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Short History of the Artists' Books Collection at Otis
The collection of artists' books at Otis College of Art and Design began and grew significantly during this period due largely to the efforts of Joan Hugo, a previous Otis librarian, and recognized expert in artists' books. Judith Hoffberg was also instrumental in building a fine Otis collection which was representative of the time. The Otis Library's current collection is approximately 2,000 works. Among the holdings are books by important contemporary artists such as Ed Ruscha, Joseph Beuys, and Vito Acconci.
Otis also collects books made by students in the Otis Laboratory Press, which was begun by Sheila de Bretteville, formerly Chair of Design at Otis in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Susan King, Simon Toparovsky, Cindy Marsh, and Katherine Ng, all important book artists were among the faculty over the years. This is a unique collection of books, often produced in editions of 2 or 3, are particularly good examples of innovative structures, excellent typography, and interesting content.
In recent years, a few hundred new books have been added, with a focus on works to represent major centers of artists' book production, such as Nexus Press and Women's Studio Workshop.
The goal of the Otis Artists' Book Collection is not to create a comprehensive archive, but rather to provide a valuable teaching resource available to art historians, artists, and students. Since the collection is available on only a limited basis, providing access to the books via online images was a priority.
With assistance from the Getty Electronic Cataloging Initiative, the Otis Library cataloged the books and and photographed representative portions of each work. (Some of our working documents are here.) We hope that this image database of artists' books will assist those with interest in researching our collection as well as the medium in general.