Rare for the Taking: The Bookfitti Project Comes to the Poetry Center

Wendy Burk
Dec. 10, 2012

When you hear the words "rare book," what comes to mind?

A signed first edition from a famous author? An encrypted Renaissance codex like the Voynich Manuscript? A hand-stitched book with colorful woodcut illustrations?

If that’s what you picture, you’re not wrong. As the UA Poetry Center’s librarian, one of my favorite parts of the job is helping visitors to access rare items from our collection, including first editions, unique editions and artist-made books.

But the next time you visit the Poetry Center, you might stumble upon a different kind of rare book, one with a brightly colored tag that reads “FREE for the takin’ by the lucky finder.”

These small handmade pamphlets are the work of the Bookfitti Project, whose mission is to make beautiful books and leave them where they can be discovered, taken home, and enjoyed.

The Bookfitti Project is the brainchild of Alice Vinson, a book artist who is a graduate student in the UA's studio art program.

Earlier this year Vinson began designing tiny books – the largest is just 4 by 5 inches – printing them in editions of 40 or 50 copies, and putting them in all kinds of public places. Vinson's work was supported by a Medici summer research award from the School of Art.

The books, which combine poetic texts with innovative typography and images, have been spotted on Sun Tran buses and the floor of a local art museum. They’ve gone on vacation to Italy, thanks to a volunteer who packed a few of the miniature books in her travel bag. And a few of them are now hiding in plain sight at the Poetry Center.

Asked how she decides where to leave the books, Vinson said: “I usually try to leave the books in locations that might somehow have a connection with the work. For instance, I might leave a book that is about remembering to take a moment to relax when feeling overwhelmed with life, on a city bus during rush hour, or on campus.”

So, the next time you visit the Poetry Center, take a good look around the library stacks, the armchairs, or even the photocopy machine. You just might find your own rare book to take home.

Photos by Sarah Kortemeier

Wendy Burk is the UA Poetry Center’s librarian. For more information on the Poetry Center’s collections and public programs, visit its website. Also, Dec. 12-Jan. 20, visit the Poetry Center’s “Big Books” exhibit in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery.

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