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Richard Minsky archive

Call Number: AOB 8

Scope and Contents

The Richard Minsky archive contains correspondence, personal papers, photographs, artwork, publications, and ephemera that document his career as well as shed light on the history of book arts in New York City. Examples of Minsky’s music are in the collection in the form of reel-to-reel tapes and sheet music. Minsky’s personal and collaborative projects are well-represented through sketches, printing plates, leather samples, photographs of in-process and completed work, color and technique tests, and layout mock-ups.


  • 1960-2014


Conditions Governing Access

Boxes 57, 68, and 69 (SLART documentation) are restricted until Minsky’s death.

Boxes 44, 45, 58-74 are closed for processing and require curatorial permission before use.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been transferred to Yale University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Richard Minsky, 2004-.


Organized into five series + oversize: Series I. Biographical, 1960-2009. Series II. Personal Correspondence, 1964-2003. Series III. Business Files & Correspondence, 1960-2004. Series IV. Project Files, 1968-2010. Series V. Interviews with Richard Minsky, 2014. Oversize, 1969-2010.

Later additions date from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Associated Materials

Interviews with book artist Richard Minsky (digital collection), Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University.


35 Linear Feet (74 boxes + flat files)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Richard Minsky Archive contains correspondence, personal papers, photographs, artwork, publications, and ephemera that document his career as well as shed light on the history of book arts in New York City.

Biographical / Historical

Richard Minsky, pioneering contemporary book artist and founder of the Center for Book Arts in New York City, is known for his conceptual approach to hand bookbinding and commitment to changing the perception of the book arts from craft to fine art. Based in New York, Minsky is noted for his interest in the economics of art and his innovative use of an age-old tradition and new materials to create sculptural, often political bookworks. His blending of an eclectic mix of interests, from musical and theatre performance to social issues and virtual worlds, remain a hallmark of Minsky’s career.

Richard Philip Minsky was born January 7, 1947, in New York, NY. From the age of 13, he operated a letterpress printshop out of his home in Queens. As a teenager his diverse interests also included photography, vocal and violin music performance, and astronomy. He attended Brooklyn College from 1964-68 and earned a MA in Economics from Brown University in 1969. At Brown he met Daniel Gibson Knowlton, the University Bookbinder, who mentored Minsky in an independent study program of hand bookbinding and repair. He subsequently attended the New School for Social Research, and during this time he became a binder and photographer at the Hirshhorn Museum. It was while working with art at the Hirshhorn, says Minsky, that he was inspired to create his first binding intended to be an art object in 1971. He decided to pursue that career path and shortly afterward opened a hand bookbindery, printshop, and art gallery in Forest Hills, Queens. Minsky devoted himself to creating books that function as sculptural metaphors for the contents within – an approach he has described as “material as metaphor.”

In 1974, with the goal of advancing and promoting the book arts, he established the Center for Book Arts (CBA) at 15 Bleecker Street in Manhattan and moved his bookbinding facility there. He continued to explore his musical and theatrical interests, creating hybrid media works like Adventures in Ku-ta-ba Wa-do (1974), for which he composed and performed music, as well as created and printing images based on poetry. Minsky taught at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan (1977-78) and began lecturing extensively on his projects and the book arts at institutions in England and New York throughout the next three decades. He was awarded five successive years of NEA grants which funded an apprenticeship program at the CBA and opportunities for him to travel abroad. He also went to England as a US/UK Bicentennial Fellow at the Camberwell School of Art and Crafts in 1978-79, producing the book Minsky in London as a result. In addition to his collaborative projects with artists and writers such as Tom Phillips and Jonathan Williams, Minsky successfully undertook many private commissions, including the register for the New York City Mayor’s residence Gracie Mansion. He remained active with the Center for Book Arts, serving in a variety of roles.

In 1990 he organized the national conference “Book Arts in the USA”, which brought together 400 regional book arts administrators and artists, and curated an exhibition of 51 bookworks that traveled abroad as a Cultural Presentation of the United States through the Arts America program of the United States Information Agency. From 1993-2001 Minsky created one of his best known bodies of work, a Bill of Rights-themed series of ten pieces that address the meaning of each amendment. His choice of socially and politically themed books that relate to the amendments resulted in bookworks that are responsive, topical, and reflective of his own beliefs. During this time he also participated in solo and group exhibitions and curated shows of other artists, while continuing to write and lecture on the book arts and economics. As computer and printing technology evolved, so did Minsky, who pioneered a method of inkjet printing to produce books and broadsides on handmade paper from Dieu Donné Papermill. He also explored online virtual worlds by creating a presence in Second Life to curate and critique virtual art. From 2006-2010, Minsky collected, researched and exhibited American publisher’s bindings and published three volumes on the subject, as well as a trade edition.

Guide to the Richard Minsky Archive
Compiled by Mia D’Avanza
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections Repository

Arts Library Special Collections
180 York Street
New Haven CT 06511

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