Artists’ Books in the Ginsberg Collection, with some South African Books from Other Collections. An exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery from 25th August to 27th October, 1996.

Curated by Jack M. Ginsberg and David M. Paton

1996 is the Centenary of the death of William Morris (1834-1896). Over one hundred years after Morris 'defined' the fine press book, his words still hold true:

If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of Art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer, ‘a beautiful house’; and if I were further asked to name the production next in importance and thing next to be longed for, I should answer, ‘a beautiful book’.

This exhibition is curated in the form of a book. The visitor begins a reading of the show with a 'preface' which introduces some parameters and issues within the book arts. It then develops through a number of chapters through which the artist's book is decoded and revealed. Many of my chapters have been derived from Johanna Drucker’s chapter headings in her seminal book The Century of Artists' Books (1995).

As one moves through the 'spine' of the exhibition, bindings and books which use the spine and gutter as important aspects of their content are shown.

The exhibition ends with an 'endnote' in which questions about the nature of Artists' Books are asked and future thematic and material possibilities within the field postulated. Thus the visitor reads the book by moving through the exhibition.