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SJSU Special Collections & Archives

Historical Research Topics and Collections

Finding Artists' and Fine Press Books

Here are some subject headings and their subdivisions that you can search to find artists' books and fine press books on the catalog. Clicking on these links will take you to a list of all the books cataloged under that specific subject. 

Artists' books -- Specimens 
Specimens refers to examples of artists' books. 

Artists' books
This subject heading includes books that are about artists' books as well, which are not necessarily part of Special Collections.

Marbled Papers -- Specimens
There is only one book with this subdivided subject heading in our catalog, but if you would like to see more examples, you may ask for some at our Special Collections Reading Room and we would be happy to help you. 

Miniature books -- Specimens
Many miniature books are also printed at fine presses and are an important aspect of book arts culture. 

Toy and movable books -- Specimens
This refers to pop-up books. Make sure to limit the search by collection to Special Collections. 

Typeface will take you to a list of various other topics for typefaces. You can also search for artists' and fine press books based on their binding; for example: Accordion Fold Format or Coptic Binding.

If you simply search Artists' Books under Subject, you can find a long list of the subdivisions of this subject heading, such as Artists' Books -- California -- San Francisco

For fine press books, take a look at the various related subdivisions under the subject heading Fine Books. However, it will be helpful to search for fine press books by doing keyword searches on names of presses or names of authors and limiting the search to Special Collections. You may find some reprints of familiar titles. 

Try doing keyword searches if you are looking for specific content. Just search the term Artists' Books and a specific topic, such as a location like California, Berkeley, or San Francisco, Nature, Paper, Poetry, Pop-Up, Violence, an author's name, the name of a press (Codex Publications, Foolscap Press, Nawakum Press), or other topics of interest. 

Grace Song Instruction Guide

Here is a handout that you can download to get some extra explanation and information about finding artists' and fine press books as well as book arts in general.  Created by SJSU iSchool student Grace Song.  

Bay Area Book Art

Artist Book
Freethinking by Elena Mary Siff, 2007 

Special Collections offers a wide range of books exemplifying the concept of “book art”. Book Art is an umbrella term used to convey the craftsmanship behind book binding and printing and represents the unification of text, design and binding.

Over the last 125 years, the Bay Area has been able to enjoy the publishing traditions associated with small presses, fine printing and book making. During the Gold Rush, swelling populations in San Francisco drove the need for both printed news and advertisements. This provided an economic base for the early development of area presses. 

Today there are a number of California based small presses that publish a wide variety of original literature as well as reprints. No matter the topic, these publishers remain focused on the artistry and craftsmanship surrounding all aspects of a book’s construction including the binding, illustration, typesetting, printing and even the manufacture of paper.  Some publishers represented in the Special Collection are Albion Press, Arion Press, Book Club of California, Black Sparrow Press, Flying Fish Press, Grabhorn Press, Littoral Press and many others. 

Artists' Books Highlights

Fine Press Books Highlights