Library of Congress

About the Collection

The Library of Congress has a very large collection of artists’ books and actively collects new ones. American artists make up most of the collection. Artists’ books are located in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division. The division also collects the archives of some book artists and presses, such as Claire Van Vliet’s Janus Press.

Artists' books from the Library of Congress collection, including Shawn Wilder Sheehy's Beyond the 6th Extinction. Photo by Michelle Strizever

Artists’ books from the Library of Congress collection, including Shawn Wilder Sheehy’s Beyond the 6th Extinction.

Finding Artists’ Books

Book art in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division is split into two collections: the Artists’ Book Collection and the Press Collection. Generally, the works in the Press Collection are fine press works, with exquisite materials and work by the artist. The Artists’ Book Collection tends to contain multiples. To browse these works, go to the online catalog. Click browse, then select “AUTHORS/CREATORS beginning with (enter last name first).” Type in “Artists’ Books Collection” or “Press Collection.” Click on the first result. You might want to do both searches and see what comes up. If you just do a keyword search for “Artists’ books,” you end up with a different selection of books, including some reference works about book art.

How to Get There

101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540

The Library of Congress is near the Capitol South Metro Station (Blue and Orange lines). After exiting the station, go up the hill on 1st street. If you haven’t done research at the Library of Congress yet, you’ll need a Reader Identification Card. Stop off at the Madison Building, at 1st Street SE and Independence Avenue. Register and get your ID in Room LM 140, near the Independence Avenue entrance. Then head across Independence Avenue to the Jefferson Building. The Rare Book & Special Collections reading room is LJ 239.

What to Expect

The hours are weekdays, 8:30-5, with final book requests at 4:15. Leave extra bags in the researcher lockers downstairs. Make sure the books you want can be accessed from the Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room. When you get to the reading room you’ll have to register again and ask for the books you want. Remember to include “Artists’ Book Collection” or “Press Collection” where applicable on your book request form. Contact the library with questions by emailing or calling 202-707-3448.

Other Resources

Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room

Library of Congress Illustrated Guide to Book Arts