Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bibliotheca Part II

A few weeks have passed since I wrote about my visit to the Bibliotheca Librorum apud Artificem. That was intended to be the first of two posts about that afternoon, so here at last is the second.

If you know about the history of artists books, you will probably know about Ed Ruscha. He was a key artist working in the modern movement in the mid-sixties, which led to the development of the book arts as we know it today.

The Bibliotheca holds four books by Ruscha, who works primarily as a photographer. I’ve seen what I believe was his first artists book, a concertina entitled Every Building on Sunset Strip and also the famous Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations in other collections.

Every building on Sunset Strip

Click on image for larger view

However, it was a pleasure to handle these unassuming photographic collections, which radically influenced so much of today’s photography. For me, as a child of the sixties, there was also a guilty nostalgic pleasure in the imagery, especially Nine Swimming Pools.

The use of such everyday descriptions as titles fits perfectly with Ruscha’s goal that these be multiples, readily available and draws a powerful distinction between his books and expensive, glossy fine art photography books. There’s something very approachable about these books.

Sarah Plimpton’s For Now is a very different style of book. Abstract, organic, earthy and quite sensual, a book for a lover of texture and etchings.

Sarah Plimpton

This is the sort of book that makes you want to linger. Plimpton comes from New York, and now divides her time between that city and Paris (sounds good to me!) She also paints and writes poetry. You can see two more of her books at Bibliotheca  Librorum and more of her work on her website.

Finally I come to one of Monica Oppen’s own books, Rebecca's Diary. (You will remember from Part 1 that Bibliotheca Librorum… is Monica’s collection.) Monica is a talented artist and bookbinder in her own right, and I mention her book last only because I know that for her, the Bibliotheca is not a way to publicize her own work, but to share the beautiful objects she has collected over the years.  

Rebecca’s Diary starts from the original Grimm’s version of Cinderella and investigates the girl who becomes Cinderella. This book is the young girl’s imagined diary, and allows us to delve into one of the most loved characters of children’s literature, accompanied by Monica’s beautiful hand-coloured etchings.

My afternoon exploring a small part of the Bibliotheca Librorum apud Artificem passed too quickly, but I’m already looking forward to my next visit.


  1. oh lovely amanda - I'd love to be able to 'play' with an ed ruscha - heck with the whole collection by the sounds of it! thanks also for the links to other bits (like sarah plimpton)


  2. Monica Oppen's collection sounds wonderful and her "Rebecca's Diary" is beautiful. As is "For Now' and I can see why you were drawn to this one. This is a collection I will have on my list if ever I make it to the other side of the world again.