Books As Art

Coney island of the mind

A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, with art by R. B. Kitaj sold by Arion Press

Before books were mass produced, bookmaking was a fine art.  The price-driven commodity that is book manufacturing today used to be a task reserved for skilled artisans who made beautiful works of art by hand.  Today as the publishing and print industries are being turned upside down by the proliferation of eReading devices, skilled artists continue to make works of art that cater to a high-end market.  Check out these professionals making beautiful books by hand.

Arion Press

Started in 1982 by printer/publisher Andrew Hoyem, Arion Press specializes in making high end books out of old titles.  They make about two to three limited edition books per year and everything is made by hand.  No two are alike and the press prides itself on making one of kind creations that are sought after as much for their beauty as they are for their content.

The Arion Gallery

The Arion Gallery

Their gallery, located in The Presidio in San Francisco, features many of their previous works.  You can even take a tour  if you are in the area.  Arion highlights a phenomenon that is taking shape amid the rise of electronic content publishing.  With some of their editions selling for upwards of $7,000, some people are looking toward the book as an object of artistry rather than just a means to deliver content.  While the average person isn’t going to run out and buy a beautifully hand-bound copy of Moby Dick for $2,200, the concept remains the same.  There are really no replacements for a well-made book.

Publication Studios

Publication Studio PiecesBooks for the people, by the people–that seems to be the theme of a Portland, Oregon startup that specializes in producing hand-made books for clients.  They make books by artists and authors they admire as well as those requested by clients.  Founded in 2009, they now have six other studios across North America.

Publication Studios doesn’t conduct business the way traditional book manufacturers or retailers do.  They don’t focus on a target market or let demand drive their decisions.  They produce books for a public and leverage their own personal networks to get visibility for their work.

If you can take anything from the fact that businesses like these exist, it is the notion that books are more than just a means to deliver content.  They evoke emotion, shape culture, and their physical presence tells a story about the people who made them.

Do you own a book that could be considered a work of art?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.



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