Bailey/Howe houses artist books display


Enola Mercer, Staff Writer

On the ground floor of the Bailey/Howe, the smell of old paper replaces the scent of fresh brewed coffee from the Cyber Cafe.

The quiet room that house Special Collections filled up with seasoned book collectors and curious newbies alike on Nov. 10 for the annual visit from Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.

Bailey/Howe is more than just a place for caffeine-fueled students to get in their late night studying-it is also home to hundreds of artist books.

The Special Collections section of the library includes the Vermont Research Collection, the Rare Book Collection and the University Archives.

The Artists’ Book Collection is comprised of over 400 works, including those by local Vermont residents and students, with some purchased from collectors like Vamp and Tramp, according to UVM research guides.

Thanks to the donations of generous contributors, the Rare Books collection continues to increase in size, owing partly to purchases directly from artists, such as local Vermonter Claire van Vliet, one of the pioneers of the UVM artist books collection.

Each unique book was arranged on display throughout the Special Collections room.

There is no set criteria to an artist book, Special Collections librarian Prudence Doherty said.

“It’s wide-open,” Doherty said. “It’s hard to define an artist book, to say an artist book must do this.”

It is easy to see the range of topics and mediums covered in the Bailey/Howe collection-from artistic renderings of famous poems to An Alliterative Abecedarium of Anthropomorphic Animals.

The structure of an artist book is just as important as the words or artwork contained within, Doherty said.

“The artist is hoping you will participate,” she said. “They are all very interactive.”

The artist’s book is a relatively new form of artistic expression. It dates to the early 20th century as a response to the loss of art in the industrialization of book-making, according to

One key part of the artist book is that they are often made by hand, and by one artist from beginning to end, the website said.

In contrast to mass produced books and paper, an artist book can sometimes take years from start to finish.

Once a year, UVM hosts the Vermont Book Artists Guild and puts the diversity and creativity of the growing artist book industry on display.

Turning pages and exploring the unusual forms of UVM’s 400 plus artist books, students and collectors ventured away from their phone and computer screens and into the basement of Bailey/Howe.