Johanna Drucker, in her canonical survey and history of the artist’s book, draws a connection between artists’ books and independent publishing, noting that “the same impetus which gives rise to independent publishing — the desire to make a voice heard, or a vision available, fuels artists’ books” (Drucker 2004: 7).

There is much debate surrounding the definition of an artist’s book (Klima 1998: 7), however these objects may, in summary, be understood as books created by artists that are proposed as artworks in themselves. Drucker defines two broad categories of artists’ books: the democratic multiple and the auratic object. Taking these categories as starting points, I will propose a hybrid category that will allow us to better appreciate the uniqueness of publications produced using digital duplicators, and so to better understand the extra-economic appeal of this technology. Firstly, Drucker posits that the distinguishing characteristic of the democratic multiple is:

the artist’s vision of a work which bypasses the restraints on precious objects. The vision becomes a book which is able to pass into the world with the fewest obstacles between conception and production, production and distribution. That is the nature of the democratic multiple — the ready availability of an independent artist’s vision in book form. (2004: 88)

Secondly, with respect to the artist’s book as a “rare and/or auratic” object, Drucker, deploying Walter Benjamin’s (2008) notion of the ‘aura’ of an artwork, writes:

Not all artists’ books are issued in photo-offset reproduction on neutral paper with standard, supposedly inexpensive formats. An artist’s book can be a unique work, a highly limited edition, or an inconsistent edition, and still be a work which is a direct expression of aesthetic ideas in a book form. … Many of these books have an auratic quality, an often inexplicable air of power, attraction or uniqueness. (Drucker 2004: 93)

https://cgscholar.com/bookstore/works/72349?category_id=cgrn