Being a maker and collector of artists’ books, I was very interested in the Myers article tackling the thorny subject of cataloging these unconventional items. I have spoken with many book artists, dealers, private collectors and libraries that traffic in artists’ books and found that there is no real shared controlled vocabulary to describe the works much less a standard for making accurate bibliographic records that can serve all users. All too often I have spoken with fellow artists about a work only to realize that our lexicon for describing particular characteristics differed greatly and was causing confusion with the general public. This community seems far from codifying any functional CV in the near future. Happily, the approach of the article is well crafted as the authors select a single item and take it through the paces of traditional and modified original cataloging in a clear effort to show concretely what compromises must be made to both honor the artist and their work as well as make the item findable in the collection.
The debate about the cataloger’s role as art critic in an effort to describe the ‘aboutness’ of the object is a fascinating discussion and one that will not be settled any time soon. Personally, I side with Ford, who contends that “a context-less vacuum in which to view art does not exist.” The cataloger must make a variety of personal judgements in regards to creating a record of the artists’ book (or any item) and one must hope that it is done following best practices, care and hopefully the consultation of the artist or expert in the field.