fb pixcode


Paperback, 6 x 8.5 in. / 152 pgs / 91 color / 35 bw.

Pub Date
Out of print

D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: SPRING 2011 p. 61   

ISBN 9780979956256 TRADE
List Price: $35.00 CDN $40.00

Not available



Artbook | D.A.P. Catalog Cover Link
Preview our Spring 2024 catalog, featuring more than 500 new books on art, photography, design, architecture, film, music and visual culture.


Robert Seydel: Book of Ruth

Robert Seydel: Book of RuthRobert Seydel's Book of Ruth presents an assemblage of collages, letters, journal entries and other artifacts from the life of Seydel's fictional alter-ego, Ruth Greisman--spinster, Sunday painter and friend to Joseph Cornell. Drawing on the inherent seductiveness and intrigue of archives, the volume is conceived as a gathering of fragmented materials by Greisman unearthed from a storage space in the Smithsonian and a suburban family garage, which are presented as a mosaic portrait of a reclusive artist. The New Yorker described the project thus: "Burrowing into the pop-detritus archive somewhere between Ray Johnson's mail art and Tom Phillips' Humument project, Seydel's serial collage Book of Ruth describes an allusive fantasy about his aunt and alter ego Ruth Greisman, her brother Saul, and their escapades with Joseph Cornell... unfold[ing] in novelistic rhythms." Over the past decade or so, working almost exclusively in notebook form, Seydel has produced hundreds of works in multiple ongoing and interrelated series that move freely between lyric and narrative modes. (Poet Peter Gizzi notes that "so many of his tools are a writer's: whiteout, pencil and pen, erasers, tape, type and newsprint.") Book of Ruth constitutes his masterpiece to date. In Seydel's hands the detritus from which Ruth makes her art and narrates her inner life shines like pages from an illuminated manuscript.

Featured image, reproduced from Book of Ruth, is Untitled [Measurements] (2003).

Robert Seydel: Book of Ruth

STATUS: Out of print | 00/00/00

For assistance locating a copy, please see our list of recommended out of print specialists

"I was beautiful as a girl. But that wrecked me. Nothing & no one good enough. Beauty makes a desert of life (my pale brown art.) & Saul too, wrecked as well. The shock of the war. He retreated into must & porcelain. The spheres of our losses. It's true, the jew is best at emptiness. No topography of ecstacy, no soap bubbles or Air of Paris. JC, MD, will never understand our distance from life – they're pretenders in that."

Excerpted from the collage Untitled Journal Page ["I was beautiful as a girl"], no date in Book of Ruth.


THOMAS EVANS | DATE 10/13/2011

An Interview with Lisa Pearson of Siglio Press (Part Two)

An Interview with Lisa Pearson of Siglio Press (Part Two)

ARTBOOK: As we conduct this interview, titles you’d announced at its outset (back in March) have come off press. Robert Seydel’s Book of Ruth was released in May--sadly after his tragic death at the age of 50, in January of this year. You’ve already referred to the scrupulous editorial attention Seydel brought to Keith Waldrop’s Several Gravities, and Book of Ruth again fulfills the Siglio credo in terms of its abundant ‘completeness’ as a book work unifying visual and linguistic materials. Perhaps you could give us some contextualizing sense of Seydel’s works and life, as the book makes its way into the world?

LISA: Robert lived in Amherst, Massachusetts literally around the corner from the Emily Dickinson house. Like her (whom he revered), he was reclusive and his time was spent reading and working, both as natural and necessary to sustaining him as breathing. His three-room apartment was on the first floor of an old house and it was brimming with thousands upon thousands of books. His shelves had rows of books two deep--pull out a book and there was another behind it, and there were stacks of books everywhere--on top of the fridge, next to the stove, in the closet, on every available surface. In his notebooks, he made lists of the books he was reading--twenty, thirty, forty at a time. These lists are the most amazing, surprising constellations of authors and subjects ranging from prehistoric rock art to New York School poetry, from William Blake to Fluxus. Robert’s intellect and imagination could make fantastic leaps—like his beloved Hare, the totem for Ruth Greisman, his alter-ego and “author” of the works in Book of Ruth. (One of these lists along with photos of his library are on the Siglio blog.)

Anti-careerist, completely uncompromising, Robert was that very rare creative individual whose visual and literary talents were abundant in equal measure. I can think of no other visual artist who understands language and the literary as Robert did and who intertwined image and text with as much subtlety, agility, and playfulness. And while he did not like to call himself a “writer,” he was a Writer. The few dozen diary entries in Book of Ruth accomplish what some novelists can barely do in a hundred pages in their evocation of an interior life. There’s a longer essay I wrote on Book of Ruth that’s posted on the Siglio website that really delves into the nature of his work, but if I had to sum up Robert’s particular gifts, I would have to point to the ways in which he transforms the everyday, the discarded, the detritus into something that reorients one’s sense of being in the world and being of the world. There’s also an interview that Savina Velkova conducted with him last fall before he died that probes his influences as well as the very complex layers of persona and gender in Book of Ruth.

Robert left behind a prolific and deeply accomplished body of literary/visual work. “Ruth” was one of many personas and Book of Ruth collects just a sliver of that series. It is devastating to imagine what else he might have accomplished had his life been longer.

ARTBOOK: Thank you for that nice portrait, and those interested in learning more about Seydel should look at this great interview in the Siglio online library.
continue to blog


Robert Seydel: Songs of S.


Siglio/Ugly Duckling Presse

ISBN: 9781938221057
USD $24.00
| CAN $33 UK £ 21

Pub Date: 11/30/2014
Active | In stock

Robert Seydel: A Picture Is Always a Book


Siglio/Smith College Libraries

ISBN: 9781938221064
USD $36.00
| CAN $47.5 UK £ 32

Pub Date: 11/30/2014
Active | In stock