Each year, I spend countless hours perusing catalogs, websites, and meeting with booksellers to find new unique, rare, and antiquarian materials to add to our rare books collections in DePaul Special Collections and Archives. One of the areas that we are quickly growing and collecting actively in is artists’ books, or pieces in which the artist uses and interprets the book as a form to create a work of art. We recently acquired five new artists’ books for our collections that we are excited about. The subjects of the books range from examining the relationship between our hair and our identities to a playful look at how the thumb is used in communication and its connection to humanity’s need for approval. Read on to learn more about the five new titles.
Don’t Cut Your Hair It’s Beautiful created by Kellee Morgado is a collection of three pamphlets that contain submissions by twelve artists. The artists were given prompts about the hair on our bodies to create a written response that could be accompanied by a found or original image. Their contributions explore the relationship between hair, identity and how we express ourselves. The booklets interrogate the way feminism, gender, sexuality, spirituality, race, religion, culture, resistance, and shame can influence our relationship with the hair on our body and what should be removed, shown, or deemed desirable.  Moving through the booklets is an interactive experience where the reader creates their own experience through how they unfold the pages and in what order they read through the booklets of different images and text pieced together.
Hair also is included quite literally on the cover of America, Guests who Came to Dinner (and Stayed) by Evelyn Patricia Terry.
“My hair affirms ‘self-acceptance’ and ‘self-love.’ In my youth, my ‘nappy’ hair existed as a source of shame. Through maturation I learned that brainwashed consumers under the influence of fake beauty commercials suffer from crushed self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. A paradigm shift occurred for me. My once pressed and straightened hair became dreadlocks, that I now use unabashedly as fodder in my books.”
America, Guests Who Came to Dinner (and Stayed) was created by modifying an existing book through cutting, sewing, and gluing on original screen prints, drawings, and handmade paper. The text accompanying the images describe the different ways that people arrived in America. 
Continuing the theme of how societal pressures affect how we express ourselves, Gina Fowler’s The Ladies’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness explores gendered expectations for women. Gina Fowler selected samples of text from The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette from 1860 by Florence Hartley. The original text prescribes how one ought to behave, dress, manage the household, socialize, write, and converse. Fowler printed select quotations onto linen napkins which she then hemmed by hand and folded into triangles that are nestled within a custom enclosure. While unfolding the napkins, the viewer is invited to think about what ways societal norms have changed and how we are still constricted.  If you are interested in the Victorian era, we have a wide variety of materials from that period in our rare book collections including a decorative arts manual for women by Florence Hartley.
Heather Weston also utilizes cloth in their creation, Binding Analysis : Double Bind. Weston’s work explores the experience of schizophrenia. To get to the book, the reader must first untie and remove the book out of its cloth enclosure resembling a straightjacket. Once the jacket is opened, you then can page through the double spiraled pages, that are cut down the middle, to discover and piece together the story through the pictorial, textual, and structural elements. “Thus, the book refers directly to the process of psychoanalysis as a tool for understanding the book’s story. A hidden narrative can only be pieced together when eight pairs of object images, which the binding naturally splits, are reunited and the pages flipped inside out—a reference to the necessity of an external person, the analyst/detective[…].” 
Rule of Thumb by Ellen Knudson explores the way humans seek approval and how the thumb has become a symbol of that.  All pages contain moveable elements with illustrations and turns of phrase about thumbs from throughout history. The interactivity and how the images of thumbs interact with the text, creates a tongue in cheek and fun reading experience.
If you are interested in visiting Special Collections and Archives to see these new acquisitions or any of our other artists’ books, you can make an appointment through our online booking system. We are located in room 314 of the John T. Richardson Library and require appointments to be made 48 hours in advance. If you are interested in using these titles for instruction or if you have questions about the materials, you can contact Nora Gabor at email@example.com.
 Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, “Black Rock Press ~ Nevada,” Retrieved April 8, 2022, from http://www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/b/black-rock-press.html.
 Evenlyn Patricia Terry quoted in Vamp and Tramp Booksellers “Evelyn Patricia Terry ~ Wisconsin,” Retrieved April 8, 2022, from http://www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/t/Evelyn-Patricia-Terry.html.
 Vamp and Tramp Booksellers “Evelyn Patricia Terry ~ Wisconsin,” Retrieved April 8, 2022, from http://www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/t/Evelyn-Patricia-Terry.html.
 Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, “Gina Fowler ~ Alabama,” Retrieved April 8, 2022 from http://www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/f/Gina-Fowler.html.
 Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, “Heather Weston ~ England,” Retrieved April 13, 2022, from http://www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/w/weston.html.
 Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, “Crooked Letter Press,” Retrieved from April 8, 2022, from http://www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/c/crooked-letter-press.html.