Not An Illustration: Livres d’artiste in the Special Collections of St. John’s College, Oxford

St John's College Library, Oxford

“Experience of our age in terms of painting—not an illustration of—(but the equivalent.)” – Jackson Pollock

This is an exhibition of a selection of the college’s livres d’artiste and some other rare books which were produced in the early 1930s, in collaboration with Leonard Lye, a modernist film-maker and sculptor.

In the glossary of French Livres d’artiste in Oxford University Collections, Eunice Martin defines the livre d’artiste as “a book illustrated with original prints in which the text, illustrations, typography (or calligraphy), paper, cover and other features are designed to produce a total work of art”. The criterion for our selection is that the books are illustrated with non-figurative pictures.

The illustrations are not confined to the texts. Seen on many of the pages, they exemplify the decorative effect of the books. Each one is a part of a book, bearing a theoretical relation to a whole. This is…

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