VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Book Art

Where is the collection?

Special Collections & Archives

Location: 4th floor, Cabell Library

Hours: Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm

Phone:  (804) 828-1108

Food and drink are not permitted.

Schedule a Class Visit

Tp schedule a class visit, please contact Yuki Hibben​, Assistant Head and Curator of Books and Art for Special Collections and Archives at or (804) 828-8837. 




Ask Us


This guide provides an overview of how to locate and use items in the VCU Book Art Collection.

What is Book Art?

Book art, also known as artists’ books, are works of art that reference or use the form of the book to convey meaning. Artists have full control over the process of creation, the contents, the aesthetics, the materials, and the end product of their artists' books.Works can be entirely visual, textual, or a combination of both. Some artists' books are conceptual while others have sculptural qualities. Artists' books can be unique objects or published in limited editions. A colophon attached to the end of an artists' book usually conveys helpful information about the particular book.

Some artists identify themselves as book artists and focus primarily on making artists' books. Artists who specialize in different areas, such as graphic design, painting, printmaking, or photography, also experiment with book art.  Book art is made for many reasons:

  • to make art that is portable and easily shared
  • to express ideas on a variety of social, political, or personal topics
  • to create a narrative in either a sequential or non-linear format
  • to experiment with the content or structure of pre-existing books
  • to challenge or question traditional notions of what makes a book
  • to make art accessible outside of the constructs of galleries and museums
  • to allow viewers to have an intimate or interactive experience

Pistol, Pistil: Botanical Ballistics (1997) by Ann E. Kalmbach, Book Art 3 - 276

    VCU Libraries' Book Art Collection

    The VCU Book Art Collection includes over 4,000 items and is housed in Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library. The collection is international in scope and is strongest in publications from the 1960s to the present. It encompasses all aspects of contemporary book art publications ranging from photobooks to three-dimensional book works. Seminal works such as Edward Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Dieter Roth's 246 Little Clouds, and Barbara Kruger's No Progress in Pleasure are featured in the collection. In addition to artists' books, the collection includes serials, exhibition catalogs, and reference materials. A selection of concrete, sound, and visual poetry is also housed within the collection. Special Collections and Archives is also a repository for the Women's Studio Workshop, the largest publisher of hand printed and hand bound artists' books in the United States.

    Examples from the Book Art Collection

    Crazy Carousel Book (2008) by Bettina Pauley, Book Art 1 - 1997



    Apples & Eggs, Salt & Pepper (1999) by Lawrence Weiner, Book Art 2 - 814


    Maxims by the Yard: Some in Meter (2003) by Angela Lorenz, Book Art 3 - 347



    Invented Landscape (2010) by Julie Chen, Book Art 3 - 446


    If you are an artist holding copyright on any of these works and you object to having your work represented on this site, please notify us immediately. Our intention is purely educational, but we will promptly remove any images you do not wish to be included.