“Artists’ books are ‘books or book-like objects’ over the final appearance of which an artist has had a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself.” – Stephen Bury.
ECA Library has a long history of collecting and promoting artists’ books, and has around 1500 items in its collection, all of which are listed on DiscoverEd. We use the artists’ books as a teaching collection and for displays and exhibitions. As Academic Support Librarian for ECA I am frequently asked to take selections of artists’ books to studios across the 5 Schools of ECA, to deliver hands-on sessions, as object-based learning is very much valued at ECA.
The collection at ECA ranges from ground-breaking works by Ed Ruscha from the 1960s to works by Scottish-based legends such as Ian Hamilton Finlay, Helen Douglas, Len McDermid, Thomas A Clark & Laurie Clark, to zines by local artists working today, and occasionally we collect the best examples of student work from ECA Degree Shows. We regularly attend artists’ book markets such as the annual bookfair held at the Edinburgh Fruitmarket Gallery, and ECA’s own Bookmarks Bookfair, which has been a very popular annual event since 2016.
We recently visited a fantastic exhibition of new artists’ books at the Upright Gallery, Nature Works, on the theme of climate change, and are pleased to be able to report that we will be acquiring six impressive artists’ books from the show, thanks to the support of the CRC. These are:
1: Christine Sloman: the rest is memory, (II): Inspired by a quote from the poet Louise Glück “We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.” This piece is an evocation of language and landscape through the hazy lens of memory. Made in the form of a wooden block puzzle, the blocks are lined with monotypes on Japanese paper. This work reminded me of the work of Helen Chadwick.
Christine Sloman: the rest is memory, (II). Photograph by Jane Furness.
2: Marama Warren: The Currowan Fire – Ablaze:
The bushfires that raged on the east coast of Australia in the summer of 2019-20 were unprecedented in their extent and intensity. The Currowan fire was one of over 100 fires that burned across south east NSW for over 74 days. In that fire alone, three people’s lives were lost, 300 houses and an area of forest and farmland the size of Spain was burnt. The cost to flora and fauna was devastating. This book records and remembers the intensity of that terrifying experience, a time of fear, loss and uncertainty. Due to global warming, millions of people all around the world are now living with fear and uncertainty every day.
Marama Warren: The Currowan Fire – Ablaze. Photograph by Ian Farmer.
3: Barbara Morton: eventide.fallen, Entropie Press:
Barbara Morton: eventide.fallen. Photograph by Jane Furness.
eventide. fallen includes geometric and abstract colour pencil drawings alongside carefully arranged poetic text. A sequence of eight drawings on one side, having poetry shaped to mirror the image on the reverse – the design of the book carries the intention of encouraging the reader to appreciate poetry and art in equal measure.
4: Fenneke Wolters-Sinke: Yin and Yang book:
This hardcovered dos-à-dos artists’ book with elbum binding (an album structure which holds its pages by gripping them into a series of articulated narrow pockets, named after its creator Ben Elbel, of Elbel Libro Bookbinders) contains two sections, each with 7 panoramic monoprints folded in half. Each monoprint can be pulled out of the book and together they make up one continuous design. Yin is expressed as the movement of the sea at night with white ink on black paper. Yang has been expressed by the movement of air/ clouds above a mountain-scape during the day, with black ink on white paper. Each cover has a button made of bookcloth in the colour from the other cover, and black/white linen thread that ties around the book, pleasingly connecting Yin and Yang.
Fenneke Wolters-Sinke: Yin and Yang book. Photograph by Ian Farmer.
5: Susie Wilson: Seed:
This pamphlet book contains prints of a small collection of seeds that the artist grew in 2021 in her garden. Her interest in gardening has flourished through a collaborative two-year residency based on an allotment with artist Felicity Bristow. The ‘seed’ became central to their residency as the source of continuing life and a positive in an uncertain time. Collecting and sharing seed is a way of connecting to others, encouraging people to grow whether in their garden or a window box.
Susie Wilson: Seed. Photograph by Ian Farmer.
6: Sophie Artemis: a pop-up book of butterflies:
Butterflies are indicators of a healthy eco-system and their populations studied to monitor climate change. This pop-up Butterfly book identifies each caterpillar and butterfly and the habitat it needs to survive. The book unfolds like a butterfly and each page opens to allow the butterfly to emerge and fly upwards into nature.
Sophie Artemis: a pop up book of butterflies. Photograph by Ian Farmer.
In 2021 we acquired a beautiful work by Indian book artist Priya Pereira which is illustrated below.
Priya Pereira: The Seven Stories of Mewar. Photograph by Priya Pereira.
The Seven Stories of Mewar is a limited edition set of seven hand-made books, with their own embellished box, which, in the words of the artist “share some episodes of significance that occurred during the illustrious history of the House of Mewar over the past fifteen hundred years”.
We look forward to using these items in forthcoming exhibitions and teaching.
ECA is now working more closely with the CRC to acquire artists’ books and there are also holdings at the CRC, where the examples tend to be unique, highly fragile, or classed as “manuscripts” or “fine bindings”. The CRC are delighted to have recently acquired several unique works by French book artist Diane de Bournazel.
“Diane de Bournazel (b. 1956) creates books as ‘poems without words’ in her unique pen, ink and gouache style, filling each page with mazes of vegetation, mysterious borders, structures and figures, opening windows within pages allowing us to see behind and beyond them, suggesting a series of alternative worlds and narratives. Drawing on the universals of the cosmos, the natural world, of childhood and human relationships each of her books invite careful ‘reading’ and multiple interpretations.” (Justin Croft).
The 4 books have now been catalogued and can be found on the CRC Archives catalogue online.
A page from Diane de Bournazel’s book Comme si de rien n’etait, 2021. [“Like nothing ever happened”, created during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.]
ECA Library are keen to support ECA in its teaching on book making and for each year of the School of Design’s Bookmarks Bookfair we have hosted a display of winning student work from the Fair, in the ECA Library, in collaboration with ECA tutor and book artist Jane Hyslop.
We are looking forward to supporting the next ECA Bookfair which will be “BOOKMARKS 2022”, taking place on Wednesday 30 March 2022 in the Sculpture Court, ECA.
 Bury, S. et al. (2015) Artists’ books : the book as a work of art 1963-2000. [Second edition]. London: Bernard Quaritch Limited.