Unshelfmarked: Reconceiving the
artists’ book


Michael Hampton

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ISBN 978 1 910010 06 8
176pp, 234 x 142
paperback with flaps
2015, £12.00


Reviews and articles

“It’s a terrific piece of work.”
Denis Boyles

“Michael Hampton is a knowledgeable and pleasingly idiosyncratic guide, trenchant and droll in equal measure and fond of lexical as well as bibliographic oddities.”
Gill Partington in The Times Literary Supplement,
6 November 2015

“…an intellectual yet refreshingly unclassed grassroots approach, where artists’ books are everywhere and perhaps nowhere, potentially everything and no single thing at the same time.”
Tate Shaw in Afterimage
Vol.43 No.5

“…engaging and occasionally dizzying essays that guide us through the sometimes delirious terrain of Hampton’s widened discipline…”
David Barrett in Art Monthly
398, July–August 2016

“Hampton files the artist’s book in an ‘ecosystem’ that ranges from tramp art to pooh sticks via hopscotch, sewing bees, football fanzines and ‘rubbish of every kind’”
Kathleen Walkup in SHARP News, 24 February 2017

“Hampton has a knack for distilling the salient aspects of a book, though perhaps always with a mind towards his larger argument.”
Levi Sherman, ‘Book Art Theory’ College Book Art Association

In Unshelfmarked: Reconceiving the artists’ book, Michael Hampton vets the medium’s history, postulating a new timeline that challenges the orthodox view of the artists’ book as a form largely peculiar to the twentieth century.

“Post-Deweyed, these works form an entirely new corpus, showcasing the artists’ book not as a by-product of the book per se, but both its antecedent and post-digital flowering, many salient twentieth-century features proleptically flickering here and there through time, its epigenetic influence finally come to permeate mainstream book design everywhere; the manifold traits and studio processes inherent to the artists’ book bursting from their stitched sheath, cheerfully pollinating the whole gamut of reading impedimenta and spaces.”

The book features fifty examples from the iconic to the obscure—accenting the codex’s molecular structure rather than its customary role as a vehicle for text—a critical exposé of multiple types, plus an extensive select bibliography.

Elizabeth James, Senior Librarian at the National Art Library, V&A Museum, writes in her Foreword:
“The great service of this commentated bibliography is to discover that the experience of artists’ books encourages the art of reading: a rich, productive reception, such as people perform in their gallery-going. With minds and sensors thus attuned, why would you not turn the same attention outward and backwards, to the whole world of books: the texts and depictions that have been instantiated and promulgated in portable visual and material formats? The categorical ladder falls away.”


Michael Hampton has contributed to many publications, including Art Monthly, Book Arts Newsletter, The Flaneur, Frieze, Geschichte, Interartive, Monika, Openings (US), The Penguin Collector’s Journal, Schizm, /seconds, Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, thisistomorrow, 3:AM, Uniformagazine and The White Review. His bookwork Suspect Package was acquired by the V&A in 2002. Against Decorum, a hybrid collection of word-reliefs and bibliographic fragments was published by information as material in 2022.