Biblio-Aesthetics: The Book as Art

A page from a Medieval book, the text is in gold script and there are decorative flowers and vines around the text.
Leaf from a Book of Hours, 1465, Pre-Print and Early Print Materials, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, View digital copy here.

We’re frequently surrounded by beautiful books in Special Collections & Archives, and a question often arises: “When is a book a book, and when is it art?” That line is a murky one, and examples like this illuminated leaf from a 1465 Book of Hours reveal that it isn’t a new phenomenon.

Among our collections are many Artists’ Books. These are “books” that play with the concept of this murky line, allowing the format, shape, color, and movement of a three-dimensional object participate in the communication that occurs when we encounter a book. These works remind us to consider how the physical characteristics of a text impacts our reception of its contents.

To read more about how the notion of art and the concept of the book are intertwined, please explore the blog posts below.


FSU SCA Artists’ Books Featured in New Digital Exhibit

Undergraduate students in the Spring 2021 “Museum Object” course (FSU Department of Art History) spent the semester developing and curating Show & Tell, an online exhibition of artists’ books. They collaborated with FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives and the Small Craft Advisory Press (SCAP) and endeavored to use this year’s non-traditional exhibition format toContinue reading “FSU SCA Artists’ Books Featured in New Digital Exhibit”

Light. A. Fire.

“Following bureaucratic etiquette, more times than not, perpetuates a mess of red tape that always ensnares progress for marginalized communities.”

Artists’ Books Collection Continues to Grow

This post kicks off a month of posts celebrating American Archives Month. Yesterday, Special Collections & Archives did a Twitter Takeover of the @fsulibraries feed for #AskAnArchivist day so be sure to check out those conversations.  This post is written by Melissa Quarles, Special Collections & Archives’ new graduate assistant. You’ll be hearing more fromContinue reading “Artists’ Books Collection Continues to Grow”

The comic adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, and her dog.

The Digital Library Center is currently digitizing a number of hand-colored chapbooks from the John MacKay Shaw Collection. Chapbooks derive their name from the chapmen who sold them. Peddlers and tradesmen would offer small, cheap books among their wares, often accounts of fairy tales or current political events, lessons in language and song, or engaging stories.Continue reading “The comic adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, and her dog.”

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women, Illustrated by As Many Engravings; Exhibiting Their Principal Eccentricities and Amusements (1820) was recently added to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. It was published in London by prominent children’s publisher John Harris as part of “Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction.” These little books, “printedContinue reading “The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women”

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Charles Dicken’s first novel, was published in installments by Chapman and Hall from March 1836 to November 1837. There were 20 parts issued in 19 volumes for a shilling each with 43 engraved plates. The first two parts were illustrated by Robert Seymour, who originally pitched the project to ChapmanContinue reading “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club”

Editions for the Millions: Early American Paperbacks

FSU Special Collections & Archives recently added 33 late-nineteenth century American paperbacks to our rare book collections. These include such famous titles as Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, and The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. They were published between 1865-1874 by D. Appleton and Company of New York andContinue reading “Editions for the Millions: Early American Paperbacks”

Who Wore It Best: A Renaissance Costume Party

While it might be a little late for you all to change your Halloween costume plans, the following woodcut illustrations from Habiti Antichi, et Moderni di Tutto il Mondo (1598) could still provide some last minute inspiration.           Costume books became popular in the sixteenth century, as increases in travel, technology, and literacy fedContinue reading “Who Wore It Best: A Renaissance Costume Party”

Rare Books 101

So, what are rare books exactly? Your first thought might be something like this: Handsome, leather bound volumes that look old and valuable. To be sure, we’ve got a lot of books that look like this in Special Collections & Archives. Our rare books collections cover the spectrum, starting with the origins: fragments of papyrusContinue reading “Rare Books 101”

A Book About All the Things

The Liber de proprietatibus rerum Bartholomei angelici (On the Properties of Things) is a medieval encyclopedia that was written by the 13th century Franciscan scholar Bartholomeus Anglicus, who sought to gather the rapidly expanding corpus of knowledge of the Late Middle Ages into a single volume. As Bartholomeus himself says in the epilogue to De proprietatibus rerum, he wroteContinue reading “A Book About All the Things”

Defining (and Challenging) the Book

How do you define “the book”? What functions do books serve? What are the essential qualities of a book? How have these characteristics changed over time? Those are a sample of the questions raised during the Special Collections & Archives instruction sessions for the “Introduction to the History of Text Technology” classes (ENG 3803) and the “What is a Text” classContinue reading “Defining (and Challenging) the Book”

A Place of Pilgrimage

While assisting with Special Collections & Archives instruction classes as part of my graduate assistantship, I have found the following quote from Michael Suarez, director of the Rare Book School, full of plenty of food for thought: How is the way that your collections are mediated telling those who are in contact with them about their treasureful-ness? About the powerContinue reading “A Place of Pilgrimage”

Seashells, Societies & Scandals: Illustrated Marine Zoological Books of the 19th Century

Here in Tallahassee summer is in full swing with high temperatures already hitting the 90s.  In honor of the arrival of beach-going, sea shell-collecting days, the staff at Florida State University’s Special Collections & Archives invites you to explore the weird, wonderful and occasionally scandalous world of 19th century marine zoology. FSU’s rare books collection containsContinue reading “Seashells, Societies & Scandals: Illustrated Marine Zoological Books of the 19th Century”

Milne’s sixth hour

 Allen Alexander Milne’s When We Were Very Young, a book of poetry published in 1924 and dedicated to Mr. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who, according to Mr. Milne, preferred to call himself Billy Moon, contains at its end two pages of evensong called “Vespers.” Whether to the hour of sunset, to the moon, orContinue reading “Milne’s sixth hour”

Fore-Edge Paintings

The Nancy Bird Fore-edge painting collection is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Bird, Head of Special Collections from 1960-1974. Many of the paintings on the books housed in Special Collections are of landscapes or other scenes.  Each one holds a different image and is truly a work of art.  We even have one bookContinue reading “Fore-Edge Paintings”

Dickens 1812-2012: Dr. John Fenstermaker Lecture 2/29

Charles Dickens is one of the most important writers in English Literary History. Our celebration of his bicentenary in February 2012, presented in collaboration with the FSU English Department, continues on the evening of February 29th with the second of two public lectures, sponsored by the Friends of FSU Libraries and the History of TextContinue reading “Dickens 1812-2012: Dr. John Fenstermaker Lecture 2/29”

Dickens 1812-2012: Dr. Paul Fyfe Lecture 2/15

Charles Dickens is one of the most important writers in English Literary History. In celebration of his bicentenary in February 2012, Florida State University’s Department of English, in collaboration with Strozier Library’s Special Collections, is delighted to announce a pair of lectures on Dickens and his work by eminent FSU scholars. The two public lectures,Continue reading “Dickens 1812-2012: Dr. Paul Fyfe Lecture 2/15”

King of Books, Book of Kings. Early Printed English Bibles from the Carothers Collection

Article by William Modrow, Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarian What Bibles did English people read in the time of Shakespeare, Spenser, or Milton? Why did they view the events of the Reformation or the Civil War as biblical episodes? In occasion of the fourth centenary of the first edition of the King James Bible, inContinue reading “King of Books, Book of Kings. Early Printed English Bibles from the Carothers Collection”

HoTT Distinguished Lecture Series presents Gordon Campbell “The King James Bible: The Book and Its Language”

Text provided by Ben Yadon Photographs by Ben Yadon, with special credit to Malcolm Shackelford On April 4, 2011, a crowd of about 60 was on hand in the Scholars Commons Reading Room in Florida State University’s Strozier Library to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 andContinue reading “HoTT Distinguished Lecture Series presents Gordon Campbell “The King James Bible: The Book and Its Language””

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