Recently we have had some wonderful additions to our diverse collection of artists’ books.

Grapefruit  by Yoko Ono is a collection of conceptual-art instructions which include ‘Listen to the sound of the earth turning,’ and simply, ‘water’. As the New Yorker notes, by the time the book was first published in 1964, some advice including ‘Leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or in the street’, had been realised by Ono.

Readers may be interested to know that the South Bank Show Production archive held in Special Collections contains a recording of test performances of Lighting Piece (‘Light a match and watch till it goes out’) performed and filmed by the ITV production team as part of the episode on Yoko Ono broadcast in 1999.

The edition of Grapefruit acquired by Special Collections was reissued in 1970, and includes a short foreword and afterword by John Lennon. In response to Ono’s injunction to ‘Burn this book after you’ve read it’, he writes, ‘This is the greatest book I’ve ever burned.’

Artists' book
herman de vries’ ‘The earth museum catalogue, 1978-2015’. Image credit Leeds University Library.

A different approach to the earth is found in herman de vries, the Dutch artist’s The Earth Museum Catalogue: 1978-2015.  This book reproduces rubbings taken from over 8000 samples of earth gathered across the world. In an interview about his work de vries explained how these: ‘show how many different colours the soil over which normally one walks without thinking, can have […] I wish to transmit an increased awareness what nature presents and what is our primary reality.’  

From the conceptual to the very practical: Just Not Kosher: 21 Recipes from a Jewish Father with a Kitchen Habit by Steven Morris and Rick Pushinsky celebrates the relationship between food and family. The recipe cards, which include recipes for Chicken Soup, falafel, and Harry’s Guacamole Gateau as well as family photographs, are finished with laminate for use in a messy kitchen.

Recipe cards
Recipe cards from Steven Morris and Rick Pushinsky’s ‘Just not kosher’. Image credit Leeds University Library.

In November we received a donation to the Liddle Collection, our archive of WW1 and WW2 material. This is the collection of Francis Cyril Powell. Powell was a Corporal and later a Captain in the Canadian Reserve Cavalry regiment. He served on the Western Front and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during the battle of Festubert, May 1915.

Close to the enemy line, Powell was responsible for manning a telephone station in a farm house. The ground surrounding the station was heavily shelled by enemy forces and the telephone lines were regularly cut.  Powell and his troops had to venture into treacherous conditions to repair them.

In late May an extremely urgent message arrived from Brigade Headquarters. There was no time to fix the telephone lines and Powell decided to deliver the message himself to the Commanding Officer. This placed him in grave danger as he crossed difficult terrain whilst shells exploded around hm. After this trip he made the crossing several times to deliver other important messages.

Powell’s collection includes formal notice of his mention in dispatches, photographs, certificates and letters.