Book Arts Collection

Sam Ita
The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book by Sam Ita

The book arts encompass a wide variety of skills related to book production, from traditional skills like papermaking, bookbinding, letterpress printing, to cutting edge artistic experiments with book design. The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center holds an appealing cross-section of these arts, including artists' books, fine bindings, and novel book structures.

Artists' books

Artists' books are produced by artists and intended as visual art objects themselves. They are often produced from unusual materials and feature novel book structures.

Browse the Library's catalog for artists' books

Miniature almanac
Miniature almanac, Almanach galant des costumes Français

Miniature books

Miniature books or microscopic books are books 10 centimeters or less in both height and width.

Browse for miniature books

Toy books

Toy books—also called manipulative books, participation books, novelty books, pop-up books, movable books, etc.—are books that have movable parts or that need to be assembled. They are a popular format for children's books, and you can find a number of toy books in our Historical Children's Book Collection and Encyclopaedia Britannica Collection of Children's Literature.

Browse for toy and movable books

Karen Hanmer's Frankenstein binding
Karen Hanmer's Frankenstein binding


Bookbinding is a largely undercelebrated craft, but one that has an outsize impact on a person's experience of a book. A book’s spine, covers, edges, even its shape, all say something about where that particular text comes from, who it may be speaking to, and how it may be regarded by the people who made it, bought it, sold it, and owned it—now and in the past.

Browse for notable bindings

Special Collections holds a number of bindings crafted by noteworthy women bookbinders, from the Guild of Women-Binders and their contemporary Sarah Prideaux around the turn of the 20th century, to living book artists like Karen Hanmer. Check out our work-in-progress list of books in the collection bound by women.


Decorated papers are a crucial part of the art of bookbinding. Paper may be decorated through a variety of processes. Marbled paper, paste paper, Dutch gilt or brocade paper, and block printed paper are commonly used to cover books or to line the insides of the covers.

Browse for marbled paper and works on paper marbling

Browse for paste paper and works on paste paper

Browse for paper sample books

Printing & Publishing

The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center holds the corporate archives of two large Chicago-area printers, the R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company and the University of Chicago Press. Its rare books collections hold many examples of fine and limited editions. Check out our work-in-progress list of books in the collection printed, published, or sold by women.

Related past exhibits

A Book by Its Cover: Decorative Book Bindings from the Medieval Codex to Contemporary Artists' Books

The Book Made Art: A Selection of Contemporary Artists' Books

The Printer's Craft: An Exhibition Selected from the R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Collection

Wrapped in Color: A Survey of Paste Paper Bookbindings