L’art Religieux Trilogy, 50p Books!

Having decided for our performance to make dresses out of books within the library, it seemed now was the time to find what specific books we would use for the project. By chance, two members of the group happened to be looking at a ‘50p case’ where they were selling off unwanted library books. There were three books in particular that stood out straight away based purely on appearance, an image of one I will place below.


(Taken 8.3.13 by Kirsty Jakins)

We immediately splurged out the £1.50 for these aesthetically pleasing books and then sat down to do some research into their history, and find whether or not they could work for our piece. Upon opening them we realised they were written in French and over a hundred years old.  We discovered the books were about religious art in France in the 13th century, so not only did they contain history but due to their age and the amount of hands they would have passed through would as objects have an interesting historical background themselves.

One book I found was the first edition in the trilogy we had purchased. The book entitled L’art religieux was written by French art historian Émile Mâle. The fact he died in 1954 was one of the most interesting factors, as it meant he would  no longer know what had happened to his abandoned books. This also led to another train of thought; why were the library selling these books at such a cheap price. When looking on the binary it is clear at the time of printing, 1921, they were going for around fifty francs. When converting this into the English pound it works out at around £6.61, which at the time would have been a substantial amount of money. We decided to ask the library staff why they were selling off these books, and it turns out they simply had no use for them.

‘Place becomes an important element within the artistic encounter and there is recognition that a space is not empty but full of meaning. What becomes important is not just the geographical place in which the work is sited but also the social practises.’1

It just goes to show that the books within the library are not permanent objects, they come and go through different hands and ultimately are dispersed of. The books in some ways are defined by the people who take and read them, rather than the site itself. Site, as shown by Govan is more about being defined by the people rather than the place itself much like the books of the library.


(Quinta-feira (n.d) A photograph of author Émile Mâle.)

  1. Govan, E. Nicholson, H. (2007) Making a Performance Coxon:Routledge.p 121 []
Posted: March 13th, 2013
Categories: Les dames des livres, Library
Tags: , ,
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