Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Happy New Year from Collective Investigations

New Year is always a time for reflection and recently I was thinking about the books we give people at this time of year. Among the biographies and cook books, shop windows and supermarket shelves are often filled with annuals, mostly aimed at children and tied in with comics and TV shows. I wondered about their origins and was surprised to learn that the precursor to these books dates from 1823. It was a publication called Forget me Not, intended to be given to mark Christmas and the New Year.

The publication was filled with engravings accompanied by commissioned poems and stories. The publication launched a host of other such books which were popular right up to the mid-century, at which point production standards and subsequently readership began to decline.

I wonder if the genre will still be around in another 200 years? It would be fascinating to know. As we live in such fast moving times, it seems like anything is possible.

Warm wishes from us for the 2016 - we hope it is a happy and productive New Year.

Chris, Egidija and George

Image credits: Interior Image and Covers.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

→ EDITION SIZE UNKNOWN (making sense of editioning artists' books)

ABOUT STONES, an unnumbered edition of 51

This blog post is a private contemplation, as I try to make sense of editioning. 
Remarks and comments on the subject are very welcome.


Everyone producing artists' books seems to have their own process and rules of editioning. Most of the time, I mark and sign edition on the back, and then - discreetly in the gutter - I keep the information on the print run, the paper, the printer and the ink and any other speciffication which I may find important. Like most of us, I try to print all of the edition at once. It is not always practical, however - frequently, I do not have the facility to store large amount of books. If I do not print the edition in one run, can it still be considered the same edition? Can it be numbered as the same edition if it was printed in three runs six months apart using the same printer? The same bed of type? A different printer or different bed of type in a different location? How do you mark those differences? Is it important to mark them?

The business of editioning artist's books sits between producing and numbering books as fine art multiples and producing artist's books as publications. Each of those areas is governed by the absence of formal rules(1), which leave all of us to our own devices of how and when we number our works.

FINE ART (prints)

In printmaking, as Wikipedia says,  "an edition is a number of prints struck from one plate, usually at the same time. This may be a limited edition, with a fixed number of impressions produced on the understanding that no further impressions (copies) will be produced later, or an open edition limited only by the number that can be sold or produced before the plate wears."

In digital printing, "dating digital images is particularly important. Since a digital file prints out exactly the same way every time you print it, no matter when you print it, the quickest and simplest way to differentiate one image from the next is by the date it was printed. Even though a print may be one of a larger edition, a date individualizes it, and makes it just a little bit more unique. And buyers like that. In fact, buyers generally like dated art, especially when their dates precede other buyers' dates." (Giclee Printing and Pricing for Artist Limited Editions)

Fine art prints also allow for an artists' proof to exist (marked as AP) outside the edition. Classically, 10% of a limited edition size is considered an appropriate amount of artists proofs (Editioned Prints and Photographs).

(Then there is fine art ephemera, which is a different kettle of fish - see further below.)

Fine art (printmaking) environment has the figure of buyer-collector in the picture. Art buyers like to know the size of the edition. Art buyers like low numbers. Art buyers like signatures. Also, as it turns out, art buyers like digital images to be dated.


Bibliographical definition of an edition was given by Fredson Bowers in Principles of Bibliographical Description (1949). Bowers wrote that an edition is “the whole number of copies printed at any time or times from substantially the same setting of type-pages,” including “all issues and variant states existing within its basic type-setting, as well as all impressions.”  Collectors, however, would only consider the first print run as the first edition, while publishers each have their own rules.

A wonderful book First Editions of To-day and how to Tell Them (1929)(2) by H.S.Boutell gives some fascinating insight into the issues of editioning and terminology used, some of which, is still very relevant today.

        Generally speaking, the collector of first editions is really a collector of first impressions, a first impression being a book from the first lot struck off the presses, and a first edition comprising all books which remain the same in content and in format as the first impression. A second impression is a second printing, A second edition postulates some alteration of text or format. But these terms are, unfortunately, not strictly adhered to. (Introductory Note by Boutell)   

In the Publisher's Note Boutell further points to Arrowsmith entry on page 12, where they note that "the correct term not First Edition but First Impression or Issue." Boutell regrets that the error of terminology is almost universal.

(Can a digital print run be still called an impression?)
The rest of 62 page book is filled with publishers' responses to how they mark their first and subsequent editions and impressions. The book shows how varied the practice can be! For example, I used the book trying to track down the edition number for my The Poetical Works of John Milton (1898) published by Frederic Warne and Co., only to find out that they did at one time mark first editions with a private mark, but they had discontinued the habit and they had even lost trace of private marks (p38).

Bibliographical/book-collector context brings forward the importance of differentiating between the edition and the print run. 

Editioning information of Alice in the Wonderland (1929) published by George G. Harrap & Co., LTD.
Editioning information of Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus (2009) published by Routledge Classics.


Artists' books include not just bound books, but also a wide range of ephemera in the form of posters, postcards, leaflets, pamphlets, periodicals, zines, fanzines, bookmarks, maps, graphs, tickets, invitations, etc., which may come as multiples, but may not always be numbered. Some will be produced on site to serve as an evidence or a continuation of another event. Others will be regularly published. Among the more fascinating cases of ephemera are Fluxus score sheets.
"Produced throughout the 1960s and 70s, they take on a variety of forms from small event cards with text prompting the viewer to perform everyday actions to larger graphic scores with abstract compositions for indeterminate musical and dance performances." (Exhibiting Fluxus: Keeping Score in Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde) Many of those scores were published and disseminated by Maciunas as Fluxus editions, multiples stamped “© Fluxus”. They could be purchased at low costs. Here are three catalogue entries for three Fluxus publications:


The concept of editioning is tied down to the place and time of production and it benefits the collector/buyer to make judgement on the value of the artists' publication.

Is it important to keep editioning consistent? In the tradition of artists' book as an editioned work of print, the publication benefits from showing all of the information mentioned above as an honest statement about the scale of production. However, the artists' intention might be that the publication is infinite and ephemeral. In that case, it is up to the collector and cataloguer to make sense of it's editioning data.


(1)  New York and California consumer protection laws require a certificate of authenticity when selling artist multiples.

(2) First Editions of To-day and how to Tell Them (1929) by H.S.Boutell was purchased from Barter Books in Alnwick. If in Northumberland, it is always worth a trip to this  
Ghibli-esque emporium of second hand books.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015


ARABESK – a series of books made in relief print and hand-cut stencils on 11-12 grams Japanese paper. Each book has 4 – 7 sheets. The paper and the ink is so transparent that you always see something of each sheet. The books have black covers. Edition of 1 to 5. Year 2014- 15.
Here you see images of ’Arabesk 12’.

The paper is translucent, soft, airy, and completely silent. Quick movements of the papers is physically impossible. Each sheet has one visual element, a shape which is mirrored as you turn the page.

The fragile paper is printed with motives developed from Arabic ornamentation. This expression was originally created out of mathematics and geometry, to avoid imagery that might lead to idolatry. I wanted to combine the book as a system, with this geometry to see what that could bring. I find it fascinating how the images switch between flat and spatial, and that despite the strict patterns, associations may vary and go towards modernism, the oriental, and paradoxically also towards figuration.

The transparency causes overlaps between the pages that create new shapes and new colors. The sheets melt together in a way which makes it almost impossible for the reader to predict the next sheet’s exact pattern and color, or to remember precisely the last motif. It plays with the illusions of form, color, space and order. The image is transformed with each turn of a page and becomes ephemeral.

A book starts to exist the moment its pages are turned. Since the book is a media of intimacy, presence and touch, haptic communication inevitably establishes meaning in itself, a communication which invariably will be in some kind of relation to the mental content. It is an arena where perception and thinking operate together, it might also bring awareness of your own perception.

Books have been holy objects for many different reasons. The fragility of the paper and the actions necessary, may add a ritualistic element to the act of reading. I see the reader’ act as a performance, a slow motion ballet. In a materialistic culture of mass consumption and noisy, offensive expressions, I find it appropriate to react by focussing on tranquility, care, and consideration.

Like mandalas, which often are written in sand to be washed away, I have tried to create a space for a contemplative experience, displaying the ever changing character and relativeness of existence, where different elements always are colored and influenced by their surroundings.

One time based media can express another; see a slow motion page-turner, a real interactive media by clicking:

Arabesk 4:
Arabesk 9:
Arabesk 12:

Randi Annie Strand, visual artist, born in Norway 1962. Lives in Oslo. MA from Bergen Academy of Art and Design (92). Language, signs and sensory experiences are central elements in her works. Her ideas has been realised through different media and techniques. She has had many solo- and group exhibitions in Norway as well as abroad. Purchased by The National Museum, KODE Art Museum among others.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Exhibition: Anselm Kiefer, 'L’alchimie du livre / The Alchemy of Books' at La Bibliothèque nationale de France

Installation view of 'Ton âge et mon âge et l'âge du monde', 2005 and 'Nigredo', 1998.

Recently I got chance to see a retrospective of Anselm Kiefer's book works at the megalithic Bibliothèque  Nationale François-Mitterand in Paris; a building that I love for its sheer audacity (how many other libraries have a wood planted right in the middle of them?).

Library Exterior.
During the course of my studies I'd heard a lot about Kiefer's books, particularly in relation to their earthy, organic qualities. And because books are often such small, intimate objects, I was keen to see the scale of the works.

I have never seen an exhibition at the Bibliotheque National before, but the gallery was bigger than I expected. The room is made up of an open central space with vitrines of more traditional books and three alcoves on each side, housing the bigger, more physical books.

The first alcove on each side is called 'A Library Of Artists' Books' and have been made to look like archives with their utilitarian grey metal shelving. The shelves hold large (around 1m square) seemingly perfect-bound books. The thick pages have a quality of children's board books, but the content and construction is more akin to a sketch book or a journal. It is easy to imagine that each book is preparation for an artwork. Filed among these are boxes (presumably of books or loose-leaves), sculptural objects and vitrines. The effect is like a behind-the-scenes view of the artist's studio. The huge tomes have a real sense of gravity and even though they can't be read, these reading rooms are still immersive and contemplative spaces.

A Library of Artists Books, 2015
A Library of Artists Books, 2015

Subsequent alcoves feature large sculptural works - a particular favourite was the installation featuring 'Ton âge et mon âge et l'âge du monde' (2005) and 'Nigredo' (1998) (shown at the top of the page) as the balance between the organic and the bookish in the works seemed just right. Kiefer's work is confident and complex, but the familiar form and the earthy colours lend a warmth to it. This may also on part explain the artist's appeal to those on the Book Arts course I was on.

Le Livre, 2007 (detail)
 'Lichtung (Clairière)', 2015 (detail)
The front and back walls are flanked by large-scale, heavily layered paintings each of which incorporated a book form. I like the symbolic use of the book form within the composition, and although such a deep layering can make paintings very dense for me they certainly had a lot of energy and they enclosed the space very well.

In the vitrines down the middle of the room are a broad range of the artist's books. Many are open and although they can't be touched, the viewer is given a hint as to their contents. In an exhibition like this is not necessary to be able to handle these works, particularly as many are much closer to sculpture than an actual book.

'Les Reines de France', 1996 (detail)

Leaving the exhibition I was impressed with how prolific Kiefer is and how consistent his work is. I feel lucky to have had the chance to see the work and particularly in such a relevant context.

'The Alchemy of Books' continues until 7th February 2016.