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Ken Campbell archive

Call Number: MSS 25

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years 1975-2003 and reveals Ken Campbell's creative process throughout his career as a book artist. The bulk of the collection contains Ken Campbell's artist book materials and separate prints which relate to several of his books. Proofs, extra sheets, letterpress forms, zinc etching plates, photographs, negatives and dummies document Campbell's creative process.

The collection also includes materials about Campbell's unpublished book Dear Judas. Also in the collection are photographic materials documenting the production and installation of two sculpture works, Bibliophagy and A M O R O M A (I love Rome or the scent of love).

Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, invitations, postcards and prospectuses, writings about Campbell or writings contributed in part by Campbell. Also of note are a collection of audio cassette tape recordings and the transcript from Campbell's interview with National Life Stories. Campbell's discussion of his life and work in this interview served as a foundation for an exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art, The Word Returned.


  • 1975 - 2003


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is unprocessed and may not be available for immediate access.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is the physical property of the Yale Center for British Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Ken Campbell


The collection is arranged into six series: I. Artist Book Materials ; II. Sculpture Materials ; III. Separate Prints ; IV. Exhibition Materials ; V: Miscellaneous Printed Materials ; VI: Miscellaeous Correspondence. Parts of the collection vary in size and are stored separately, as noted in the finding aid.

Related Materials

Additional archival material about Ken Campbell can be found in the British Library Sound Archives at

Also see other books by Ken Campbell, in the Yale Center for British Art Collection, which include: AbaB, Fire dogs abstract, 'sWings, 'sWings, Wall, and Hadrian’s Dream.

See also Campbell's etching Blake Said, Department of Prints and Drawings, B1997.9.


30 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1939, artist and poet Ken Campbell trained as a letterpress printer and then as a graphic designer in the early 1960s at the London College of Printing. Campbell has taught graphic design, typography, and the “visual display of language” at art schools in Britain, Canada and the United States since 1966, but the focus of his work has been artist's books since the mid-1970s. He believes that the turning point in his career came when he finished Father’s Hook (1977), a poetic tribute to his dock-working father.

Ken Campbell writes, designs and prints his books by letterpress, with the occasional use of etching, embossing, hand work and, latterly, digital techniques. Campbell’s unconventional materials and methods contradict the traditional letterpress printing technique that Campbell employs to make his books. Pages are often run through the press multiple times, saturating the sheets with printer’s ink. His printing combines use of conventional type with printer’s ornaments, rules and borders, and materials such as wood, linoleum, and torn and cut pieces of metal. The effect of his work has been described as "darkness shot through with light." In his own words, he aims to “find the form of the book on the bed of the press during its making; while texts, images and procedures find appropriate dramatic weight in the improvised final work.”

Since 1975 Ken Campbell has created two dozen artists' books. He has exhibited at numerous galleries and museums and in 2009 he was invited to speak about his work at the Library of Congress. Complete sets of Campbell's works are represented in the collections of the British Library, the Herzog-August Bibliothek, the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the Yale Center for British Art.

Ken Campbell: selected literature

  • Benveniste, Asa. Hadrian's dream. London : Circle Press, designed and printed by Ken Campbell, 1990.
  • Campbell, Ken. Execution: the book: an exhibition of limited edition artists' books, related prints and small sculpture. London : Ken Campbell, 1990.
  • Campbell, Ken. A few ways through the window : notes on the exhibition of books, related prints and sculpture. Oxford [England] : Museum of Modern Art, 1990.
  • Campbell, Ken. Ken Campbell : an artist’s books, 1978-1990. [London?] : Ken Campbell, 1990.
  • Campbell, Ken. Ken Campbell : an artist’s books, 1978-1994. [London?] : Ken Campbell, 1994.
  • Campbell, Ken. The maker’s hand: twenty books by Ken Campbell. London: Ken Campbell, 2001.
  • Chambers, David. "Ken Campbell : an artist's text and image." In Matrix 16. [Andoversford, Gloucestershire] : Whittington Press, 1996.
  • Dimunation, Mark. Breaking rules : the insistent vision of Ken Campbell. In Parenthesis 22. Fine Press Book Association, Spring 2012.
  • Fairman, Elisabeth. The word returned: artist books by Ken Campbell. New Haven, Connecticut : Yale Center for British Art, c1996.
  • Ken Campbell : an artist's books. [website]

Artist's books by Ken Campbell

  • Campbell, Ken. AbaB. [Norwich, England] : [Norwich School of Art], [1984].
  • Campbell, Ken. Broken rules and double crosses. [Norwich, England] : Ken Campbell, 1984.
  • Campbell, Ken. Dominion. London : Ken Campbell, 2002.
  • Campbell, Ken. Execution: the book. [London] : Ken Campbell, 1990.
  • Campbell, Ken. Father’s garden. [Oxford] : [Ken Campbell], 1989.
  • Campbell, Ken. Father’s hook. [Bath, England] : [Ken Campbell], c1978.
  • Campbell, Ken. A few ways through the window. London : Ken Campbell, 1975.
  • Campbell, Ken. Firedogs. [London] : [Ken Campbell], [1991?]
  • Campbell, Ken. Firedogs: abstract. London : Ken Campbell, 1991.
  • Campbell, Ken. Horse. [Oxford, England] : Ken Campbell, 1985.
  • Campbell, Ken. In the door stands a jar. [Oxford, England] : Ken Campbell, 1987.
  • Campbell, Ken. A knife romance. [Oxford, England] : [Ken Campbell], [1988]
  • Campbell, Ken. Martyrs. [Oxford, England] : Ken Campbell, 1989.
  • Campbell, Ken. Night feet on Earth. [Oxford, England] : Ken Campbell, 1989.
  • Campbell, Ken. Pantheon. [London] : [Ken Campbell], 2000.
  • Campbell, Ken. Skute awabo (Awabo Skute). London : Ken Campbell, 1992.
  • Campbell, Ken. -'S wings, -'s wings. [London] : [Ken Campbell], [1998]
  • Campbell, Ken. Ten years of Uzbekistan : a commemoration. [London] : Ken Campbell, 1994.
  • Campbell, Ken. Terror, Terror: a book of poems are invitations to jump in the lake. London : Ken Campbell, 1977.
  • Campbell, Ken. Tilt, the black-flagged streets. [Oxford, England] : Ken Campbell, [1988]
  • Campbell, Ken. Wall. [London] : Ken Campbell, 2008.
  • Campbell, Ken. The Word Returned. [London] : [Ken Campbell], 1996.
  • Campbell, Ken. You all know the words. [London] : [Ken Campbell], 2015.
Guide to the Ken Campbell archive
In Progress
compiled by Lisa Thornell ; edited, with additions, by Francis Lapka
April 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts
1080 Chapel Street
P. O. Box 208280
New Haven CT 06520-8280 US


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New Haven , CT 06510

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