Special Collections

Artists’ Book Collection

The library’s artists’ book collection includes both unique and classic titles from the 1950s through the present. The collection is particularly strong in conceptual and humorous titles of the 1960s and 1970s by artists such as Bruce Nauman, John Baldessari, Don Celender, Alan Kaprow, Michael Snow, and Chris Burden. Many of the best artists’ books in the collection are donated by students who participate in the annual library-sponsored Artists’ Book Contest. The collection is also well represented by alumni bookmakers such as William T. Wiley, Jess, Fred Martin, Mike Mandel, Larry Sultan, Nell Sinton, Faune Yerby, Vernon Bigman, Anthony Aziz, Charles Hobson, Richard Shaw, Justin Walsh, and Jason Rhodes.  


Other highlights include:

  • Many of Ed Ruscha’s 17 artists’ books
  • 3D books made by Jim Pomeroy
  • Photo books by Mike Mandel, Larry Sultan, Sol Lewitt, Hans Peter Feldmann, Les Krims, and Robert Cummings. 
  • Fine print titles include books by Fred Martin printed at Andrew Hoyem’s Arion Press, Nell Sinton’s Under the Table at the Donner Party, and Jess and Michael McClure’s The Boobus and The Bunnyduck
  • Yoko Ono’s Spots on the Wall
  • Lorna Simpson’s Three Wishes
  • William T. Wiley’s A Suite of Daze printed at Teaberry Press
  • Other titles by Kara Walker, Ben Kinmont, Yasumasa Morimura, Kathy Acker, Adrian Piper, Linda Connor, and Kiki Smith.

Rare Book Collection

The library’s rare book collection has been growing steadily for more than 100 years, thanks to the efforts of faculty, staff, students, trustees and donors. The collection is eclectic in nature, containing titles as diverse as Alfred Stieglitz’ Camerawork, Arthur Pope’s 1938 six volume Survey of Persian Art, Brinkley’s 1897 Japan, Owen Jones’ 1868 The Grammar of Ornament, Racinet’s original L’Ornement Polychrome, and Joseph Albers’ Interaction with Color

Other highlights include:

  • Wonderfully illustrated titles like A Compleate Herbal of the Late James Newton, M.D, printed from copper plates in 1752.
  • Trianon Press publications of William Blake’s watercolors.
  • Lavater’s Essays on Physiognomy.
  • Idiosyncratic curiosities like Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook (1961) with illustrations by Andrew Warhol.
  • Rare exhibition catalogs including Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (1969), the New York Museum of Modern’s Art Information (1970), and the earliest Documenta catalogs.
  • Interesting facsimiles such as the Centre Pompidou’s folio edition of Marcel Duchamp, Notes; John Heartfield’s Posters; Diderot’s 18th century L’Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers; and Yale University’s four volume set, Jackson Pollock: a Catalogue Raisonne

Rare Periodicals

From a full set of Steiglitz’s Camera Work to an issue of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy featuring performance artist Karen Finley, the library houses an extensive collection of art-related periodicals and scattered magazines dating from as far back as 1877. Included are complete runs of such scholarly publications as October, the History of Photography, the Archives of American Art Journal, Ars Islamica, Art Journal, Camera Obscura, Jumpcut, Millennium Film Journal, and the Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts

Other highlights include:

  • Wet, Water, Effects, Transformation: the Magazine of Gourmet Bathing and Beyond, a magazine of culture and art from Southern California, published in the late 1970s through the early 1980s.
  • Tatootime, published in the 1980s by SFAI alum, Don Hardy.
  • File, published in the 1970s by a group of Canadian artists who went by the name General Idea. When it wasn’t spoofing of pop culture, it was anticipating future subcultures, as evidenced by the “Punk ‘til you Puke” issue. 
  • Avalanche, an early-mid 1970s conceptual, performance, and installation art-focused periodical. Sol Lewitt, Howard Fried, Alice Aycock, Walter DeMaria, and Lawrence Weiner are some of the many artists featured. 
  • Radical Software, an early 1970s periodical about artists working in video.
  • Search & Destroy, a punk tabloid from the late 1970s filled with SFAI bands and artists.
  • A full run of The Thing Quarterly, founded and edited by John Herschend and SFAI alum Will Rogan.
  • Four magazines that began at SFAI: Aperture, edited by faculty member Minor White; The Organizers of this Publication Assume No Responsibility For the Content Herein, started by a group of students in the 1990s; zines by Naomi Larrick including Dime Life; and the first desktop published art magazine in the world, Expo-See, co-founded by faculty member Mark Van Proyen in the early 1980s.