Started by the first director of the Kohler Art Library, the collection was founded to offer art students an exemplary hands-on laboratory for learning book arts. Forming a material body of information on typography, papermaking, graphics, bookmaking, design, and creative writing, this educational tool continues to support not only art and visual culture students but those interested in thematic explorations of environmental studies, feminism, social justice, the natural sciences, identity, and more.
With over 1,200 titles the collection offers work from more than 150 presses and artists, 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 represents major (and minor) contemporary book artists, 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.
Visiting the Collection
The collection is a rich source of discovery for students of all ages. Faculty, students, and the general public are encouraged to explore the collection in person by making an appointment with art librarian Anna Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artists’ Book Collection Database
The Artists’ Book Collection Database is an illustrated, descriptive index to the collection. Over 1,000 items have been indexed, and more are added each year. Books are represented with one to four images to that reflect its structure and/or content, enhanced subject headings, and full colophons. The database is an excellent visual finding aid for initial explorations of the collection.
Speaking of Book Arts: Oral Histories from UW-Madison
This e-catalog documents the collaborative 2020 exhibition between the art library, University Archives, and the Chazen Museum of Art. Originating as a series of oral histories from the students and teachers that created the renown UW-Madison book arts program, the project grew into an exhibit showcasing the spoken experiences of 21 book artists at UW-Madison, presented alongside examples of their work from the Kohler. The catalog contains clips of each oral history and links to the full archive.
Artists’ Book Endowment and Annual Book Arts Lecture
The Leonora G. Bernstein Artists’ Book Endowment Fund supports the acquisition of noteworthy artists’ books and related programming like the annual Bernstein Book Arts Lecture. If you are interested in supporting this valuable work contributions can be made to the Leonora G. Bernstein Artists’ Book Endowment via the UW Foundation.