The Edge of Words

Study Day 5 December 2014

Edge of Words Artists’ Book Study Day Friday, 5th December 2014 at Scottish Modern Art Gallery Two 9.30 am - 5 pm

Edge of Words logo

What is the place of the artist's book, among the works of art that we cherish and preserve? In a world where works of art are often judged by their impact, it is out of place. It is not comfortably at home in museums, or on stages, or on screen. It is an essentially private medium, for one person at a time, and it cannot be widely circulated. In the 20th century, this exclusivity was declined in two different ways.

Some artist's books were objects destined to enter the art market, to be cherished by a cultured elite of connaisseurs. Others, however, used the peculiar elusiveness of the genre as a means of avoiding all the traditional ways of aligning art with the sanctioned social structures of democracy, capitalism, or communism.

This study day aims to compare two moments in the history of this second type of artist's book. One is its birth in continental Europe, in the early decades of the 20th century. The second is its remarkable flowering many decades later in Scotland.

Artist’s Books

Professor Peter Dayan, University of Edinburgh

Friday 5 December 2014, 1.00am

Friday 5 December 2014, 1.00am

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Map link


  • 9.30am – Welcome
  • 9.45 – 10.40 – Kathryn Brown, ‘Henri Matisse’s Jazz on the Edge’
  • 10.40- 11.10- Coffee break

Session One

  • 11.10-11.50- Peter Dayan, ‘Tristan Tzara's artist's books, or the birth of poetry at the edge of words’
  • 11.50-12.45- Lisa Otty, ‘British Modernism and the Artists’ Book’
  • 12.45- 1.30- Lunch

Session Two

  • 1.30 - 1.55: Alice Tarbuck on Thomas A Clark
  • 1.55-2.20: Greg Thomas, "Are Happenings Sometimes Wearisome?" Civilising Dada in Ian Hamilton Finlay's 1960s Booklet Poems'
  • 2.20-2.45: Alec Finlay on Scottish artists’ books and the Artists’ Book Collection
  • 2.45-3.15: Panel Q&A
  • 3.15-3.40: Coffee

Session Three

  • 3.40-4:05: Julie Johnstone on Essence Press
  • 4.05-4:30: David Faithfull and Nicky Melville on A68 project and more
  • 4.30-5: Panel Q&A