One-Of-A-Kind Artists' Books Donated to UTSA Libraries Special Collections

Artists’ books can be made by all types of artists who wish to communicate an idea in an intimate format of a book.  They reside in museums and libraries, as well as in homes of private collectors. As described by Rare Books Librarian Agnieszka Czeblakow, “artists books challenge our assumptions of what it means to read, of what ’a book’ is, or should be. Artists books are puzzles demanding our curiosity,” said Czeblakow. “They offer new possibilities for us as readers, teachers, artists, makers, and dreamers.”

The majority of the recent donation to UTSA was gifted by Beck Whitehead, faculty emeritus at the Southwest School of Art. Featuring handmade papers, intricate book structures and pulp paintings, the books are all handmade by Whitehead, a papermaking teacher who has showcased her work in museums across the country. The donation also includes works by a well-known book artist Emily Martin, as well as UTSA alumna Rose Harms, whose works were made collaboratively by artists, papermakers, and writers across the United States. The gift also includes two miniature books.

Whitehead had been contemplating how to share her collection of artists’ books for several years.

“Thinking about my collection, two things occurred to me,” she said. “One, I have limited space which has become a factor in selecting books I would like to own, and artists I would like to support. And two, what is the point of having these books if they are not shared with other people?”

Once Whitehead met Czeblakow and saw her enthusiasm for UTSA’s Special Collections, the book artist knew she had found the perfect home for her collection. For Whitehead, donating her books to UTSA serves her goal of raising the awareness and visibility of artists’ books. “I am very excited that instructors will be bringing students to view the collection.”

Special Collections currently has 100 works in its book arts collection, representing numerous artists and presses from around the world. Included are sculptural structures, deluxe editions, illustrated books, letterpress and photography books.

Those interested in viewing the new book arts collection can schedule a visit to UTSA’s Special Collections.

The UTSA Libraries Special Collections brings national recognition to the university for distinctive research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas. Collecting priorities include the history of the Mexican American, African American and LGBTQ communities in our region, the history of women and gender in Texas, activism, the Tex-Mex food industry, and urban planning.