Special Collections is Especially for You.

12 Nov

If you haven’t already been, our own Allen Library has a massive collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, achetectual drawings, and ancient book art in its basement! Be prepared to fill out a registration card on your first visit, and you must also check your belongings in, because many of the items in the collection are extremely rare, old, and/or fragile. Below is a little information on MY favorite part of the library– the Book Arts Collection! But really, there is something for everyone in the special collections!

The Book Arts Collection includes over 14,000 pieces, both historical and modern, encompassing all aspects of the physical book: bookbinding, typography, papermaking, letterpress and offset printing, illustration, book design, paper decoration, calligraphy and artist’s books. Although there are distinct areas of specialty in both theme and form, the field covered broadly; about half the Collection is 20th and now 21st Century. Historical materials are primarily English, European and American and date from 11th Century to the end of the 19th Century. Balancing a special commitment to collect current work from the dynamic Pacific Northwest, work is actively acquired from throughout the US, Canada, England and Europe. Descriptions of these books and broadsides are available in the library’s online catalog [note the use of the genre field “Artists’ Books”]. Also in the Collection are hundreds of uncataloged paper samples, ephemera, zines, and realia, including materials donated by artists to support study of their work such as paste-ups, proofs, drawings, ephemera and photographs.

Work chosen for the Book Arts Collection may be selected for either content or structure or both. Structure includes any physical aspect; content covers any subject. Certain subjects are regularly asked for and eagerly sought. A major theme is personal history, artists exploring their own lives and, by extension, the lives of us all. Autobiographical work frequently focuses on family, childhood, relationships, illness and death. Sculptural text, conceptual work and innovative bindings are all included in the Collection. Many types of image creation are represented such as printmaking, painting, watercolor, photography and computer assisted images.

Donald Glaister one-of-a-kind designer binding. Leather, vellum, aluminum.
Altered book by Roger Piottin, Missle de la Sainte Famille, [Lyons, France, 1996]
Jules Remedios Faye, The Annunciation: an Allegorical Tale of the Virgin as Warrior & Protectress: to be used as a portable altar. Seattle: Street of Crocodiles, 1993. Letterpress printed edition of 50.
Margery S. Hellmann, James Joyce Wavewords: from Ulysses. Seattle, 1996. Flag book. Letterpress printed edition of 50.
“Artist’s books” often requested are difficult to describe. Some experts characterize artists’ books as offset printed, thousand copy editions with or without text. For others the interpretation is the antithesis: one-of-a-kind or very limited edition pieces, frequently sculptural or conceptual. These may or may not have text, contain any type of art work and appear in a wide range of structures; many challenge the very definition of books. A mission of the Book Arts Collection is to assist people in defining terms, not to formulate “authoritative” definitions. The Collection provides all possible definitions of the word “book”; staff makes work accessible to students, faculty, staff, visiting scholars and artists. Hopefully whatever definitions each person comes in with are expanded by the time they leave.
Sande Wascher-James, How Long? Renton, WA, 1994. Silkscreen and color photocopy printed edition of 125 copies.
Mare Blocker, Art History Notes. Seattle: M Kimberly Press, 1984. Letterpress printed edition of 20.
Don Myhre, Memento of Desire. Bothell, WA, 1995. Edition of 4

Visitors interested in seeing specific pieces for which they already have a call number can come in any time Special Collections is open. None of the collections in the Division are directly browseable except for our Reference Collection; some items require an appointment. Students wishing to see a variety of materials or to have a selection created for them on a topic, binding style or technique should contact the Book Arts and Rare Book Curator, Sandra Kroupa. Please plan ahead and be flexible about scheduling. Classroom instruction can also be arranged by appointment with the Book Arts and Rare Book Curator, Sandra Kroupa. Classes can be a general introduction to a variety of resources in the Book Arts Collection or can have a specific focus: a theme, such as gender issues or the environment; a particular printmaking technique or binding structure; or any aspect of the history of the book or textual studies. Many faculty bring students to view and handle books printed in the time period of their course in literature, language or history.

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