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Special Collections at Murray Library: Artists' Books

What is an Artists' Book?

Artists' books are works of art in which artists use the medium of books to create small print runs or one-of-a-kind objects. This medium can often stretch the imagination of what we consider a book.  Artists' books are works of art conceived of and generated in a book-like format.

The artist's book as a concept resists being bound to single definition. In the most general terms, it is an original work of art that that incorporates or innovates upon the book form in some—often dramatic—way. These books amalgamate traditional arts, such as graphic design, printmaking & bookbinding, with the full spectrum of contemporary art practice and theory, expanding and redefining the form. The artist’s book is almost always conscious of the subtle interplay of form and content, and often seeks to challenge the mundane expectations of its audience. In the 1960s, the popularity of the artist’s book swelled in the United States and Europe. And by the 1970s major production centers were established, including the Women’s Studio Workshop in upstate New York and the Nexus Press in Atlanta. The artist's book persists into the present as innovative, challenging, and mercurial form. 

Books published through traditional means--along with the ideology of authorship implied by these conventions--is an inherently patriarchal object. Artists' books can be viewed as a means of subverting established concepts of power and order of who and what get traditionally published. Whether self-published or issued by small presses, the artists' book artistic format can combine the crafts of papermaking, typography, and bookbinding with each artist's unique sensibility and artistic vision. -- adapted from Kelly Wooten

Read More: Books about Artists' Books

This collection consists of books created as works of art. These books are not only fascinating, and often feasts for the eyes, but they also challenge the notion of what "book" means. Included in the collection are books created by Messiah faculty members. This collection is most closely aligned with the Visual Arts department. The books are stored in a secured location unless they are currently being used in a library
exhibit. An illustrated catalog of the books is available for reference. Items are cataloged with the addition of a special subject heading of "Artists' Books", and a location of Artists' Books Collection for easy identification and searching in the library catalog. The Visual Arts liaison librarian is responsible for preservation and withdrawal concerns. The Library Administrative Assistant reports all additions to this collection and the respective costs to update Murray Library's fine art inventory for insurance purposes.

Access and Circulation Policy:

  • Artists' books can be requested and viewed in Murray Library (only). Please ask at the Circulation Desk.
  • To view a complete list of the collection view the All Artists Books tab on this guide.
  • Messiah's Special Collections are open to all researchers. Messiah affiliation is not required. Our Artists Books do not circulate, so materials must be accessed during open hours at Murray Library.
  • Please visit during regular hours or contact us to make an appointment.

Questions about funding and reporting for this collection can be directed to the Library Administrative Assistant

Questions about this collection's use can be directed to the Art and Design Liaison Librarian



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GPS Address: 2850 Crestline Dr, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Mailing Address: 1 University Ave., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Phone: (717) 691-6006, ext. 3860



  • General visitor parking is available in the Old Main parking lot (VV), on the side nearest to the Eisenhower Campus Center (College Ave).
  • Handicap parking is located to the side of the building between the library and Frey Hall. This is accessible by going around the back of the library building (Crestline Drive).