I am reading “The Century of Artists’ Books” by Johanna Drucker at the moment. Or rather I have been reading it for almost 4 months now and still I have not reached the 100th page yet. It’s not boring, but it’s a difficult read. And I don’t want to write about the book as a whole today anyway. Only on page 41 I found a paragraph that I really liked and want to share with you today. Don’t be scared by her first sentence – the meaning of what she says will become clearer in the following sentences:

bibel offen

The book after all is as essential in its many functional and vernacular aspects and as inspiring in its many serviceable forms and formats as it is in its more poetic evocations. The efficient density of the telephone book, for example, which provides a tactile and visual satisfaction through the thin quality of its paper, a paper which amounts in the bound form to a flexible dense object makes a striking contrast to the pleasures provided by a new notebook, its blank sheets full of promise and opportunity. In its familiar form the paperback novel, impressed with the tacky curve of an outrageously molded form, die-cut, foil stamped, and turning brittle on the same trip on which it is purchased announces its ephemerality without shame, eschewing all commitment from the very first, while the heavy pages of a traditional photo album absorb memory into their dense field and hold it safe, still, silent and waiting. The inexpensive dimestore diary is of another form altogether, making believe there is a life worth noting as a series of secrets whose value derives form the tiny key which locks them in nightly more than from the childish scribblings in which they are generally, briefly recorded; while the crossed and criss-crossed palimpsest of the pocket-sized address bock provides a whole history of a real life, though none of its narrative fullness. Every book is a metaphor, an object of associations and history, cultural meanings and production values, spiritual possibilities and poetic spaces, and all of these are a part of the field from which the artist’s book derives its identity, its shared connections and distinguishing features as a book whose realized forms and thematic intentions are only the most evident aspects of its totality as an idea.


Text cited from:

Johanna Drucker, The Century of Artists’ Books, Granary Books, New York City