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



Project Statement

Italy was written in Philadelphia, in the spring of 1979, when I had returned from about eighteen months of travel to spend some time with my parents. I thought I would be going from there to California for a visit and then back to Amsterdam and on to Israel. The personal reasons for that itinerary changed while I was in Philadelphia, but in the meantime, I took temporary typing jobs and worked in various offices. The idea of writing Italy simply appeared and I wrote it all very fast, in a matter of days, as if in a trance of self-hypnotized concentration. I'd written Greece and Good Behavior (unpublished account) in Amsterdam. Not precisely a travel narrative, it had been one of several "real accounts" that established a strain of writing practice that continues to the present (2005). Italy was one such, written in speed, telegraphic style, to recount observations between objective observation and subjective experience, riding the line through images and details, experientially based but not necessarily personal. Even the intimate details in Italy, few and far between, are objectified, turned into "mere" accounting, deliberately stripping them of any hint of sentimentalism. The Amsterdam poem is even more stark, austere, aggressively opposed to soft and squishy personalizing. Self in these projects is the place from which and through which observation is synthesized. Feelings are not what matters, though responses are registered, "my" experience is vanquished by the sense of experience having its way with me, through me. I am what I see, react to, know, smell, taste. Subjectivity is radically constituted in the process, and has no pre-existing shape except as a set of calibrated filters. They, too, change in the process of transacting experience, and of course, turning it into language, or grabbing the language that also constitutes the conditions of experience. This latter is more true for the Amsterdam poem (Netherland: How (So) Far) than for Italy. I wanted to have a "real" book in print, a generic offset, edited and published work. Geoff Young offered this opportunity. I was pleased. Another essay, "Why Not Make Art?" was also part of the originally proposed manuscript. Geoff didn't like it, and was probably right, since it was naively formulated. But it was the sceptical tone and mordant attacks on presumptuousness that I think were too strong for his taste. In any case, I accepted his decision. We went through with the book without that essay.

Production Narrative

I'm sure I set the type for this, though it's possible Geoff had it set. I can't recall, nor can I recall if I did the layout and mockup. Certainly I did the drawings and helped with the cover design, typography, etc. but the project was fairly straightforward so if I did provide the labor, it didn't make much difference to the outcome. In those days, of course, all texts had to be keyboarded again for typesetting. The typescript manuscript was only a source.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Nice, clean Garamond from the phototypesetter, probably Compugraphic.

imagery: Hand drawn images in ballpoint.

graphical: Conventional design.

development: At the level of story only.

Critical Discussion

This book barely qualifies as an artist's book so elaborate discussion from a critical point of view would address the writing and texts, their poetics and prosaics, not the design or structure of the embodied form.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: The Figures

conception: 1977-00-00:1979-00-00
publication: 1980-00-00

publication history: Published in 1980 by The Figures, the publication of this work was partially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. [A. Schutte]

Aesthetic Profile

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: A trip to Italy.

content form:
narrative (local)
prose (local)
poetry (AAT)

publication tradition:
small press (local)

inspiration: Blunt reortage. Not sure where this came from. No one was doing this.

related works: Many mss. works, beginning with the "real" accounts of time in California, the "Modoc Journey," and then the accounts of family. A series of works about place have been an ongoing part of my writing, including the later project in Dallas that resulted in Bookscape, the Paris Texts (unpublished), another unpublished Italy piece from 2001, and then the Cuba narrative, published by Brad Freeman in 2005.

community: other Bay Area poetry scene, grown out of my West Coast Print Center contacts.

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: Certainly some of the postcards, drawings, and other materials for this project still exist. Not sure if the manuscript does or not. Geoff Young may have it, and correspondence or other materials relevant to the project and its development.

General Comments

Cleanly, rather than finely, made, in a presentation that allows the text to breathe legibly.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: The Figures

place: Berkeley, CA

conception: 1977-00-00:1979-00-00
publication: 1980-00-00

edition size: 500 copies


horizontal: 5.25 inches closed

vertical: 7.25 inches closed

depth: .2 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
offset (local)

binding: mashine sewn (local)

bookBlock: paper unknown

ink (local)


format: codex (AAT)

cover: The front cover, 5.35" x 7.25", is white with plain black type. The front cover features a pen and ink drawing of a satchel, and the back cover features a pen and ink drawing of a belt.

color: no


pagination: paginated 56 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned


500 copies of Italy printed September 1980 of which 7 are numbered and signed by the author; each with an original drawing tipped in.

General Comments

Perfectly fine example of the offset books we produced at the West Coast Print Center, or through the "Michigan" printers, usually on grants from NEA, in this period of the 1970s through 1980s.