chapter  2
Artists’ Books
Pages 62

Some of the most innovative crossover picturebooks fall into the category of what have been termed “‘artists’ books’ for children.” Although artists’ books have been called “the quintessential 20th-century artform,”1 the defi nition and the term itself are still the subject of much debate. This study adopts the term “artists’ books,” as it has become the most widespread, but often “artist’s” is written in the singular or even without the apostrophe. Numerous other labels are also used to refer to these books, including book art, bookworks, and book objects. Often artists’ books are defi ned in terms of what they are not, and one website begins by categorically claiming: “They are not children’s books.”2 In fact, some of the most innovative artists’ books are intended for young readers. Unfortunately, they are, for the most part, not well-known, unobtainable, and overlooked by critics. In France, “les livres d’artiste pour enfants” have received some scholarly attention, for the most part thanks to Les Trois Ourses, an association founded by several librarians in 1988 to promote artists’ books for children and make them available to French readers.3 The French publishing house Éditions MeMo, which collaborates with Les Trois Ourses, specializes in artists’ books for children from the past as well as the present. In Italy, Maurizio and Marzia Corraini, who began working with Bruno Munari in the 1970s, reedited titles which had previously been diffi cult to obtain, making them available not only in Italian, but also in English and French. In the English-speaking world, however, artists’ books for children have been virtually ignored and, with very few exceptions, have received only

passing mention by critics.4 In his study of artists’ books, Stephen Bury cites the “children’s book” as an example of the genres into which the artist’s exploration of the book extended, and his list of works includes Bruno Munari’s Prelibri and Andy Warhol’s Children’s Book, while Johanna Drucker’s seminal The Century of Artists’ Books, fi rst published in 1995, devotes a couple of sentences to Munari and mentions Dieter Roth’s Kinderbuch (Children’s book) in very brief terms.5 Yet artists’ books constitute one of the most infl uential and exciting areas of crossover literature.