The (r)evolutionary artist book | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2042-8022
  • E-ISSN: 2042-8030



This article discusses the history of the artist book in the last decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. The author will make a case that the artist book, as a genre within contemporary art, is primarily a twentieth-century phenomenon, linked to pre-Internet economics of production and distribution. This article includes relevant discussion of the semantics and rhetoric of artists’ books following Diane Vanderlip’s first use of the phrase ‘Artists Books’ in 1973. In the 1980s, with the advent of desktop publishing and what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) design software, a paradigm shift occurred with respect to independent design and prepress production. Also at this time the on-going innovations in home printer technologies increased access to and awareness of book publishing by graphic designers, and any others with creative ideas and an interest in independent publishing. With the launch of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, the genre was further transformed. Through this transformation artist book production moved from a local publishing phenomenon to one that was global and inclusive of independent publishing by artists, designers and others. New modes of production including print-on-demand and virtual bookshops further democratized access to independent publishing by anyone.


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