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Artists' Books, Fine and Private Press Books, and Miniature Books at RBSC

Artists' Books and Fine and Private Press Books at RBSC

Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) has a number of artists' books, as well as small, fine, and private press books in its collection.

While many of the artists and presses in our collection are from British Columbia, our collection also includes notable examples of artists' books, and small, fine, and private press books from around Canada and the world. In addition to holding the published works by many BC presses, we also hold the archival records of various authors, bookbinders, and presses.

About Artists' Books and Fine and Private Press Books

Though different creators may have varying definitions, an artists' book is a work of art that takes inspiration from the form and function of the book. Artists' books differ from a book by or about an artist because its emphasis is on the artistic medium and form rather than informational content.

Fine press books are crafted by publishers that produce books of high artistic quality and craftsmanship. They are often published in limited editions, include unique illustrations, and use high quality paper and binding materials. According to Crane Giamo and Emily Tipps of the University of Utah, "fine press books’ physicality is part of their inherent data. Their information is not only theoretical and linguistic, but also (and often primarily) tactile and visual. Traditional fine press is characterized by letterpress-printed text, handmade paper, and meticulous typesetting." 

  • Giamo, Crane, and Emily Tipps. "Sustaining & Growing the Vision of an Academic Library's Fine Press." Journal of Electronic Publishing 20, no 2 (Summer 2017).

Private press books are produced by a small press that is most often operated as an artistic or craft-based venture rather than a purely commercial business. Private press is often a term used to describe the English Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th and 20th centuries under the influence of William Morris' Kelmscott Press.

Finding Materials: By Publisher

Step 1: Visit our home page at

screenshot of UBC Library homepage

Steps 2-3: Select 'Books & Media' tab; click on 'More Search Options'

screenshot of UBC Library homepage with 'Books and Media' tab selected

Step 4: Select 'Guided Keyword Search' tab

screenshot of UBC Library Guided Keyword Search page

Steps 5-6: Type in the name of the publisher you want to find; apply filters for 'as a phrase', 'Publisher/Place', and 'Rare Books and Special Collections'

screenshot of UBC Library Guided Keyword Search page

Step 7: Browse results

screenshot of UBC Library catalog search results for books published by Heavenly Monkey

Archival Materials

Established in 1971 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Scriveners Pulp Press Limited was one of several ventures in alternative arts and literature of the early 1970s. Following the sale of its typesetting and printing operations in 1982, the company changed its name to Arsenal Pulp Press. Although still a literary press, Arsenal gradually began to publish literary non-fiction titles and it continues to maintain a tradition of commitment to publications about British Columbia. The fonds consists of the business records created and/or collected by Arsenal Pulp Press, predominately from the early 1980s to the late 2000s.

Visit Arsenal Pulp Press' website here

The Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) was formed in 1974 under the name of the British Columbia Publishers Group, before adopting its current name in 1978. The ABPBC aims to assist and promote book publishing in B.C. through liaison activities with the public, government, and business. It is an affiliate of the Association of Canadian Publishers. The fonds consists of records relating to the ABPBC’s activities. Records cover the period of time from the ABPBC’s inception to 2015 and pertain primarily to the book publishing industry in the province of British Columbia.

Visit ABPBC's website here

Barbarian Press was founded in 1977 by Crispin and Jan Elsted in Steelhead, BC, north of Mission. It has published continuously since then, producing both commercial work (stationery, cards, and other job printing) and fine presswork (illustrated monographs, miniatures, pamphlets, broadsheets, and keepsakes). The fonds consists of correspondence, financial information, and project and printing files related to the planning, design, and production of books, pamphlets, etc.

Visit Barbarian Press' website here

Charles van Sandwyk is an illustrator, writer, and artist based out of Deep Cove in North Vancouver, BC whose work often features imaginative and ornate interpretations of animals and the natural world. He writes, designs, and illustrates his own books in addition to overseeing every step of their publication. The fonds consists of material related to van Sandwyk's development as an artist, illustrator, and publisher of fine books in Vancouver, such as: original artwork (watercolours, etchings); exhibition posters; press proofs; broadsides; and more.

Visit Charles van Sandwyk's website here

Cobblestone Press was a British Columbia private press established by Gerald Giampa in 1964, when he was just 14 years old. After spending time traveling, Giampa returned to Vancouver, set up shop, and lived off his printing skills until his passing in 2009. The fonds consists of manuscripts, printed material, financial files, and photographs as well as subject, letter, book, and magazine files.

Greenboathouse Press is a small publishing company producing short run, limited editions, printed letterpress, and handbound books. Previously called Greenboathouse Books, they publish content with a focus on Canadian poetry, with attention to typography, design, and fine-printing. The fonds consists of published material, correspondence, proofs, manuscripts, reviews, broadsheets, polymer plates, photographs, artwork, orders, posters, and promotional material.

Visit Greenboathouse Press' website here

The Harbour Publishing Company is an award-winning independent book publisher owned and operated by Howard and Mary White. Established in 1974, Harbour is based in British Columbia's Sunshine Coast. Since then, it has published over five hundred titles and is well known for the Raincoast Chronicles, a series of anthologies on BC coast history and culture. The fonds consists primarily of manuscripts and proposals submitted to Harbour, as well as correspondence, financial records, subject files, and sales, marketing, and promotional files.

Visit Harbour Publishing's website here

Heavenly Monkey is the imprint of publisher Rollin Milroy and is dedicated to creating books for people interested in contemporary applications of traditional book crafts. With only a few exceptions, all Heavenly Monkey books are printed from hand-set type on dampened handmade paper using a Washington handpress. In 2005, Heavenly Monkey’s activities expanded to include publishing books created by others, under the imprint Heavenly Monkey Editions. Editions are typically of 50 copies or fewer. The fonds consists of records which document books and ephemera published by Rollin Milroy’s three printing presses: A Lone Press, Heavenly Monkey, and Heavenly Monkey Editions, as well as other independent and collaborative projects published by other printing presses.

Visit Heavenly Monkey's website here

Klanak Press was established in 1958 by Vancouver writers, William and Alice McConnell. The aim of the press was to publish quality limited editions of works by Canadian writers and it emphasized the design and typography of its books as much as the writing itself. The fonds consists primarily of letters, both business and personal, wherein many relate manuscripts submitted to or published by Klanak Press. Other materials include press releases, invoices, order forms, mailing lists, and book reviews.

Lazara Press is a small, progressive publishing house located in Vancouver, BC. Founded by Penny Goldsmith in 1982, Lazara publishes poetry, literature, broadsides, and chapbooks and is committed to publishing, keeping in print, and distributing works that might not otherwise be available. The fonds consists of administrative and publication records created and/or collected by Lazara Press and its founder Penny Goldsmith, predominantly from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.

Visit Lazara Press' website here. 

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