The First Artists Book that took my breath away was La Prose du Trans-Siberien et de la Petite Jehanne de France by the poet Blaise Cendrars and the artist Sonia Delaunay, dating from 1913.
I was studying Art History at the University of Qld in the 80's and I was writing an essay about the work of Sonia Delaunay. I was amazed and overwhelmed when I saw this book (or I should say I saw this book reproduced in books). I have never been fortunate enough to view one of the original copies.
The book is a 2 metre long concertina book intended to be hung vertically. It is made using letterpress and 'Pochoir', a type of stencil technique that was used in illustration at the time.
This book made such an impression on me that ever since I started making books in the late 1980's, the concertina and variations on it have been the most common structures I have used in my own books. The introduction to the 'galleries' section on my website mentions the influence of this book.
Detail of Sonia Delaunay's artwork in La Prose
A copy of the book was exhibited at MOMA in New York in 2013 and there is an blog post here about it written at the time of the exhibition.
The latest news I've just discovered is that Kitty Maryatt of Scripps College in Claremont, California is going to recreate the book as closely as possible to the original. She is writing a blog about the project here which also outlines her research to date. The book will be produced by letterpress in Paris, and Kitty will work on the pochoir with the Atelier Coloris in Ploubazlanec in France. She will then do the making of vellum covers and the binding back in California.
Sounds like a dream job!
I'll certainly be following the blog and her progress.