Modern artists and writers have often collaborated on books in which text and image bear equal weight. Because these books utilize graphic techniques that allow the illustrations to stand as original works of art in their own right, almost every major artist in our century has been involved in their production, including Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Kokoschka, and Miro, to name only a few. The resulting books are often stunning examples of art and typography. Since the early 1970s the Lilly Library has been acquiring significant examples of this new genre. The dominant role of the French in the development of the illustrated book on our century is indicated by the preponderance of French examples of the genre in the Lilly Library.
Since 1945 the Lilly Library's livres d'artiste holdings include major works by such artists as Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Georges Braque, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Arp.
As important as the revival of fine printing and illustration has been an equally revolutionary development in 20th century binding. Today, through the efforts of such pioneers and Pierre Legrain, Paul Bonet, and Edgar Mansfield, fine binding has achieved the status of an expressive art form in its own right. No longer simply decorative, a fine binding bears an intimate relationship to the text itself.
The Lilly Library's British bookbindings are of particular interest and significance. They were commissioned in 1972 from twenty-three leading artists and craftsmen in Great Britain and the results were spectacular. The range of techniques and aesthetic effects defy categorization, but the spectrum serves as a basis for the study of the best in contemporary fine binding.
The collection also includes one of Philip Smith's finest works, a binding for the English language Cranach Presse edition of Hamlet involving multi-colored feathered onlays and maril.
Other major additions to the Lilly collection of contemporary fine bindings are also examples of livres d'artiste:
While the Lilly Library does not aggressively collect private press books, livres d'artiste, or fine bindings, its holdings are worthy of study by anyone interested in 20th century book arts and graphic design.
The online exhibition The Fine Art of British Bookbinding showcases a few of the Library's British bookbindings.
Related exhibition catalogues include:
Top: Guillaume Apollinaire. Si je mourais la-bas; bois origineaux de Georges Braque [Paris, 1962].