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Book Arts & Private Press Collection

Swarthmore College is home to a vibrant and continually growing collection of modern and contemporary artists' books. The Book Arts and Private Press Collection is committed to the acquisition of fine printing and artist books, and strives to represent all aspects of the physical book including bookbinding, typography, letterpress and offset printing, hand papermaking, illustration, and book design. Housed in the Rare Book Room in McCabe Library, this collection currently contains examples from nearly 1,000 different presses, from historically significant presses like Kelmscott Press, Doves Press, the Roycrofters, Nonesuch Press, and Golden Cockerel Press, to the works of important contemporary book artists such as Julie Chen, Charles Hobson, Maureen Cummins, Xu Bing, and Donald Glaister.

The collection contains material dating back to 1540, and it provides students and visitors with a hands-on history of printing and the book in an intimate, concrete way. Artists can use the collection to find solutions to current technical problems. Professors can use the collection to illustrate concepts relevant to their curriculum, whether it is politics, gender issues, autobiography, history, or art.

The Book Arts Collection also provides students with a broad range of choices for the definition of the book. Artists' books continually challenge the definition of "book" and are sometimes delightfully difficult to describe. They can creatively and beautifully represent the book in its most comprehensive sense, incorporating structure, surface, image, and text. A book arts collection at its best can provide innumerable examples of what a book can be.

The collection, with over 6,000 items, is catalogued and available in Tripod. Anyone interested in seeing a specific work or in having a selection created on a particular topic, binding style, or technique is welcome to contact the Library. Functioning as a kind of intimate hands-on laboratory for the book arts, the collection is an educational and inspirational tool that directly supports the arts, visual culture interests, and curricular interests.

Selection of Book Arts

A selection of artists' books.