Johanna Drucker's Artist Books
An online repository of facsimiles, metadata, and commentary

Dolls of the Spirit


Project Statement

This book was inspired by research into the history of emblem books, rebuses, and other forms of visual and verbal text. The specific inspiration came from a book with the same title, a Dutch emblem book that used farm implements as the imagery for its moral lessons and contemplative verse. Though I never saw that book, or even reproductions from its pages, I was fascinated by emblem books at that time owing to my studies at University of California, Berkeley, towards a PhD focused on the history of writing, written forms, and visual manifestations of language. The idea of an emblem book that used implements, rather than icons or religious allegories, was inspiring. I thought that images of appliances, objects that had the capacity to be transformative in some direct, physical way, would work well in relation to a set of texts that were about prepositions, those most hinge-like, pivotal, elements of syntax. Thus the book, texts and images, is about transformative elements. The linoleum cuts were, as often is the case, a great pleasure to make. I had been drawing a lot of ordinary objects in the late 1970s and early 1980s, first as part of the postcard series I sent back to friends in Berkeley from my travels in Greece, Italy, and Holland, then in the warehouse as daily exercises.

Production Narrative

This was not a hard book to make, the linoleum cuts, lino cut rule, and the strong bold gothic type were all well-suited to each other. All inked well and printed well, and sewing was straightforward. With this as with other books at the time, the greatest issue was cutting the paper.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: A very strong, bold gothic type, not sure precisely what face, meant to hold its own with the linoleum cut lines.

imagery: Linoleum blocks of appliances, or switches, or other ordinary objects capable of transformation, very bold, very simple, very strong.

graphical: Strong text, image, rule connections on the page.

openings: The formula repeats throughout of rule top and bottom, image, and texts.

Critical Discussion

A very minor work, but clear on its own terms and successful as a small demonstration of a specific idea.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: self-published

publication: 1980-00-00

publication history: One edition only, and a small one at that. Very few copies remain in existence.

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: Transformation.

content form:
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: Emblem books, in particular, a Dutch work with the same title.

related works: This book is rather sui generis, though the lino cuts have something in common with the drawings in Italy.

community: school U.C. Berkeley, vaguely, and the poets as always.

Related Documents

manuscript type: mockups

location: other

note: I don't think any manuscripts, texts, or mockups remain.

General Comments

title note: The title is taken from a Dutch emblem book (16th century?) of the same name.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: self-published

publication: 1980-00-00

edition size: 48


horizontal: 5 inches closed

vertical: 8 inches closed

depth: .1 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
letterpress (local)
linoleum (local)

binding: hand sewn (local)

bookBlock: paper
endsheets: paper

ink (local)


format: codex (AAT)

cover: The cover is printed on the same ivory paper as the rest of the book. The front cover contains a linoleum cut print of an iron with the title. The back cover contains a linoleum cut print of a thumbtack above the artist's name, copyright date, and copy number.

color: no


pagination: unpaginated 12 pages

numbered?: numbered

signed?: unsigned



Related Documents

manuscript type: mockups

location: other

note: I don't think any manuscripts, texts, or mockups remain.