Book Arts

Artists’ Books Exhibition, UWE, Bristol, UK
Tom Trusky Exhibition Cases, Quiet Room, Bower Ashton Library
Boccaccio and the Artist’s Book
2nd December 2013 – 31st January 2014
Curated by Dr Rhiannon Daniels, University of Bristol

2013 is a year-long celebration of the Italian medieval author Giovanni Boccaccio, marking his 700th birthday. Boccaccio continues to be read across the world and to evoke responses seven hundred years after his birth. As part of the UK-based events, led by a team of academics at the Universities of Bristol and Manchester, an international group of artists were invited to create new books about Boccaccio. The aim was to explore the ways in which his works speak to new audiences in the 21st century. The parameters of the brief were left deliberately open and artists were invited to make a book in response to Boccaccio himself or to any of his Italian or Latin texts.

Thirteen artists’ books were created and were displayed from July – November at the John Rylands Library, Manchester in an exhibition called ‘Locating Boccaccio in 2013′, together with key items from the Rylands’ historic collections of manuscripts and rare books related to Boccaccio. The artists’ books have now moved on to Bristol, but the exhibition at John Rylands (until 12 December) still showcases the outstanding collections of historic printed books and manuscripts relating to Boccaccio held by the Rylands, including the ‘Roxburghe Decameron’, the most expensive book in the world when was sold in 1812, the first illustrated edition of the Decameron, private press editions and clandestine erotica. The exhibition is designed to reflect the – still popular – reception of Boccaccio as an author of erotic and light-hearted stories, but also aims to inform new audiences about the breadth and depth of his achievements as a literary innovator, humanist, and linguistic model. Boccaccio wrote a wide range of texts in both Italian and Latin, prose and poetry, and was responsible for many literary ‘firsts’, such as the development of ‘octave rhyme’ (ottava rima), the first epic poem in Italian, and the first psychological novel. His prose writing in the Decameron became the basis for the standard Italian language used today.

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A virtual exhibition presents a series of images from each of the thirteen artists’ books. Click on the artists’ names at the Locating Boccaccio website in order to see pages not on display within the library, and statements by the artists: From 2nd December 2013 until the 31st January 2014, the artists’ books will be on display in the Quiet Room of the Library at the University of the West of England’s Bower Ashton campus. Many of these books are for sale. For further information, please contact Dr Rhiannon Daniels, Department of Italian, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol, UK.