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Des Cowley on artists’ books

Speaker(s): Des Cowley

  • Date recorded: 25 Oct 2011

  • Duration: 2:55

'It’s worth keeping in mind that artists have always been involved in the production of beautiful books since the earliest times.'

- Des Cowley

About this video

Meet Rare Printed Collections Manager Des Cowley and discover how artists’ books are rare works of art expressed in book form.

You’ll learn that the Arts Library has over 400 artists’ books in its collection, as varied in size, shape and expression as the artists who’ve created them.

Hear how artists have been involved in the creation and enhancement of books since the production of our earliest illuminated manuscripts.

‘Artists today are both responding to both a 1000-year-old book history and also taking the book into its future,’ explains Des.


Des Cowley is the Rare Printed Collections Manager at State Library Victoria, and has more than 20 years' experience working with rare books.

Des was a judge for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2010.

He is the book reviewer for music magazine Rhythms. He previously edited the literary broadside Overland Extra, and is on the editorial panel of Script & Print and the La Trobe Journal.

Des is co-curator of the State Library of Victoria's permanent exhibition World of the book (formerly Mirror of the world) and co-author of The world of the book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2007.