Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2008 Issue

The Art Of The Book: The Book As Art


An etching by Michael Kuck - from the Veatchs

"Collecting in this field is no different than collecting anything else. You don't need a lot of money. We represent books that sell for less than $10 (as well as books that sell for over $15,000). You narrow the field or not depending on taste, interest, and budget. If you have wide interests and a big budget, the limits are less restrictive. But for many, the fun is in the restriction. Not surprisingly collecting categories are not much different than in more traditional book collecting. You can collect by subject matter, by structure, by artist category, by high spot.

"Although we think these books are works of art, most differ from more traditional art – paintings, prints, sculptures – in that they are meant for the lap rather than the wall. They require physical interaction on the part of the reader. Hence museums – and galleries -- have a hard time dealing with them. The objects we are interested in share the personal nature of more traditional books. One reader/viewer/manipulator playing with and processing an artifact composed of text, image, and materials to lead to that moment of aesthetic focus."

Bob Fleck of Oak Knoll has taken a different path albeit in the same direction. For the past 32 years he's been selling books on the history of the book and emphasizing that history by also selling examples of the most interesting typographically designed books from all centuries. This gives him perspective both on how this field has evolved and a sense of where its going –

"In this category 'how-to' books are very popular. This suggests an interest to create as well as acquire. We see interest in learning how to print by hand, make paper, bind books and design typographically pleasing projects." We of course also sell examples of special bindings and unique copies. Each fall we sponsor "Oak Knoll Fest" which gathers together people that produce books by hand and allows them to show off their work while interacting with librarians and private collectors in the stress free environment of New Castle, Delaware. Our 15th annual Fest will be held on October 4th and 5th this year."

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