The artist book is an art medium. These books are usually printed in limited editions. But some are a single book called a unique. Today they are sometimes mass produced and it is argued whether or not these books are really artists' books. They are also created as a foldout or boxed single sheets. Older types include the scroll, codex, concertina, and bound printed sheet. An artist book can be sculptural and multidimensional. It can be composed of clay or metal. The artist book combines the means of creation with aesthetic values and theme. This art form's definition is widely debated.
The medieval illuminated manuscripts produced in Europe can be defined as artists' books, but William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience is usually referred to as the forerunner to this art medium. Blake's wife, Catherine, helped him produce his artist book. This work of art was handwritten, and tinted, and images and poems were created for it. It was originally produced in two segments. Songs of Innocence was published in 1789 and in 1794 he combined the first book with another group of poems. The result was Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.
During the 20th century, avant-garde artists got into the art book foray. Zang Tumb Tuuum or Zang Tumb Tumb by Filippo Marinetti was published in journals as serials from 1912 to 1914. This work is a sound and concrete poem. Transrational Boog created by Aliagrov (Roman Jakobson), Aleksei Eliseevich Kruchenykh and Olga Rozanova utilizes hand written text, lithographs and collage. Roman Jakobson is Aliagrov's real name.
This zeal for artist books swelled on into the 1960's and 1970's and during the 1980's and 1990's colleges began giving degrees in book art.
The artists' book theme will be continued in other posts.