Artists' books

Art books? No: Artist's books!

Artists' books cross borders: While they are books, they are also and predominantly works of art – collected by libraries and museums alike.

From William Blake to Pablo Picasso, from Anselm Kiefer to Louise Bourgeois, for centuries artists have considered the question what a book can be – beyond the mere transport of information. They have illustrated, written, bound, coloured, collaged, photographed or taken entirely experimental approaches to transport their idea of a book and their ideas into the book, with the forms and contents being shaped by highly diverse intentions, from purely aesthetic demands up to socio-political goals.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek established the collection group of "Libri selecti" for books of this type in 1915, which can be understood as a response to the revival of book art in England in the late 19th century. Initially, predominantly German titles were acquired, particularly from the Munich luxury presses. As of 1958, the collection was reorganised: German press prints and works of Expressionism, as well as the great French painters’ books characterize the collection up to the present day. During the 1970s, acquisition focused on the works of the Russian avant-garde (Futurism and Constructivism), Fluxus and Viennese Actionism. The expansion of the collection to also encompass conceptual artists' books, artists' publications and artists' journals of the 1960s and 1970s was of particular importance.

Today's collection focus is on artists' books with photographs, concept books and artists' publications with a socially critical and/or political orientation.

Flyer on the artist's book collection (2019)  (PDF 105 KB)
Exhibition SHOWCASE with catalogue (2018)

Encompassing around 14,000 titles, the collection of artists' books of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek curated by the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books is of world renown. The collection group Libri selecti (L.sel.) is subdivided into the call number groups L.sel.I and L.sel.III for books with original works or for particularly valuable pieces. Titles which can be considered to constitute artists' books are additionally preserved in other special collection groups, such as the Chalcographa (William Blake), the Rariora (Russian Futurism and Constructivism), the Reserve (Italian Futurism) or even in the "poison cabinet" (Remota).


Today, artists' books, artists' journals, artists' newspapers, edition objects, multiples, photo editions, graphics, graphic works, ephemera, artists' records, audio cassettes, CDs, film/ video/ multimedia editions, up to zines (or graphzines) are collected, on a level as international as possible. The collection of artists' books thus documents the diversity of the contemporary art scene.

The Libri selecti have been entered in BSB DISCOVER!:

► BSB DISCOVER!  (with default setting searching for the call numbers L.sel.I and L.sel.III)

► BSB DISCOVER!  (with default setting searching for the call numbers L.sel.III = particularly valuable pieces)


For browsing

Alex Katz | Alexander Rodchenko | Andy Warhol | Antoni Tàpies | Art Spiegelman | Asger Jorn | Ay-O | Bas Jan Ader | Barry Le Va | Bazooka | Beldan Sezen | Chuck Close | Christopher Wool | Claes Oldenburg | CUBA | Daniel Spoerri | David Sandlin | Dieter Roth | Elisabeth Tonnard | Ed Ruscha | Eduardo Paolozzi | EI Lissitzky | Erró | Fernand Léger | Francesco Cangiullo | Francis Picabia | Gabriel Pomerand | Ganzeer | Georg Baselitz | Georges Braque | George Maciunas | Gerhard Altenbourg | Giuseppe Penone | Günter Brus | Hans Bellmer | Henri Matisse | Herman de Vries | Herman Nitsch | Horst Antes | Hugo Ball | J. Meejin Yoon | Jean Dubuffet | Jim Dine | Joan Miro | John Baldessari | John Cage | Jonathan Meese | Joseph Beuys | Kara Walker | Kazimir Malevich | Katharina Gaenssler | Keith Haring | Kiki Smith | Kim Soo Ja | Kottie Paloma | Kurt Schwitters | lliazd | Lee Wagstaff | Louise Bourgeois | MAKIKO | Man Ray | Marcel Broodthaers | Marcel Duchamp | Marcel Janco | Markus Lüpertz | Marina Abramović | Max Beckmann | Max Ernst | Natalia Goncharova | Olaf Nicolai | Olaf Wegewitz | Pablo Picasso | Pierre Bonnard | Raymond Pettibon | René Magritte | Richard Tuttle | Robert Crumb | Robert Rauschenberg | Rupprecht Geiger | Sam Francis | Shigeko Kubota | SPUR | Tal R | Tristan Tzara | Ulrich Tarlatt | Vanessa Winship | Vito Acconci | Walasse Ting | Wassily Kandinsky | William Blake | Wols | Zao Wou-Ki

Art between covers. A new blog for artists' books

With the newly founded blog, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek wants to create a tool for networking and exchange: Shed a light on acquisitions made by collecting institutions, such as libraries and museums, look at fantastic finds, publishers off the beaten track, presses and projects, let researchers and artists express their views, in a nutshell: document the vivaciousness of the scene.

To the blog:


Landes, Lilian: Subversive Seiten: zwei neue Künstlerinnenbücher an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Aviso: Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Kunst in Bayern (2019) 1, p. 8-9.

Hernad, Béatrice: Showcase: Künstlerbücher aus der Sammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Katalog zur Ausstellung vom 20. September 2017 bis 7. Januar 2018. München, 2017. Ausstellungskataloge. 91.

Bowlt, John E.; Hernad, Béatrice: Aus vollem Halse: russische Buchillustration und Typographie 1900 – 1930 aus den Sammlungen der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München: Ausstellung 1. Dezember 1993 bis 29. Januar 1994. München: Prestel, 1993. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Ausstellungskataloge. 61.

Hernad, Béatrice; Maur, Karin von: Papiergesänge: Buchkunst im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert, Künstlerbücher, Malerbücher und Pressendrucke aus den Sammlungen der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München: Ausstellung, 24. September bis 19. Dezember 1992. München: Prestel, 1992. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Ausstellungskataloge. 60.