H-35. Modern Art of the Book

Johanna Drucker

This course considers the codex book as a work of deliberate, self-conscious art production from the very beginning of the nineteenth century to the present. Taking William Blake as the point of departure, the course asks what makes a book modern and what distinguishes a work of art from other forms of publication. The course will look at illustrated books in the nineteenth century, the Arts and Crafts movement and notions of the “Ideal Book,” and continue with focused discussion of works that reflect the private press movement, art nouveau, the avant-garde, fine press, documentary impulses, livres d’artistes, and artists’ books. Attention will be paid to the development of successive innovations in the technologies of production, publication models, readerships, markets, and distribution methods. But a major focus of the course is on the aesthetic impulses that drive book production from the point of view of principles—from romanticism through postmodern and contemporary work. The course touches on collection development in this area, with the goal of providing sufficient knowledge of the developments in book arts to contribute to good judgment in assessing works for collection. Some emphasis will be put on understanding what makes a good collection, examples of development collection policy, and development of resources to support assessment. Class discussion will engage questions of collection policies, resources for research and teaching, and the role of online materials in showcasing and engaging with surrogates of the codex form.

Book lists for all works looked at in the course will be supplied in advance.

Course History

Johanna Drucker teaches this course.
Eleanor M. Garvey teaches a precursor course, "Books and Artists: Developments in the 19th and 20th Centuries."
This course is not currently being offered. Please do not list on any RBS fellowship or scholarship applications.

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Related Courses


Johanna Drucker

Johanna Drucker

Johanna Drucker is the Bernard and Martin Breslauer Professor in the Department of Information Studies at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. She became Robertson Professor of Media Studies at UVA in 1999; she has also taught at Columbia, Yale, and SUNY Purchase. She has been making artists’ books for many years. Among her books are The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909–23 (1994) and The Century of Artists’ Books (1995).

Courses Formerly Offered

Full Bio »