Home Artists Books Artists’ Book Structure Guide

Artists’ Book Structure Guide

Accordion fold book – Long strip of paper or other medium folded back and forth, like the musical instrument after which it is named. If the end papers are attached to the boards with a spine but the accordion fold is not attached to the spine, use “Flutter book”. (See also “Throw-out accordion fold book”)

Book object – An artist’s book that contains more elements of an art object than the book format. Such art objects will not minimally function as books.

Circle book – Pages and covers, if included, are cut in the shape of a circle and are frequently held together by fasteners on which the pages are strung.

Dos a Dos – Two discrete texts printed literally “back to back” so there are two front covers but no back cover. One text is inverted to the other so that the reader must turn the book upside down to read the second text. Also referred to as “tete beche”.

Exquisite corpse – An artist’s book that is developed like the literary parlor game Exquisite Corpse, which consists of the creation of a sentence where grammatical order is respected and each participant provides a word to complete the sentence. The name is taken from the first playing of the game, “The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.” This term is applied cautiously, with a preference to quote the term from the book itself.

Fan palm leaf book – Leaves and covers are fastened through a corner hole, which allows the finished book to be fanned out. (See also Peg book)

Flexagon – A polygon folded from paper that reveals other surfaces when they are flexed. They are two-dimensional (flat hexagons) or three-dimensional (rotating rings of tetrahedra or polyhedra, sometimes called flexahedrons).

Flutter book – An accordion fold book where the folds are not attached at the spine, so the pages fall forward or flutter. However, the end papers are attached to the front and back boards.

Fold book – A broad category of artists’ books in which the pages are folded as part of the structure or form. This term is used when a more specific term does not apply.

Fold book (Fortune teller) – Folded book that functions like a childhood “cootie catcher” or “fortune teller.”

Fold book (Jacob’s ladder) – Paper is folded and may be “bound” to function as a Jacob’s ladder.

Fold book with flags – Flags are attached in various ways to a fold book, often affecting the way the pages lay.

French fold book – Leaves are folded in half, with illustrations and text facing outward, where the fold creates the fore edge of the book. The verso of each leaf is blank and not viewable after binding.

Layered book – Before binding, pages are fanned out by sliding each page to a designated interval, one page beyond the previous one, either top to bottom or side to side. Once so arranged, this set of pages can also be folded upward and creased, creating another set of layered pages that can be aligned with the first set.

Metal plate book – A set of metal plates fastened through a corner hole.

Peg book – A variation on the metal plate book style, with a peg fastener, allowing the pages to be fanned out. (See also “Fan palm leaf book”)

Pockets containing cards – Bound in or otherwise attached envelopes, open on the fore edge, which contain cards that are to be removed for viewing.

Pop up book – A book of folds or cut elements that rise from the page as the book is opened, creating a multi-dimensional and possibly moving image.

Puzzle book – A broadside that is cut then folded into its center, creating a new image as each layer is unfolded.

Scroll book – Long strips of paper or similar material that are rolled when closed.

Star book – A fold book that opens into a star pattern, often as a half- or complete circle.
Three-dimensional cast paper – All or part of the book is represented by a multi-dimensional cast paper figure.

Throw-out accordion fold book – An accordion fold book where only one end of the accordion fold is attached to the cover. (See also “Accordion fold book)

Tunnel book – A fold book that features cutouts designed to be viewed when extended, creating a multi-dimensional affect.

Venetian blind palm leaf book – The text is printed on loose rectangular pages which are strung through two holes on either end like a Venetian blind.


  • Iron

    Inspired by the artist’s installation of the same name, where an automated iron reveals text as it irons out a white dress shirt.

    Tatana Kellner, 2008. Buy it now.