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Exploring the Concept of Books: ‘The Art of the Book’ Exhibition Raises the Question, “What is a Book?”

A new exhibition, “The Art of the Book: Treasures from the Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries,” is set to open on April 12 at Charles Library. The exhibition, curated by Assistant Professor Joseph Kopta and graduate students from Tyler School of Art and Architecture, features 40 extraordinary examples that challenge traditional definitions of what a book can be.

Kimberly Tully, librarian and curator of rare books at the SCRC, highlighted the collaboration between Temple University Libraries and Tyler School of Art and Architecture that led to this unique collection. The exhibition includes rare books, manuscripts, zines, and artist books from the SCRC, showcasing the rich history and diverse forms of books across time.

Among the notable objects featured in the exhibition are pieces like “20’ of facts” by Werner Pfeiffer, a measuring tape with facts about time printed on it, blurring the lines between a book and an art object. Another standout is “Love Letter II” by Halah Khan, a book of Arabic poetry sewn on textile panels incorporating embroidery and crochet.

To complement the exhibition opening, a symposium will be held featuring research from the curation process and a keynote address from Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America. An opening reception will also take place, with remarks from the graduate student curators, musical performances, and the launch of a companion website and print catalog.

Dean of Libraries Joe Lucia praised the project for bringing graduate students into the history of books and bookmaking, providing a unique learning experience. This initiative stemmed from discussions between Tully and Kopta on utilizing the SCRC’s rare book collection to teach the art form’s history.

“The Art of the Book” is the result of collaborative efforts among graduate students from various programs at Tyler School of Art and Architecture. The exhibition will be open to the public for free until July 15, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the fascinating world of books in a whole new light.

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