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First decide if it is really an artist's book and not a livre d'artiste and not an illustrated book. Artists' books are "designed as an artistic whole, integrating binding, text, illustration, etc., under the aesthetic control of a single artist. In general Livres d'artistes denotes books containing original graphic art; Artists' books denotes books viewed as the works of art in themselves." (Genre terms (1991), p. 5). Some artists' books are created by more than a single artist, however, in which case we add a note "Collaborative artists' book."

Some works can be ambiguous, so check with the Head of the Rare Book Team if unsure of the appropriate genre term to use. Recommended reading includes Johanna Drucker, The century of artists' books and the Houghton Library exhibition catalogue, Anne Anninger, Why artists' books? For a good introduction to the cataloging of artists' books, read Nina Schneider's RBMS Pre-Conference presentation "Cataloging Artists' Books: Challenges and Solutions" on the Web at


Sources of information

The chief source of information often does not have to be the title page in the normal sense. Take the title wherever it is found and give source of the title in a note. Accept ms. dates and the artist's signature and explain in a note.

Search OCLC and bring in record as usual.

If collation and notes are accurate, accept these fields to avoid spending unnecessary time. If editing or original cataloging is needed, take the following into consideration:

300 field

If the volume is in codex form, collate as usual. e.g. |a 36 unnumbered pages : |b illustrations

500 field

If the volume is not in usual book form, describe as 1 volume in the 300 field and describe its form in a 500 field. Usually it is best to begin the field with: Artist's book consisting of ...

If the book is different from usual codex form, describe it as concisely as possible. Frequently artists' books are issued in a special case or container that also needs to be described.


500 Artist's book consisting of 1 strip of handmade paper 50 x 15 cm folded to 10 x 15 cm, illustrated with collage and mixed media geometric designs, attached to marbled boards decorated with gold stars.

500 Artist's book consisting of two works, each printed separately on a sheet 20 x 208 cm. The sheets are laid back to back and folded accordion style to form 18 double leaves, 25 x 22 cm; bound in a dos à dos binding of blue boards, printed paper label on each cover; issued in a black linen case.

500 Unique artist's book, consisting of ten volumes of varying construction, alike in that each contains manuscript text, original artwork, and reproductions of architectural renderings, and is bound in a cloth case in the shape of a house (17.5 x 11.5 cm); housed collectively in a larger cloth and decorated cardboard case, also in the shape of a house, with one side being a flap construction for opening.


Quote the entire colophon whenever possible, abbreviate or paraphrase if necessary.

Include edition size in a note, if it is not already included in a colophon note.

Some artist's books are unique. If not already so stated in the colophon, include in a general note, e.g.: 500 Unique artist's book, consisting of mixed media drawings of watercolor, India ink, and sand-coated acrylic.

Access points:

Trace all personal and corporate names associated with the work whenever possible.

Genre terms:

Artists' books is a required genre term and should be used as the first 655 7. Divide by states or foreign countries, using cities or towns for larger states. Do not subdivide the smaller states.

655 _7 |a Artists' books |z California |z San Francisco |y 1997. |2 rbgenr

655 _7 |a Artists' books |z Vermont |y 1997. |2 rbgenr

Add other appropriate genre terms as needed. Binding genre terms are frequently needed, as well as graphic materials terms. More than one genre term might be needed. Check Hollis for subdivision practice. Useful terms to consider using include the following:

Accordion fold format (Binding).|2 rbbin
Dos à dos (Binding). |2 rbbin
Marbled papers (Paper). |2 rbbin
Miniature books (Printing). |2rbpri
Paste papers (Binding).|2rbbin or Paste Papers (Paper). |2 rbpap
Peep shows. |2 lcsh
Toy and movable books. |2 lcsh
Collages. |2 gmgpc
Drawings. |2 gmgpc
Etchings. |2 gmgpc
Engravings. |2 gmgpc

Protective cases:

To protect the original work of art, which often includes a box or other container, call for a CMI box. In some cases, a prefab is satisfactory.