Monday 1 May 2023

But Is It A Book? A recent exhibition at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago hosted a fantastic looking exhibition earlier this year called 'But Is It A Book?' with a selection of examples of many types of book forms from their collection:

"If you think you know all the attributes that make a book a book, turn back to the gallery door and conclude your visit to this exhibition.

If you think there might be more to the seemingly familiar and ultimately knowable book—one of the most innovative and adaptable technologies for making and sharing meaning devised by humankind—then take a moment to browse and consider the many wonderful, sometimes contradictory, and occasionally confounding aspects of the book.

But Is It a Book? is a choosable-path exhibition that invites inquiry into the nature of material text, considering in turn the attributes that signal “bookness”—format, shape, binding, pages, and text. You will see examples covering the long arc of book history and book technology, from a clay tablet made in the 3rd century BCE to audio- and e-books manifesting themselves materially the instant you press “play.” But is a clay tablet or an e-book really a book?"

Two pieces of my book art - Nylmah and Vasilisa and the Witch's Fire - were featured in the exhibition, curated by Elizabeth Frengel, the university's curator of rare books:

The exhibition was given coverage in both the University of Chicago news' website and in the Chicago Tribune -

All photos by The University of Chicago Library
I was delighted to have two of my artists books included within the exhibition, and especially Nylmah and Vasilisa. Like many of the books I make, they're both designed as concertina books, but each ones takes on a new form and structure when fully opened.

But is it a Book? ran from 3rd January until 28th April 2023 and was on display at the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center at the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago.

Full information on the exhibition can be found at

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