Ars librorum and artist books

The term "artists' books" is a translation of the French "livre de peintre". It describes a text with illustrations by artists from the 20th century onwards, often with a free and associative connection to the original text. This combination of text and illustration produces a new and original work of art. In 1955 Erhart Kästner founded Wolfenbüttel's important collection of artists books as a contemporary counterpart to the book art represented in the historical collections. (Shelfmark: "Malerbücher")

"Ars librorum" denotes a printed and bound book in a bibliophile edition. The library's collection of these works was also founded by Erhart Kästner. They differ from the artists' books, which are often not bound, in their more book-like character, especially the "handpress books" of the 20th century, which are printed in limited editions and signed. As well as illustrated works this group also contains works of outstanding typographical quality. (Shelfmark: "Ars libr.")

The collection gained a significant addition in 1995 with Jürgen Eyssen's private collection, which consists of 303 handpress and illustrated books with a focus on bibliophile editions from the first half of the 20th century. (Shelfmark: "Eyssen")

In all, the collection consists of more than 4000 items, It includes works by famous European and American painters and sculptors such as Arp, Beckmann, Bonnard, Braque, Chagall, Dalí, Derain, Dine, Dubuffet, Ernst, Hockney, Johns, Maillol, Miró, Matisse, Motherwell, Laurens, Léger, Picasso, Rauschenberg, Tàpies und Wols.

In the Artists' Book Room of the Bibliotheca Augusta there are regular exhibitions highlighting various aspects of the collection.

Catalogue: Search the OPAC for "Künstlerbuch" (best in combination with the name of the artist or author) or for the shelf-mark "Malerbücher?", "Ars libr.?" Or "Eyssen?".

A printed catalogue of the artists' books from ca. 1800 until 2003 is available: Malerbuch des 20. Jahrhunderts. Die Künstlerbuchsammlung der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, bearb. von Werner Arnold, Wiesbaden 2004 (Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens 37).

Some further and important information:
Because of their unique character and, in some cases, fragile nature "artists' books" and other items from the special collections are subject to particular conditions of use. These restrictions are necessary in order to guarantee the adequate treatment of unique and fragile objects which may require cautious and complex conservation measures before they can be studied by scholars. Manuscripts, incunabula, artists' books and other items from the special collections may be studied only in the manuscript reading-room in the Bibliotheca Augusta. This reading-room is open to the public from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. It is obligatory that users make written requests early enough to the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections (Postfach 1364, 38299 Wolfenbüttel; email:; Fax: +495331-808-165) before they wish to consult a specific item. This application has to contain artist, author, title, and shelfmark of these items and propose a time for an appointment. The application shall clearly indicate the academic purpose as well as providing an outline of the topic under research.
For further information and inquiries call +495331-808-114

Das Buch des Künstlers. Die schönsten Malerbücher aus der Sammlung der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel ausgestellt in Buchhäusern von Walter Pichler. Kommentierende Texte von Harriett Watts, hrsg. von Carl Haenlein, Hannover 1989. - Hans-Ulrich Lehmann und Sabine Solf, Kunstwirklichkeiten: Erhart Kästner. Bibliothekar, Schriftsteller, Sammler, Wiesbaden 1994 (Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens 21). - Sabine Solf, Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel 1997 (Patrimonia 118). - Harriett Watts und Stefan Soltek, Der Künstler als offenes Buch - The Artist as an open Book. Tériade: Livres d´artiste aus dem Malerbuchkabinett der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, Frankfurt am Main 2001.