Introduction

Pushing the limits of the traditional book form and constructed using a wide variety of formats and materials, artists’ books first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as an expression of social and political activism, a way to "talk back" to mass production and mass media. In the decades that followed, these unique or limited edition hand-made art objects soon became valuable and highly collectible. Preserved in public and private collections, they are frequently featured in exhibitions. Bruce Peel Special Collections houses an important collection of more than 1,000 artists’ books, and this digital exhibition highlights a selection of those artists' books made in Canada by women.

The artists' books in this exhibition explore a wide range of subjects ranging from illness and healing to landscape and animals, from religion and spirituality to nursery rhymes, haircuts, hats, and gender. They come in a range of sizes and formats, inviting the reader to find new ways to read and interact with these art objects and to reflect on our own assumptions about "the book" (see video of Down the Rabbit Hole or Sir, Come Navigate). For many of us, the sheer delight of interacting with artists' books comes from the many ways that they are able to challenge and surprise us.

The main content of this exhibition is organized alphabetically by the surname of the book artist or artists: Artists A-F, Artists G-N, and Artists O-Z. There is a separate tab for the artists' books selected for the exhibition from the "Millennium in a Box" project, and another tab that links to exhibition content from an alphabetical listing of artists' books by title. Click on any image for additional views.

The photographs shown in this exhibition offer a peek at a small sampling of the artists' books in Bruce Peel Special Collections at University of Alberta. Honorary Degree Books is another digital exhibition that features quite a few artists' books from the Peel library. Students, faculty and staff, and members of the general public are welcome to visit the Peel library on weekday afternoons throughout the year to examine these materials.