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SPE: The Formative Years


VSW Press, founded by Joan Lyons in 1971, is one of the only institutional publishers of artists' books in the United States. During the past 40 years VSW has taken many approaches to producing artists' publications. In the beginning, VSW had printing presses on-site for artists to physically experiment with. For a number of years VSW employed professional pressmen to run a Heidelberg offset press while artists, staff and students did much of the pre-press and bindery support work. Later on VSW sold the presses and created a computer lab for artists to develop publications through digital means. Many of VSW's books are made during artists' residencies at the Workshop. In some cases it is the first publication for the artist though VSW has often worked with those who have self-published before and/or have their own imprint. The majority of VSW Press books now utilize some manner of print-on-demand. In 1984 Joan Lyons edited the first anthology of critical essays and sources for the field of artists' book. Lyons also recently edited a volume on VSW's publishing activity Artists' Books: Visual Studies Workshop Press 1971-2008, an annotated bibliography with statements by many of the author-artists VSW has worked with. All of the above activity, along with coverage of alternative artist publishing in VSW's Afterimage: the Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism , helped to develop VSW's Research Center collection, the Independent Press Archive , with around 6,000 independently published titles. VSW Press operates an online bookstore , hosts alternative book fairs , is frequently invited to attend artists' book fairs internationally, and has a small bookstore on-site where artists' books are exhibited and sold.

 
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