Artist Books 3.0

Where artists' books and the book arts meet online...


Can anyone suggest their idea for displaying books in a gallery, particularly at preview evenings?

I feel that although you want people to look at them, you don't really want loads of people touching them, even with gloves, especially if they then are for sale. Am I creating a problem?

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Ahh - the perennial question facing artist books  creator and collectors!

There are some good photos of different display techniques within one gallery space in this blog:



Thanks for the link, there are lots of interesting pieces.

I suppose the main question is, with one off's, whether the artist wants the spectators to touch or whether the emphasis is on looking.

It also depends who owns the works - most collections (eg libraries, galleries and museums) will put the work under glass so that their collection material is preserved for future  generations. However some  acquire display copies so that they have a version that can be handled. If it is the artist displaying the work m ost of the time they seem to want people to handle and read the books on display.

Some could be put on a table with gloves, but only as many as can be watched over on preview evenings. More in glass cases, certainly the fragile ones. If there is one you would like to show, but don't want others to handle it, perhaps the curator could take it out on a preview evening. Then visitors could feel like they got to see its pages being turned or pages popping up or whatever it does. That would involve visitors and spark questions. Good luck. 

You could make a video of somebody going through the book. I did something like that here:

Hey Lynda,

I've always been a believer that one of an edition, or perhaps an AP, should be 'sacrificed' to the audience; that handling should be available and encouraged, and if it is a true artists' book, then touch shuld be revelled in, and the oils and acids of the skin of the audience become part of the work; the silent ink... I'm not big on gloves if it a primary source or primary encounter with a work, ie. the first showing/exhibition, many artists might disagree, but I suppose it is up to you how generous you need to be to your audience. I believe, with works that can handle the handling, it should and would be a beautiful thing to be made available (touch I mean).

I find one of the problems that we have in the field is that touch in showing is so often denied due to the either fragility of the work, and further to that, the threat of rough or uninitiated handling, or collection policies and archival integrity of the work for sale etc... but where the craft/expressive aspect in our discipline is reliant on a language of materials and feel that our audience is so often denied, how are we to reconcile this? It is a big question you raise. Is Book Arts simply a visual medium like a do not touch painting, sculpture or such? In my view, no, it is an interactive Art, but where does the involvement begin and end for our audience? I personally get frustrated with glass cases, i want to pick the thing up, and gloves are a compromise, but with new work, current work, might we 'take one for the team' and let our audiences indulge? I think we can especially where we are exhibiting the work for the first time, or where it has not been seen before. It shouldn't have to 'devalue' the work, which I feel is always at the core of this question. I feel we should find a place for economics and value of the object in a beter balance with usage and enjoyment.

Good question Lynda, hope a little more discussion comes of this.


i so much liked the expression "the silent ink" of the edition is not necessarely sacrificed  but it is permitted to live on .it is part of the process .

thank you


This might help..Realising the difficulties that my Artist's Book - THE LEAP - might present for exhibition, I have lately made a concertina fold-out book of scanned images 'Notes on THE LEAP ' 

about two thirds the size of the major book, as a companion piece. 

It was designed to stand behind, above, or even encircling the displayed book itself, to indicate a little about the contents to any curious viewer. Glimpses of ideas and images in the making of the book, provide of a suggestion as to the style and content within.

It would also - if ever the need arose - be  more easily fitted within a glass display case. as a standing object together with the book,

I was particularly interested in this discussion as being a MA student studying Art, Design & the Book I will shortly be confronted with this situation.  My decision similar to Jill Carter Hansen is to display a larger concertina book which will be suspended vertically in a gallery setting, this alone I feel is enough to discourage touch, and then provide the spectator with a smaller, tactile version laid close to the work.  Like Pickaxe Publishing touch should be revelled in and become part of the work, and I am in agreement with Wendy J Allen that there is nothing more frustrating than being told not to touch.  I feel because of 'the nature of the beast' we are perhaps responsible to provide an interactive version and not gaze at it from afar.  I also believe that people will respect the work and handle it respectfully.  The enjoyment comes from someone liking your work so much that they feel the need to touch it. 

I agree that I want people to be able to sit and touch and look and being a printmaker I usually make 4 editions so one can be sacrificed.

I was told by NSW Art Gallery that gloves are no longer best practice as they contain bleaches etc. When you go their (and other places including library's by appointment) they just get you to wash your hands well.

For those books that are a one of the idea of having someone scheduled to turn the pages for small groups sounds like a good idea.

I have only just joined so haven't got any images up on this site but do on Print Universe.


Jasper has a good option, which I have seen a lot for, for viewing at a distance and is great for the web. I wouldn't like to see this in a Library or Gallery, it would just sem to me to be a lesser compromise, or a poor new media work.

I wonder how librarians and gallerists feel about this? Sorry, Robert, too much glass in your suggestion (link) for me...

Hello Lynda, i can understand your fears, i had also project at JW Goethe univ. Frankfurt with my students we made this semester art books. From earlier expierences we made also Fotos from all each pages the people see ´the pages. We show , open very few people. Mostly the real bibliohiles art book lover says" can, may i take in my hands" than we give there cotton glowes and they use very soft and careful.




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