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Artists' Books Guide

Research guide to the Artists' Books Collection at the Millard Sheets Library, Otis College of Art and Design


Simply stated, artists’ books are works of art in book (or book-like) form. An artists’ book may be a unique, one-of-a-kind piece but it might also be produced in an edition. It may be letterpress printed using handset metal type or photopolymer plates but it might also be printed offset, mimeographed, photocopied, written by hand, or created using online self-publishing companies. It might incorporate unusual materials like soap, food, or LEGOS. Sometimes it’s produced as a codex and will look like a book but it might also be a scroll, set of computer punch cards, or sculptural piece. This wide variety of form makes a single definition hard to come by but in almost every case, the appearance and production of the work is determined by the artist.

The twentieth century witnessed particularly varied and creative experimentation with artists' books culminating in an explosion of the medium in the 1960 and '70s with California a center of much of this production.

Why does Otis College collect artists' books?

The collection of artists' books at Otis College of Art and Design began and grew significantly during the 1960s and 1970s due largely to the efforts of librarian Joan Hugo, a recognized expert in the field. The Otis Library's current collection is approximately 2,500 works. Among the holdings are books by important contemporary artists such as Ed Ruscha and Joseph Beuys as well as work by recent graduates of MFA programs in the book arts such as Sarah Bryant and Daniel Mellis.

The goal of the Otis Artists' Book Collection is not to create a comprehensive archive, but rather to provide a teaching resource available to artists and students. We encourage use of the collection by both members of the Otis College community and outside researchers.

Where can I find artists' books at Otis College?

Most of the artists' books in our collection are kept in Special Collections and may be used in the library only.  Images of many of the artists' books from Special Collections may be viewed online in Otis Collections Online.

We do circulate artists' books that are sturdy enough to withstand life on the shelf. Check the Main Campus Book Stacks for call numbers beginning with N 7433.4.

Check here for more about Special Collections.

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New Artists' Books, Summer 2020

Zuni: Four Seasons by Art Hazelwood

Zuni: Four Seasons
By Art Hazelwood
Richmond, California: Art Hazelwood, 2019. Edition of 10. Accordion fold structure with reduction linocuts.

Typesetting on a Winter's Afternoon
By Raymond Stanley Nelson, Jr.; edited by Mike Koppa 
Liberty, Wisconsin: Heavy Duty Press, 2018. Edition of 26. Letterpress printed, handset type. Coptic stitch binding with end papers tucked in one-of-a-kind covers.

Sleep Patterns
By Amy Pirkle
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Perkolator Press, 2009. Edition of 20. Letterpress printed from linoleum blocks and metal type. Snake fold printed structure.

Funeral Food
By Sandra Trujillo
Guadalajara, Mexico: Impronta Casa Editora, 2019. Edition of 100. Loose sheets in a portfolio.


The Proposition of Landscape
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2018. Edition of 30. Letterpress on Lenox 100 using photopolymer plates and hand-set type. Hinged accordion fold book.

Artists' Books gallery

Flowers: Drawings and Silkscreen Prints by Antic-ham


Fragments from the Stacked Deck by Judy Anderson

Fragments from the Stacked Deck

Sanctus Sonorensis by Philip Zimmermann

Sanctus Sonorensis

Occupy Your Wallet: Photographs of Various Occupy Wall Street Sites, an Ongoing Project by Emily Artininan

Occupy Your Wallet

20/20 Vision by Ant Farm (Design Group)

Ant Farm

Metallic Sleep by Doug Aitken

Spinning by Gail Watson


Transforming Hate by Clarissa Sligh


Mideast Kaleidoscope by Louise Neaderland


Aggregate Memory by Macy Chadwick

Aggregate Memory by Macy Chadwick

Life Time by Julie Chen

Lessons from the South by Susan King

Twentysix Gasoline Stations by Edward Ruscha

26 Gasoline Stations

Stages of the Hajj by Daniel Mellis

Stages of the Hajj

Composition in F Minor by Ginny Lloyd

Composition in F Minor by Ginny Lloyd

In This Dark Wood by Elisabeth Tonnard

In this dark wood

Lucha por la Vida = Struggle for Life by Ral Veroni

Lucha por la vida

Project Files for Artists' Books

In June 2003, the Getty Grant Program provided funds to the Millard Sheets Library to catalog and digitize our entire collection of 2,500 artists' books. As of January 2006, most of the project has been completed and the collection is available thorough to the public through the Otis Collections Online website. (The original homegrown experimental database is no longer available.)

Please note: These files are geared for librarians and catalogers.

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