Swedish Book Art

The overall mission of the Swedish Book Art Association is to encourage and inspire the book industry to improve the level of quality in the production of books. To this end, Swedish Book Art annually selects 25 books produced in exemplary fashion to serve as models for emulation. This is Swedish Book Art's most important purpose.

The aims of the association are the same today as they were back in 1933, when Swedish Book Art was founded and the founders established that the selection should be based on the principle of appropriate and aesthetic adaptation of form to content from the standpoint of typography and printing technique.

The term "book" has not been defined absolutely by Swedish Book Art, although it does pertain to printed matter that is neither newspaper nor magazine. The material need not be available for sale in bookshops, but it must be made to be read. The term "art" pertains to the craftsmanship involved. As Swedish Book Art's 1982 catalogue states:

Book art is the art of achieving a graphic gestalt that conveys the content of a book to its readers in a congenial fashion. Inconspicuous beauty dovetails with the law of least resistance in this context: a readable book is a beautiful book.

Typography is, for Swedish Book Art, a means of communication: the typography must not impose any obstacles between text and reader. The readability of the book is thus the essential feature, i.e. lines that are not overly long, the right spacing between the lines, balance between text and white surfaces, a well chosen typeface, uniform print, and quality paper and binding.


Swedish Book Art has been a part of the National Library's organization since 1997, and the national librarian is its chairman. Numerous industry and cultural organizations are involved in the National Library's electoral committee.

Electoral committee

The electoral committee appoints a working committee to handle its affairs between the electoral committee's annual meetings. One very important duty of the working committee is to nominate a jury to judge book publications once a year. The jury consists of individuals with a sound knowledge of bookbinding, graphic design, printing, etc. Swedish Book Art is thus engaged in a process of self-criticism, in that it appoints an expert jury to scrutinize and improve the production of books.


The jury judges the books submitted for review by publishers, designers and printers, while also monitoring the books published each year, so that interesting material that has not been submitted can also be included. The jury considers a number of interrelated factors in judging the books, with each member contributing his or her own specialized knowledge. The jury can organize its work at it sees fit, but it must select 25 books each year. Selecting the same number of books each year is vital, as it enables comparisons from year to year. The jury is at liberty to add honorable mentions, should it wish to do so.

No quotas are allocated, but the jury does strive to come up with a representative overall selection of the books produced from year to year. Each book is judged on its merits within its own particular genre, so that a lavish tabletop book will not be compared with, for instance, a package of training material. The intent is for the selection to encourage the book industry to strive for a high standard, and it can also serve as a showcase for exemplary graphic design. The selection can also show readers everywhere what things they may ask of book publishers.


The annual selection is always put on display at the National Library, and at other libraries in and institutions in Sweden and abroad. Each year's selection is also presented in a printed catalogue.

Last updated: 2008-04-20
Contact person: Elin Lucassi, e-mail: firstname.lastname@kb.se

National Library