rawn from the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries’ more than 3.5 million volumes, “The Book as Art” exhibit offers a dazzling display of nine centuries of bookmaking—from unidentified scribes’ illuminated manuscripts to today’s books by internationally recognized artists. These stunning volumes bear the marks of their makers in ways no mass-produced paperback can achieve.
Such exquisite volumes are valued perhaps more for their beautiful form than their literary function. “The Book as Art” offers a richness of visual form in a multitude of styles: ancient manuscripts on vellum illustrated with gold leaf and brilliant colors; bindings hand-tooled and encrusted with jewels; and covers inset with ivory miniatures, along with contemporary artists’ books that leap beyond the traditional book form.
“Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? We did—and also by their printing, typography, images and more. We loved every moment doing so,” said Connie Vinita Dowell, dean of libraries. “I hope visitors get caught up in the magic of these pages. In this era of digital information and instant printing, this exhibit illuminates the soul as well as the mind.”
Some of the newest volumes may be the most surprising, with their unconventional use of such materials as wood, metal, plastic and fabric and their sculptural assemblages. Some of the world’s finest presses, like Barry Moser’s Pennyroyal Press and Claire Van Vliet’s Janus Press, are represented in the exhibit. These artists’ remarkable talent and their attention to text, image, paper, typography and binding characterize their truly beautiful books.
The exhibit is located in Special Collections, the Library Gallery, the Peabody and Divinity libraries and the Martha Rivers Ingram Center for the Performing Arts.