The Secrets of Special Collections

UnCommon Ground - The Secrets of Special Collections - Winter 2012

Denison archivist Heather Lyle has spent years building up Denison’s collection of artists’ books, which are works of art in book form. Some in Denison’s collection are more traditional books with pages to turn and lines of text to read. Others, however, are redefining what it means to be a book.

This one, by Lois Morrison, is the 11th book in a series of 25 created by the artist in 2005. It’s entirely handmade, from the slips of colorful paper to the handwritten text on sharskin fabric, which tells the tale of the cannibalistic tendencies of small snakes—a jarring image for such a beautiful representation of the animal.

Last semester, visitors to the library had the chance to see this book and others firsthand when Lyle opened an exhibition dedicated to the collection. Lyle points out that these, like many works of art, may comment on socio-political issues such as poverty, race, gender, war, and equal opportunity. Artists also tend to use them as a way of divulging their personal beliefs and life reflections. So, at least we know how Morrison feels about snakes when she writes in the book: “Snakes are not nice.”

But this one sure is pretty.

Published December 2011