Colloquium: Artist’s books and bibliophile editions in Belgium (1950-2015)

26.01.2017 - 09:00 to 27.01.2017 - 17:00

The Royal Library has a considerable collection of contemporary artist’s books and bibliophile editions; some of these special editions are bought by the Library while others find their way to the Library via Legal Deposit.

This colloquium aims:

  • to draw the public’s attention to the rich and varied production

  • to put this production into an (art-)historical context

  • to explore the challenges connected to the storage and preservation of these books, which are often very fragile.

We have chosen for a multidisciplinary approach to include many relevant aspects of this topic: the history of books, the history of bibliophily, art history, the reality of artistic creation and research, conservation and preservation.


The history of Belgian production (1950-1980)

Who are the actors, i.e. the publishers, the writers, the artists and the designers? Which point marks the transition from bibliophiles to publishers and from publishers to artists? Do publishers specialise in this discipline? Who are the target group? What role do books have in the creative work of artists such as Marcel Broodthaers or Pol Bury? And what about the artistic documents produced by artists, such as newspapers, mail art, posters, stencils …

Renowned academics have been invited to discuss aspects of this exciting period.


Who is producing? Who is doing research? New forms, new roles, new initiatives since the 90’s: collaboration, small publishing, research

The contributions made by writers, artists and graphic designers. Are these editions still considered published works in the traditional sense (text has priority, traditional typography and limited editions) or are we talking about pure art and creation? Do these exceptional publications receive the international attention they deserve?

Numerous artists and graphic designers explain their views on the reality of their work.


Conservation and preservation

The transience and variety of the selected materials and techniques pose new challenges for us as regards permanent storage and preservation of these objects. However, we share this challenge with museums of contemporary art and private collectors.

Two specialists take a closer look at materials - introduced in the sixties - of a transient nature: food and plastics.



Download the complete programme (pdf) here:


Practical information

Artists’ books and bibliophile editions in Belgium. A retrospective of recent developments (1950-2015).

26 & 27 January 2017

Royal Library of Belgium

Free admission. We're fully booked!