Artist’s Book & Treasures in The Royal Library, Copenhagen 2017

Thoughts About the Artist’s Books Roots
or Diamonds in “The Black Diamond”



Time: 13 February 2016 – 18 March 2017
Location: The Royal Library, The Black Diamond, Copenhagen

During our art journey to Denmark we have visited not only wonderful exhibitions in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, but also The Royal Library in Copenhagen. The Royal Library contains numerous historical treasures. The library was founded in 1648 by King Frederik III. The old building of the Slotsholmen site was built in 1906. In 1999 a new building from the black marble and glass adjacent to the old one known as the Black Diamond. Connection between old and new architecture maybe is the most important feature of the Danish architecture.

I was very pleased when I saw a fantastic exhibition “Treasures in The Royal Library”. The Exhibition was very professional made.

Dunhuang Manuscript. 8-9 Century

Elena Panayotova, 2002. Scroll Artist’s Book

It’s shows books written in 800-900 years, manuscripts and first printed book in Europe, also manuscript of composer Johann Sebastian Bach, handwritten texts of Hans Christian Andersen and Karen Blixen.

Connection old and “new manuscripts” in one Exhibition – good and contemporary conception – that makes the Exhibition great and strong.

The Hamburg Bible, 1255. 700 pages of parchment, 89 illustration

J. S. Bach. Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, 1714

Karen Blixen – One of Most Important Danish Writers

When I was looking on such wonderful books, created many year ago, I was thinking about an artist’s books, about our time, about what new we invented in an artist’s book or in book layout… or we invented something new? Here, in this small exhibition of Treasures, I have found late artist’s book roots. Here I have found artists who created Book with Love, I found Book as an Art.

Carsten Niebuhr’s Album, 1757-1773 from the Arabian Journey


If we look on contemporary artist’s book we see that the structures, forms, bindings, materials, printing methods of artist’s book are deeply connected with the history of a Book. We will say stronger and clearer – creators of artist’s books use what was invented 3000  years ago or earlier, with some private interpretation. And that is normal. Artists usually do not care about the structures and forms they use in an artist’s book.

The Heart Book, 1550. Oldest Danish Manuscript

Gerda Ritzmann-Luger, 2011. Artist’s Book


But when I think about an artist’s book I go back 4000 years to Mesopotamia, to the beautiful relief made in Nineveh (today it is Mosul ! where there is a war), to the scroll papyrus book – “Book of the Dead” in Egypt 1550 BC, to Pergamon and Alexandria, to the wax tablets used by Romanians – the inventors of Codex book structure, to paper inventor Cai Lun in China in 105 AD, to the scroll of “Diamond Sutra” – the oldest known dated book printed by Wang Jie from woodblock in May 868, and the earliest known book printed with movable metal type “Jikji” in 1377 in Korea.

Jikji – the First Printed Book, 1377. Korea


“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9

Prof. Kestutis Vasiliunas


© Photos: Kestutis Vasiliunas
© Circle “Bokartas”


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