History and Description
The collection had its beginnings under the inspired leadership of founding Kohler Art Library Director William C. Bunce. He envisioned it as having a teaching function, a kind of hands-on laboratory for the book arts. Forming a body of information on typography, papermaking, graphics, bookmaking, design, and creative writing, this important educational tool directly supports art and visual culture interests on campus. The collection has served as a rich source of discovery for students at the UW-Madison as well as for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from institutions around the state.
The Kohler Art Library has been acquiring artists’ books since the early 1970s and now has more than 1000 titles. It includes a broad range of creative work from more than 150 presses and artists from around the world, including Arcadian Press, Brighton Press, Circle Press, Flying Fish Press, Gefn Press, Granary Books, Janus Press, Perishable Press, Pyramid Atlantic, Salient Seedling Press, Scripps College Press, Silver Buckle Press, Tiramisu Press, and Women’s Studio Workshop.
Comprising limited edition, one-of-a-kind, and offset books, the collection is representative of major book artists working today, including many who trained in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department. Book artists represented in the collection include Harriet Bart, Carol Barton, Ken Campbell, Carol Chase Bjerke, Julie Chen, Maureen Cummins, Tracy Dietzel, Henrik Drescher, Johanna Drucker, Tim Ely, Jim Escalante, Diane Fine, Marta Gomez, Walter Hamady, Caren Heft, Tracy Honn, Daniel Kelm, Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., Ron King, Susan King, Lewis Koch, Katherine Kuehn, Jim Lee, Jeffrey Morin, Yani Pecanins, JoAnna Poehlmann, Pati Scobey, Shawn Sheehy, Clarissa Sligh, Buzz Spector, Barbara Tetenbaum, Mark Wagner, Christopher Wilde, Claire Van Vliet, Xu Bing, among many others.
The library also maintains files on book artists and presses that include biographical statements, resumes, prospectuses, brochures, exhibit catalogs, holiday cards, and other ephemera. A special feature of the collection is a complete archive for the artists’ book, “Flora,” by Walter Hamady with poems by Ann McGarrell and drawings by Jack Beal.
Faculty, students, and the general public are encouraged to explore the collection in person by making an appointment with Lyn Korenic, Director, Kohler Art Library, (608-263-2256; email).
In 2007, the library launched the Artists’ Book Collection database. The online resource is an illustrated descriptive index to the Artists’ Book Collection. The databases indexes over 900 titles in the Artists’ Book Collection. Many of the titles have one to four images which visually represent the structure and/or content of the book. With the goal to create a ‘visual finding aid’ to the entire Artists’ Book Collection, the database is updated on a periodic basis.
Artists’ books from the collection were on exhibit at various locations on the UW-Madison campus during Spring, 2002. An online exhibit, “Artists’ Books from the Kohler Art Library,” was created in conjunction with that event. The online exhibit contains valuable information on artists’ books including biographies of book artists and links to related websites.
In 2001, the library established the Leonora G. Bernstein Artists’ Book Endowment Fund to support the acquisition of noteworthy artists’ books and related archives as well as to preserve the collection and support book arts programs. In 2015, the library launched the 1st Annual Bernstein Book Arts Lecture. If you wish to contribute to this endowment to assist all of these efforts, please make your check payable to UW Foundation and specify the Leonora G. Bernstein Artists’ Book Endowment. Send your check to University of Wisconsin Foundation, 1848 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53708-8860. Thank you for your generous support!