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Illustrated Books vs Art Books

· Fine Book Collecting,Art Books,Illustrated Books,Differences,Art and Photography

I love books with pictures. Always have and always will. And books with pictures are an area of
specialty with Raven & Gryphon Fine Books. Our marketing materials contain the phrase “focus on Illustrated/Photography/Art books. There are differences in each of these categories and I just
want to be able to articulate them. Just because.

First, let’s compare Art and Photography books. Art denotes the use by the artist of held, non-
mechanical devices to create an image on a variety of substrates. Photography denotes the use
of a mechanical device – the camera and the resultant image is either on film or is digital and
then, possibly, reproduced on a variety of substrates. Photography is an art, just look at the
work of the masters including Yousuf Karsh, Georgia O’Keeffe or Annie Leibovitz. So, for the
remainder of this discussion, I will group Art and Photography together as Art.

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Many artists have also identified themselves and work as illustrators. And there are many
associations of illustrators. They produce art specifically, primarily, to adorn books and
magazines. Illustrators are artists – absolutely.

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Illustrated books are collected mostly for the subject matter, the textual content reflecting the
expertise of the author(s). However, many illustrated books are valued for their illustrations.
Such as those illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Keep in mind that if Rackham was providing art
for a book of fables featuring a crow, he drew a crow. I would guess that 99% of children’s’
books are illustrated.

Why do I want to make this distinction, because the vast majority of books with illustrations are
not “Art books”. Almost every history book has illustrations of some sort – drawings, maps,
paintings and sketches – but you cannot describe a 400-page tome with 10 illustrations an “Art

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I googled different combinations of words to see if there was some definition out there that
satisfied my curiosity. Nope.

So, I have come up with my own version of the difference, and I welcome the readers

  • In an Illustrated book, the art supports the text; and
  • In an Art book, the text supports the art.