Guest blogger Des Cowley, manager of  our Rare Printed Collection, sent me this piece about a remarkable volume recently added to our seriously fine collection of artists books from both Australia and overseas.

The Map/Chizu by Kikuji Kawada

Nazraeli Press, 2005


The Library continues to build its collection of international artists books. The latest acquisition is a copy of the 2005 issue of Kikuji Kawada’s Chizu /The Map, considered a classic of modern photography. This important photobook was first issued by Kawada in 1965, to mark the twentieth anniversay of the Hiroshima bombing, and this re-issue, overseen by the photographer, is limited to 500 signed and numbered copies. Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, in their critical work The Photobook: A History, Volume 1, wrote about the book: “No photobook has been more successful in combining graphic design with complex photographic narrative… [as its] various layers inside [are] peeled away like archeological strata, the whole process of viewing the book becomes one of uncovering and contemplating the ramifications of recent Japanese history — especially the country’s tangled relationship with the United States… Kawada’s photographs are a masterly amalgam of abstraction and realism, of the specific and the ineffable, woven into a tapestry that makes the act of reading them a process of re-creation in itself. In the central metaphor of the map, in the idea of the map as a series of interlocking trace marks, Kawada has conjured a brilliant simile for the photograph itself: scientific record, memory trace, cultural repository, puzzle and guide”

You can find out more about artist’s books in all of their forms by typing in the phrase “artists books”into our catalogue.

The photobook : a history by Martin Parr, Gerry Badger

Phaidon, 2004

The photobook might seem to be a relatively recent development, but this exhaustive study traces its lineage back to the 19th century, placing it within the overall history of photography whilst demonstrating that it has its own unique, almost parallel history.

A century of artists books by Riva Castleman

Museum of Modern Art, 1994

Artists books are also nothing new, and this splendid volume is based on an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the mid-nineties. Beginning her survey from the closing decades of the 19th century with the works of artists such as Toulouse Lautrec and Paul Gauguin, the author shows how artists used the book form for pure artistic expression as well as a platform for more overtly political and philosophical musings.

Australian artists books by Alex Selenitsch

National Gallery of Australia, 2008

Based on the collection of artists books held at the National Gallery of Australia, this survey of locally created works functions as a fine introduction to the practice, as well as showing off some of the weird and wonderful creations springing from the minds and hands of artists such as Robert Jacks, Mike Parr and Martin Sharp.

Creating artists’ books by Sarah Bodman

A & C Black, 2005

Sarah Bodman is well placed to write a guide for visual artists interested in creating their own books, and this handy volume works as both a manual for the practitioner as well as an informative guide for the enthusiast who simply wants to find out in more detail the mechanics behind the covers.

And while I have your attention, don’t forget to help the Library shape its future by having your say, via our “Your State Library, your say” website at

State Library of Victoria viewed through cranes and construction work, 1974

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