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(Electronic Text Version)
Artist's book illustrated above:
M.L. Van Nice, Plinitude, 1994.
Based on Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis [Natural history]. Venice, 1469.
Science and the Artist's Book is an exhibition which explores links between scientific and artistic creativity through the book format. In 1993, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) invited a group of nationally recognized book artists to create new works of art based on classic volumes from the Heralds of Science collection of the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' Special Collections. The resulting artist's books, each inspired by the subject, theories or illustrations of the landmark works of science with which they are paired, offer a number of witty, imaginative, and even poignant insights into the creative side of scientific research.
The scientific works displayed at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries Exhibition Gallery are from the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
The scientific works displayed at the Washington Project for the Arts are models of originals in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
A word from Carol Barton, co-curator
A word from Diane Shaw, co-curator
This exhibition took as its starting point Heralds of Science, published in 1955 by inventor and book collector Bern Dibner. In Heralds, Dibner listed 200 works that he considered pivotal in the history of science. Each artist in this exhibition began his or her project by selecting a work from Dibner's list.
In 1974 Dr. Dibner's copies of these 200 "Heralds" were donated to the Smithsonian Institution, along with his collection of some 8,000 other books and 1,600 groups of manuscripts. The works are now housed in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, part of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
"Artist's books" don't look like most volumes found in a library. They are art objects in the form of books. As with painting or sculpture, much of the "story" in these books is visual. An idea may be illustrated in the book's shape or binding, in the materials used, or in the artist's choice of images. Words may be used to reinforce a message, but they are not always essential to the book's meaning.
Book artists often design, typeset, illustrate, print, and bind their own work, or at least supervise all these stages of production. Instead of paper, an artist may use clay, metal, or other materials. Artist's books, recognizable yet new, can challenge us to explore innovative ways of seeing, learning, and understanding.
The typographical ornament depicted above is from
Academie Royale des Sciences (Paris)
Histoire et memoires ... année MDCCXII
[History and memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences ... for the year 1712], 1731