Washington University Libraries
Site Search

Ask Us
Ask Us email  chat  phone  text

The Book Arts
in the Special Collections of the Washington University Libraries

The Special Collections department of Washington University's Olin Library houses an extensive collection of artists' books and fine press books, including the Holly Hall Book Arts Collection, named for the person responsible for building up this remarkable group of books. These are supplemented by the Isador Mendle Memorial Collection on the History of Printing, and by books on every aspect of bookmaking and printing history, from paper to printing processes to typography and graphic design.

Artists' books

While the traditional book opens and is read from left to right, artists' books can be constructed in a variety of ways, opening from all four sides, boxed in pieces, or readable in different sequences, giving the reader choices. They may be tunnel-like spirals, or fan-shaped. There may be a text of words, or the text may be visual, made up of prints, or molded paper. Some of the notable presses and artists producing these books are the Circle Press, the Janus Press, the Women's Studio Workshop, and artists such as Susan King, Claire Van Vliet, Henrik Drescher, and many others whose work is held in Special Collections.

Fine Press books

Complementing the artists' books are the more traditional fine press books. These beautifully crafted books offer texts new and old, some with illustrations, and many printed on handpresses. Particularly well-represented from Great Britain are the Whittington Press, the Fleece Press, and the work of Shirley Jones and the Red Hen Press. Walter Hamady and his Perishable Press, the Windhover Press, and the Cummington Press with Harry Duncan are just a few of the American presses whose work is held in Special Collections. Some artists, such as Claire Van Vliet, produce both artists' books and fine press books.

Previous Book Art Events

Welsh author, illustrator and printer Shirley Jones visited Washington University on October 2, 1996 to deliver the lecture "Fine Printing at the Red Hen Press."

Shirley Jones standing next to a rolling press in her studio.

In September 1997, artist and printer Leonard Baskin visited Washington University to inaugurate the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book with a lecture at the new Studio and with appearances in classes of the Program for the Illustrated Book.

Special Collections is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except on University Holidays. We encourage classes to use our collections; please call in advance if you would like to make arrangements.

phone: 314-935-5495
e-mail: spec@wulib.wustl.edu

For a selection of book arts resources on the World Wide Web, visit the Book Arts & History of the Book page located in the Web Sites by Subject section of the Library web site.

Return to the Rare Books page.
Special Collections Home