Posted by: Amy | June 20, 2014

A peak into the whimsical world of artists’ books with Jill Timm

Iowa State University Library Special Collections Department has a small collection of artist’s books, particularly those created by Jill Timm. What is an artist’s book, you ask? It is a work of art that takes the shape of a book, often using different structures outside of the common book structure. These structures can take many different forms, as you will see by scrolling through the photographs below.

Jill Timm is an artist and graphic designer who has been making artist’s books for a number of years. In 1998 she founded Mystical Places Press, which publishes “limited edition, hand crafted books that celebrate the spirit and aesthetics of the natural environment.”

Below are a few of my favorite of Timm’s creations here in Special Collections.

Winter Elk

Two images of the book "Winter Elk." The left image shows the front and back covers extended like an accordion. The right image shows the cover board being slid out of the cover frame, revealing a landscape behind the cover.

Two images of “Winter Elk” by Jill Timm. Call number N7433.4.T554 W56x 2002.

Jill Timm. Winter Elk. Wenatchee, WA: Mystical Places Press, 2002. Call number N7433.4.T554 W56x 2002.

Winter Elk is a tunnel book, in which different layers of image create a 3-D effect. It is reminiscent of an early camera, with its accordion sides and front cover with slide-out board. Peering inside is like looking into a magical world.

Looking inside Timm's "Winter Elk" tunnel book, so see multiple layers of elk in various positions inhabiting a winter landscape with snow-covered mountains in the background.

Peering into “Winter Elk” by Jill Timm.

 Ocean Dunes

Timm, Jill. Ocean Dunes. Wenatchee, WA: Mystical Places Press, 2003. Call number N7433.4.T554 O33x 2003.

Ocean Dunes incorporates freely flowing beach sand into the cover, imitating the constantly-shifting dunes of the book’s title. Inside is an accordion-fold panoramic photograph of dunes from the Oregon coast.

Shows accordion-fold book with accordion opened to reveal panoramic photograph of ocean dunes. The cover shows a photograph of dunes with the words "Ocean Dunes" printed on it. Beach sand is encased in plastic over the cover image.

“Ocean Dunes” by Jill Timm. Call number N7433.4.T554 O33x 2003.

A few of the pages include advent calendar-style windows revealing hidden details in the landscape.

Close-up view of one of the pages showing a paper-window revealing a close-up of flowers blooming on a dune.

Close-up of one of the pages of Jill Timm’s “Ocean Dunes.”

The back pages show more details and scenic views.

Shows the reverse side of the accordion pages with image details and photographs of scenic views.

Reverse side of “Ocean Dunes.”

Fluttering Butterfly

Timm, Jill. Fluttering Butterfly. Wenatchee, WA: Mystical Places Press, 2005. Call number N7433.4 T554 F58x 2005.

Fluttering Butterfly is a one-of-a-kind book as the book’s colophon (a statement about a book’s creation, seen here on the right-hand panel) explains, shown below.

Shows a slipcover and title page and colophon for Fluttering Butterfly. Colophon reads, "This scene was hand painted on silk in China. The paintings backing is acrylic stained Tyvek. The font is Auriol. This book is handcrafted by Jill Timm and is a one-of-a-kind book."

Title page and colophon for “Fluttering Butterfly.” Slipcover at the top. Call number N7433.4 T554 F58x 2005.

Though the book is plain from the outside, it opens up to reveal a beautiful silk painting.

Shows two side-by-side panels of silk unfolded to reveal image of flowers with a butterfly in the upper left corner.

Inside of “Fluttering Butterfly,” revealing image on painted silk.

I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek at some of these beautiful and whimsical pieces of art. To see more artists’ books, stop in at Special Collections!


  1. […] Today’s blog post highlights selections from our Iowa Private Presses Ephemera Collection (MS 414). Let’s start off by defining some terms. A private press is a printing press that creates what might be called artisan books — book production that emphasizes the artistic nature of books and the craft of bookmaking, as opposed to a purely commercial venture. They often set type by hand, employ interesting and unusual typefaces, use fine and sometimes handmade papers, bind books by hand, and sometimes specialize in artist’s books. […]

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