Filmmaker George Griffin is donating his collection of nearly 400 books to the Prelinger Library. Founded by Rick Prelinger and his wife, Megan Shaw Prelinger, in 2004, The Library is an appropriation-friendly, browsable collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, printed ephemera and government documents located in San Francisco. It covers a broad swath of popular culture of the U.S. in the last century. The Prelingers, well-known to media artists and researchers for their archives which have provided material for countless independent films, have set an innovative goal for their new project. They write, “We are interested in exploring how libraries with specialized, unique, and arcane collections such as ours can exist and flourish outside protected academic environments and be made available to people working outside of those environments, especially artists, activists and independent scholars.”

Griffin terms his collection “didactic ephemera”: D.I.Y. books and periodicals dealing with practical instruction in the visual arts. Starting in the 1970s, while searching in vain in used bookstores for books on animation technique, he discovered related subjects such as general drawing, cartooning, photography, film-making, technical graphics, and performance (chalk talks and pantomime). These “how to” books, most of them published between 1900 and 1960, were aimed at a popular readership hoping to advance from hobby to professional craft. There are no examples of fine arts by well-known painters; instead the focus is on generic, commercial art. The books contain valuable examples of fundamental, pre-digital techniques (illustrated with diagrams), and they are an interesting window on early 20th century vernacular style and social conventions.

Griffin says, “This material needs a special home which allows free access and opportunity for hands-on research, scanning and free use for artists, students, and scholars. I’m thrilled that the Prelinger Library has agreed to make it welcome.”

For additional information contact:

George Griffin,

Rick Prelinger,

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Chris Arrant