Within the library’s Special Collections at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University resides a collection of over 400 artists’ books. Initiated in 1997, this collection contains the work of local, regional and national contemporary artists working in the book form. The purposes of the collection include teaching, research and exhibition. Academic departments and programs that have made use of the artists’ books include the Art Department, the English Department, the School of Education, the Honors’ Program and the Palmer School of Library and Information Science. “Contemporary Artists’ Books,” a course focusing on the conceptual, critical, and aesthetic concerns in the field, is offered as part of the curriculum of the master’s degree in Rare Books and Special collections in the Palmer School.
The LIU Artists’ Books Collection includes many unique, one-of-a-kind works in addition to signed, limited editions and open editions. Of particular note are the works by members of the Booklyn Artists’ Alliance, a collective of artists with production and educational facilities based in Brooklyn, New York. Outside of LIU, these particular works cannot be found elsewhere in the world.
An artist’s book is an original investigation into the form and features of a book for aesthetic purposes. While these purposes may include literary ones, the primary intent is to create art that explores the unique possibilities of the book form. The contemporary artist’s book is part of a long tradition that covers illuminated manuscripts, the artisanal, crafted book, the livre d’artiste, the investigations by avant-garde artists and modernists of the mid Twentieth Century, and the experiments of minimalist, conceptual and pop artists and artisans in later decades. Given the potential interactions of materials, medium, technology, bookmaking techniques, printmaking and artmaking practices and in a discipline that draws on creators of different persuasions from calligraphy to sculpture, the permutations of the artist’s book are endlessly variable. It is this complexity and range that any collection of the genre hopes to capture and convey to its readers.