobalt Blue. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Egyptian green : views from Egypt with the writing of Amelia Edwards, Herodotus, Catullus, ancient coffin texts & various other descriptions by Susan Allix, 2003.View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Face value : old heads in modern masks : a visual, archaeological and historical reading of the Lydenburg heads by Malcolm Payne, 1993. Plate 5.
    Face value : old heads in modern masks : a visual, archaeological and historical reading of the Lydenburg heads by Malcolm Payne, 1993. Plate 5. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: GIF 2 edited by Mark Attwood, Joachim Schönfeldt and Robert Weinek published by The Artists' Press in collaboration with FIG Gallery, 1994. Wooden Slipcase Display. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    GIF 2 edited by Mark Attwood, Joachim Schönfeldt and Robert Weinek published by The Artists' Press in collaboration with FIG Gallery, 1994.. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Listen, listen : Adadam Agofomma : honoring the legacy of Koo Nimo by Mary Hark, 2011. Full spread. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Listen, listen : Adadam Agofomma : honoring the legacy of Koo Nimo by Mary Hark, 2011. Full spread. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: O livro dos seres imaginários by Amir Brito Cadôr and Daniela Maura, 2011.  Display View (spread sheets). African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    O livro dos seres imaginários by Amir Brito Cadôr and Daniela Maura, 2011. Display View (spread sheets). View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Nadimé : approche du derviche-tourneur en dix lithographies by Toufik Berramdane with text of Frédéric Brandon, 1992. Whirling Dervishes. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Nadimé : approche du derviche-tourneur en dix lithographies by Toufik Berramdane with text of Frédéric Brandon, 1992. Whirling Dervishes. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: No be today story o! by Otobong Nkanga, 2010. Six Inches. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    No be today story o! by Otobong Nkanga, 2010. Six Inches. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: On the surface : art and technique of relief printmaking published by Katrine Harries Print Cabinet, 1996. Malcolm Payne. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    On the surface : art and technique of relief printmaking published by Katrine Harries Print Cabinet, 1996. Malcolm Payne View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Qauqaua : a San folk story from Botswana told by Coex'ae Qgam published by Artists' Press, 1996. Quagua Cover. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Qauqaua : a San folk story from Botswana told by Coex'ae Qgam published by Artists' Press, 1996. Quagua Cover. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Les sept dormants : sept livres en hommage aux 7 moines de Tibhirine by Rachid Koraïchi, 2004. p.110 w?Case. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Les sept dormants : sept livres en hommage aux 7 moines de Tibhirine by Rachid Koraïchi, 2004. p.110 w?Case. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Sound from the thinking strings published by Axeage Private Press, 1991. Detail of Title Page. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Sound from the thinking strings published by Axeage Private Press, 1991. Detail of Title Page. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Take me to your leader by Daniel Halter, 2006. Cover. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Take me to your leader by Daniel Halter, 2006. Cover. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Tunisia by Bessie Smith Moulton, 2003. Sand Tracks. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    Tunisia by Bessie Smith Moulton, 2003. Sand Tracks. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: The ultimate safari by Nadine Gordimer ; with original hand-printed lithographs by Aletah Masuku, Alsetah Manthosi, and Dorah Ngomane, 2001. People Walking. African Art Museum artists' books exhibit research image.
    The ultimate safari by Nadine Gordimer ; with original hand-printed lithographs by Aletah Masuku, Alsetah Manthosi, and Dorah Ngomane, 2001. People Walking. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Tauba Auerbach's Pop-up book, 2011.
    Tauba Auerbach's Pop-up book, 2011. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Leporello : ein Buch, by Werner Huppertz and Elmar Heimbach, 1982.
    Leporello : ein Buch, by Werner Huppertz and Elmar Heimbach, 1982. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: World without end, by Julie Chen, 1999.
    World without end, by Julie Chen, 1999. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: French fries : a new play written by Dennis Bernstein, Warren Lehrer; designed by Warren Lehrer, 1984.
    French fries : a new play written by Dennis Bernstein, Warren Lehrer; designed by Warren Lehrer, 1984. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Gold rush : a multi-page serigraph, by Jill Timm, 2013.
    Gold rush : a multi-page serigraph, by Jill Timm, 2013. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: French fries : a new play written by Dennis Bernstein, Warren Lehrer; designed by Warren Lehrer, 1984.
    French fries : a new play written by Dennis Bernstein, Warren Lehrer; designed by Warren Lehrer, 1984. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Pinwheel pulsar, by Esther K. Smith, 2013.
    Pinwheel pulsar, by Esther K. Smith, 2013. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: 1 cent life, by Walasse Ting, edited by Sam Francis, 1964.
    1 cent life, by Walasse Ting, edited by Sam Francis, 1964. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Yoko Ono : Odyssey of a cockroach, by Yoko Ono, 2004.
    Yoko Ono : Odyssey of a cockroach, by Yoko Ono, 2004. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Richard Tuttle : [triangles]'s : works 1964-1985 : [exhibition] 30 October-8 December 1986, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London ; Two pinwheels : works 1964-1985 : [exhibition] 29 November-8 February 1986, the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, by Richard Tuttle, 1985.
    Richard Tuttle : [triangles]'s : works 1964-1985 : [exhibition] 30 October-8 December 1986, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London ; Two pinwheels : works 1964-1985 : [exhibition] 29 November-8 February 1986, the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, by Richard Tuttle, 1985. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Sunrise and sunset at Praiano, by Sol Lewitt, 1980.
    Sunrise and sunset at Praiano, by Sol Lewitt, 1980. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Unhinged, by Sam Taylor-Wood, 1996.
    Unhinged, by Sam Taylor-Wood, 1996. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: The stars, by Vija Celmins and Eliot Weinberger, 2005.
    The stars, by Vija Celmins and Eliot Weinberger, 2005. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Robert Gober : the United States Pavilion, 49th Venice Biennale, June 10-November 4, 2001, by Robert Gober, 2001.
    Robert Gober : the United States Pavilion, 49th Venice Biennale, June 10-November 4, 2001, by Robert Gober, 2001. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Two or three things I imagine about them, by Alfredo Jaar, 1992.
    Two or three things I imagine about them, by Alfredo Jaar, 1992. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: A short story, by Julião Sarmento, 2005.
    A short story, by Julião Sarmento, 2005. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Negative space, by Mungo Thomson, 2007.
    Negative space, by Mungo Thomson, 2007. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Hotel, hotel, hotel, by Martin Kippenberger, 1995.
    Hotel, hotel, hotel, by Martin Kippenberger, 1995. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: David Ireland in Switzerland, by David Ireland text by Marie-Louise Lienhard, 1991.
    David Ireland in Switzerland, by David Ireland text by Marie-Louise Lienhard, 1991. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Sleepless nights, by Oliver Herring, 2001.
    Sleepless nights, by Oliver Herring, 2001. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: The green ray and other suns, by Tacita Dean, 2001.
    The green ray and other suns, by Tacita Dean, 2001. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Janet Cardiff : the Walk book, by Janet Cardiff, 2005.
    Janet Cardiff : the Walk book, by Janet Cardiff, 2005. View in Catalog
  • Photo of Artist book: Dictionary of water, by Roni Horn, 2001.
    Dictionary of water, by Roni Horn, 2001. View in Catalog

Artists' Books from Unbound

Recent Smithsonian Libraries blog posts on Artists' Books.

From Charlie Parker to Potato Chip Portraits: Exhibition of Recently Acquired Artists’ Books

The Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library is pleased to present an exhibition of some of its recently acquired artists’ books in the Library’s Reading Room. The books, all acquired in the last two years, range from mass-produced publications to unique, hand-made book works. The artworks show a range of subjects, from the very personal, family stories, to the cult of celebrity.

Experiencing “The Ultimate Safari”

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a book written and illustrated by female artists, The Ultimate Safari. The book is currently featured in our exhibition, Artists’ Books and Africa, which is open until September 2016 and is located in the National Museum of African Art.

Museum Day Live: Exploring Careers in Libraries and Preservation

In anticipation of Smithsonian Libraries’ participation in this year’s Museum Day Live events on Saturday March 12th, we wanted to highlight Library Preservation work at the Book Conservation Lab here at Smithsonian Libraries, and draw attention to the varied interests and skills that are inherent to Preservation work and are important and driving forces in preserving library collections for the future. Smithsonian Libraries’ Book Conservation Lab is a place of intersections. Books from all 20 Smithsonian Libraries’ branches come here to undergo conservation treatment, as needed. At any given moment there are books ranging in subjects from Art & Design and the Natural Sciences to How to Read Airplane Blueprints. Sometimes harmonious themes crystalize: a beautifully illustrated botany book rubs shoulders with a book on textile, floral designs from the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

A funny thing happened on the way to my internship: What I accidentally learned in my first week as an AA/PG intern

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here This post was written by American Art/Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library intern Sharon Wolff. Sharon is an MSIS grad student at SUNY at Albany in New York, and came down to DC to intern with the AA/PG from the end of December through most of January. She primarily worked on cataloging the Art and Artist Files while she was there, along with the upcoming Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here exhibit.