The recent “Artists’ Books and Africa” exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art was a testament to the dedication and vision of Janet Stanley, librarian at the Museum's Warren M. Robbins Library and the show's curator. It highlighted an often-overlooked art form, presenting a range of historical and contemporary approaches to book arts by both well-known and lesser-known artists.

Mounted in a hallway gallery, the exhibition consisted of twenty books from the Robbins Library's collection and five from the Museum's. Since viewers could enter the gallery from either end, each entrance featured a panel of text introducing the idea of artists’ books and impressive elephant folio volumes to set the bookish context (Fig. 1). Inside the gallery, the show was organized in subcategories such as “Democratic multiples,” “Multi-part books,” “Accordion folds,” and “Artists’ illustrated books.”

Scholars and librarians expend a lot of energy articulating how artists’...

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