Book Arts

New Artists’ Books Facilities at the Library
Bristol School of Art, Media and Design, UWE Bristol:
First Exhibitions and Launch
15th May 2002
Staff at the Library and the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE, Bristol have been working together to develop access to the collection of artists’ books within the faculty. The existing collection of artists’ books has been re-catalogued by Sarah Clifford and is being built upon with the purchase of new artists’ books.

The library’s permanent collection of artists’ books will now be housed in a custom built set of cabinets in the Library’s quiet room. The collection has been catalogued to allow for easy student access and information, and it is also possible for library card holders to borrow selected books from the collection.

The new artists’ book area will support the growing interest in artists’ books within the faculty and an information board will also keep students and staff up to date with book arts exhibitions and events.

A paper copy of the library’s collection will also be made available this year, with details of each of the books held and any background information on their production.

As part of the new display area there are also two new custom-built exhibition cabinets which will house exhibitions of artist’s books throughout the year. Each exhibition will last for one month with a wide range of books from national and international artists on display.

To celebrate the completion of the new area there will be a launch lecture and reception for the new artists’ books facility in the Library at the Faculty of Art, Media and Design, University of the West of England, Bristol on Wednesday 15th May 2002.

The new area has been made possible by generous support from the Faculty and the Centre for Fine Print Research.

The launch reception on is on Wednesday 15th May 2002 and will consist of:

Provenance in the Wild West: James Castle & the Icehouse Books
A lecture and video presentation by Professor Tom Trusky will take place at 4.30 pm in the lecture theatre followed by the opening of the launch exhibition of the works of James Castle in the Library.

Reputedly Illiterate: The Art Books of James Castle
The exhibition of work by self-taught, Idaho artist bookmaker James Castle is curated by Tom Trusky, Director of the Idaho Center for the Book and the Hemingway Western Studies Center, Boise State University, USA. All welcome.
The exhibition continues until 15th June.


about James Castle
Born September 24, 1899 in the isolated Idaho community of Garden Valley, Castle was presumed to be deaf throughout his life. Many also believed the artist mute, mentally challenged and/or illiterate. Today, however, contemporary medical experts diagnose the artist autistic, likely able to hear, but unable to process sounds. Mute Castle was not. Although apparently unable to verbalize (speak words), he was able to vocalize (make sounds). Close analysis of his work suggests that, far from being retarded, Castle was highly intelligent, and that the artist was not illiterate, but had limited reading and writing abilities.

Sent to the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind in 1911, Castle was expelled his first year, declared “uneducable.” Paradoxically, his parents were apparently directed by deaf educators to keep art supplies from their son and to encourage him to learn to speak, sign, fingerspell or read lips-all of which the educators had been unable to teach him. We do know the family was always in need of help, and they attempted to make a ranch hand out of their son. Castle would have none of it. Instead, he busied himself, making his own art supplies. For pens, he fashioned sharpened sticks and twigs. Ink was made from stove soot and saliva. Any found paper provided canvas or book pages. The young man taught himself lettering, perspective, shading, composition, the effects of framing of images, all the while refusing to do farm chores and other menial duties.

For over sixty years, Castle devoted himself to making art. Although briefly “discovered” in the 1960’s, the Self-Taught artist was largely unrecognized during his lifetime. He died in obscurity, October 24, 1977 in Boise, Idaho.

Leaving a legacy of over 20,000 artworks, Castle is now being recognized. A dedication exhibition at the Idaho Center for the Book (an affiliate of the United States Library of Congress Center for the Book) in Boise in 1994 featured the first display of Castle books. Since that exhibition, Castle has gone on to gather regional, national and international attention. His work is represented in major collections, and major exhibitions of his work have been held in the United States, Canada and England. This Idaho Center for the Book exhibition features Castle’s earliest and rarest works (the so-called “Icehouse Books”) and representative specimens of later Castle book genres.

Tom Trusky

You can find out more about James Castle and his work by visiting:

For more information on this, or any of the Artists Book Events at CFPR, please contact:

Sarah Bodman
Research Associate for Artists’ Books
Centre for Fine Print Research UWE, Bristol
Faculty of Art, Media and Design
Kennel Lodge Road

Tel: +44 (0)117 344 4747
Fax: +44 (0)117 344 4824

Visit the James Castle gallery At the Idaho Centre for the Book Click to view larger image... Click to view larger image... Click to view larger image...