Abstract

Abstract:

In 2005, the internationally renowned private collector of artists’ books Jack Ginsberg, his assistant Rosalind Cleaver, software developer Peter Dennis, and I began creating a database of every artist’s book produced in South Africa. By linking the artists’ books in the Ginsberg Collection with others that I had located during my research, we began constructing a bibliographic project: a comprehensive, freely accessible online database of the output of a nation. This national output of artists’ books, however, constitutes a sliver of artistic production and is little known as a genre and confusing as a form to the majority of South Africans. It comes as no surprise that one of the most well-documented problems facing the cataloging of artists’ books is grappling with their hybrid nature, as each claims territory within the contested space of the book arts. It is within this challenging space that important work can be done. With the collection having been donated to a university in 2019, I unpack some of our work that aims to not only bring these local objects to greater public attention but also ensure that the cataloging of these objects accounts for their affective nature as works of art. Taking Anne Thurmann-Jajes’s Manual for Artists’ Publications (2010) as a point of departure, I examine the South African artist’s book database as a case study. Key texts are unpacked, shedding light on particular problems associated with describing artists’ books, including acknowledging their self-conscious, reflexive, and artistic character, not merely their subject matter and material elements. While working within broad bibliographic standards, we have modified these by developing our own bespoke software that liberates us from the strictures and limitations of the standard MARC record. This helps us write a set of descriptors that catalog South African artists’ books’ affective elements more meaningfully and richly. This work is contextualized in three examples. The first shows the refinements that were needed within the data fields in order to create an amplified record on our online database. The second shows how these refinements help to open up a space for the recording of affective content in the bibliographic record. This is done by acknowledging the work’s self-conscious and reflexive elements. The third shows how such affect-rich descriptions are able to provide a reciprocal view of the idiosyncrasies of South African life.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0682
Print ISSN
0024-2594
Pages
pp. 521-548
Launched on MUSE
2020-04-02
Open Access
No
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