A collection of rare artwork from Granary Books is currently on display at the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library.

The Granary Books exhibit features several of the most prominent pieces created in the company’s 20-plus years of existence. The concept of Granary Books is to transform a book into an entire work of art, not just with the content and visual aspects but also with the design and binding of the book.

“What makes these books different from other forms of art is the collaboration between the people working on the books,” said John Bennett, the curator for the exhibit. “These are great literary works with interesting content and presentation.”

The brainchild of publisher Steve Clay, Granary Books is a small, independent publishing company that was founded in the 1980s when Clay was living Minnesota. The name “Granary” relates to the “storage, ripening and distribution” of the books.

Granary Books now publishes in New York City, releasing only one or two books each year. All of the books are extremely rare, usually with less than 50 copies per book. Most books cost thousands of dollars to purchase, and as a result, are usually bought by collectors and exhibitors.

Each book undergoes a lengthy production usually overseen by an artist, a book binder and an author, with Clay overseeing all of the projects. The subject matter varies with each book. For example, “Soliloquy” by Kenneth Goldsmith is a transcript of every word spoken by Goldsmith during one week and contains no visual artwork. Another piece, “NON” by Holton Rower is an enormous book covered in cement and road paint.

“At the exhibit, people can see rare artwork and books unlike what they’re used to seeing,” Bennett said. “They can see that there is more to a book than they might expect; that books can be formed in very creative ways.”

Planning for the Granary exhibit at OSU began four years ago when Bennett and Geoff Smith, both of whom had been collecting works from Granary Books for several years, contacted Clay about the possibility of an exhibit. Impressed with Bennett’s collection of the similar Avant Writing artwork, Clay agreed to help with the project that would debut when the renovation of the Thompson Library was completed.

“The books at Granary, though very visual and highly aware of their material production, generally start with innovative writing of a sort that shares a sensibility with the work collected for the Avant Writing Collection,” Clay said.

Clay hopes that the exhibit will show students some of the approaches that artists and writers can take when they incorporate the structure of the book into their work. 

“A book is not just a neutral container for carrying information, but has the history and potential to be a dynamic form for participating in the creation of meaning and beauty,” Clay said.

The Granary Books collection is located on the first floor of the Thompson Library and will remain on display until March 21. OSU possesses most of the works from the Granary Books catalogue. Those books can be found in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.