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Artists' Books

Artist books are books created as original works of art. Mason Libraries own a growing number of artist books in Special Collections.

Begin Your Research

Curious about artists' books? This guide will help you to locate and understand Mason Libraries' collection of these objects.

About the Mason Artists' Books Collection

Mason Libraries own over 300 artists' books, from handmade objects to more traditionally-printed photobooks. The collection is housed in the Special Collections Research Center at Fenwick Library on Mason's Fairfax Campus.

The artists' book collection at Mason continues to grow, with several areas of collection strength:

  • Book artists from the D.C./Northern Virginia/Maryland region
  • Books by and about women and women-identifying artists
  • Social justice and activism, including environmental justice

Image of artists' book "Finding Myself" - depicts a book partially unfolded with blue-green pages, covered in handwritten text

Marika Koskimäki-Ketelä, Finding Myself, 2011. 


What are artists' books?

Artists’ books are not easily defined. Simply put, an artist book is a piece of artwork in book form. The content and form of artists’ books are inescapably tied together. As a result, they are able to communicate ideas on multiple levels.

Artists have been creating books for centuries, but artists’ books comprise a new field. The term "artist's book" was originally used to describe books created in the conceptual art movement of the 1970s. Artists’ books today stand out from earlier creations because the books themselves are considered works of art and not just ways to display art.

A typical artist's book is handmade and a limited edition. It may defy the traditional book format by going beyond simple text with visual images, unfolding pages, unusual bindings or materials, and molded cases.