Tag Archives: Rare Books

Additions to the Artists’ Book Collection

The over seven hundred artists’ books housed in the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center are a rich resource for Temple faculty and students in a variety of art and humanities disciplines. Artists’ books often defy standard descriptions but are broadly described as any work of original art created in book format or which takes the book as its primary mode of expression. Students, many from the Tyler School of Art, studying topics such as book structures, narrative, 2D foundation principles, and book arts in general, have visited the SCRC reading room to explore and be inspired by examples from the SCRC’s collection.

Clock Work Fish artists's book
Clock Work Fish

In the first weeks of this fall semester, there are already three different courses, two from the Graphic and Interactive Design program in Tyler and one from the English department, whose instructors have integrated the use of SCRC’s artists’ books into their syllabuses. Collecting artists’ books and making them available to users serves our mission to collect, preserve, and make accessible unique materials to enrich teaching and learning at Temple.

The artists’ books collection, which includes titles from the former library at Tyler School of Art, has grown exponentially over the last few years with several new titles added annually. The following artists’ books have recently been added to the SCRC’s collections, and we invite users to visit them.

The artists’ book shown above demonstrates the often whimsical quality of the book arts. Created by Guy Himber, Clock Work Fish is made entirely from LEGOs and consists of illustrations printed on vinyl pages. It is fully functional and consists of over 200 LEGO parts. More information and images can be found in the Libraries’ catalog record.

Echoes artists' book

Another recent acquisition, this artists’ book by an Egyptian artist, Islam Mahmoud Mohamed Aly, is entitled Echoes. It is a finely wrought piece of craftsmanship, combining a traditional Coptic binding with the modern technology of laser engraved image and laser etched wooden boards. Inspired by the chants of protestors during the Egyptian Spring of 2011, the Arabic words for Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice are repeated throughout the design. More information and images can be found in the Libraries’ catalog record.

Cosmeceutical Collection artists' book
Cosmeceutical Collection

Unlike the first two examples which fuse unusual materials and illustrative techniques with the familiar codex structure, this artists’ book by Alicia Bailey entitled Cosmeceutical Collection, uses non-traditional “book” structures in the form of cosmetic containers, including an eyeshadow case, a mascara wand, and a compact case, to house her three miniature books. Bailey writes of the work: “…given my mistrust of both consumerism and culturally dictated notions of female beauty, I am also repulsed by these shrines to artificial beauty.” This title is so new to the collection that it’s not yet cataloged, but will be available soon.


Kimberly Tully
Curator of Rare Books
Special Collections Research Center

Collecting the Puritans…and Their Contemporaries

Fans of the Special Collections Research Center likely know that letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other archival materials usually come to us in collections – large and small groups of materials either created or collected by a person or organization. Often, the histories behind the gathering together of these primary source materials, and the long road from creation to their final home in SCRC, is as interesting as the content of the materials themselves.

Less well known is that we also frequently receive our rare books in the form of a collection, as well. While books tend to be rather individual in nature, as collections they have personalities and histories as unique as any archival collection.

Books from Nordell Collection

One of SCRC’s book collections is the Philip Gardiner Nordell Collection, which consists of over 250 books, primarily rare British imprints on religion from the 17th and 18th centuries. The collection documents the different predominant and often conflicting ideas during this period, particularly related to religion, religious liberty, and rationalism in England and the New England colonies. Included in the collection are many books on “fringe” groups such as Anabaptists, Ranters, and atheists, as well as many works on witchcraft. Authors represented include Francis Bacon, John Cotton, Thomas Hobbes, and Cotton Mather.

Frontispiece from Hobbes' Leviathan
Frontispiece from a first edition of Leviathan; Or, The Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civill, by Thomas Hobbes (London: Printed for Andrew Crooke, 1651).

Philip Gardiner Nordell (1894-1976) was a man of many talents and interests. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1916, and was an All American in the running broad jump. He claimed to have invented the predecessor to boxed cake mixes in the 1920s, founding a business that combined the dry ingredients for muffins, allowing the baker to simply add water. Nordell’s primary research interest was early American lotteries, which he studied for over 30 years. His personal collection of early lottery tickets and related newspaper announcements, brochures, and broadsides, is now at Princeton University.

Swinden map
Map from Tobias Swinden’s An Enquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell (London: Printed by W. Bowyer, for W. Taylor [etc.], 1714).

Nordell also assembled his extraordinary collection of books documenting religion in Britain and New England in the 17th and 18th centuries. In a 1965 letter, he said: “My central aim in gathering the collection has been to furnish important source material helpful in appraising the comparative mental patterns in old and New England.… In different words, the collection furnishes much of the basic source material to form a sound judgment as to the truth of an observation made in the 1640’s, that while New England was becoming old, old England was becoming new.”

Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC