SILENTS: Novels in Pictures
August 29, 2016 through January 10, 2017
Wimberly Library Main Lobby and Jaffe Center for Book Arts

A core concept at FAU Libraries' Jaffe Center for Book Arts is that there is more than one way to define "book." There is also more than one way to tell a story. What if we told a story without words? Could we tell a story solely through a sequence of images?

Early filmmakers discovered they could. The concept of motion pictures was perfected in the late 19th century and by 1910, we were entering the height of the silent film era. Within a few years, the Keystone Cops would be regular features on the screen, and actors like Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, and Charlie Chaplin were making names for themselves in this brand new industry. In the same time period arises another silent picture show, of sorts: novels in pictures, novels in woodcuts... the wordless novel.

This exhibition focuses on the works of Belgian artist Frans Masereel, whose 1918 book "25 Images of a Man's Passion" launched a movement that was soon followed by German artist Otto Nuckel and others. In the United States, Lynd Ward was making wordless books by 1929. These were tumultuous years: an era of labor unrest, economic turmoil, and war. These early decades of the 20th century saw the rise of Socialism, the Great War (as World War I was then known), the collapse of the stock market that ushered in the Great Depression, and the ascent to power of Fascist dictators in Europe. These issues found their way into the wordless novels of the day.

Silent films were there through all of this. The silents early on were pure entertainment. But as film developed, so did the art of filmmaking. Chaplin, for instance, grew tired of the slapstick that began his career. Though it never really went away, complex story lines were developing alongside the slapstick. By 1935, with "Modern Times," his last silent film, Charlie Chaplin was taking on the same complex issues––labor unrest, the rise of Socialism, economic turmoil––as a Lynd Ward novel in pictures.

These novels in pictures are some of the earliest books that Arthur Jaffe collected for their aesthetic qualities. We've paired them with works by contemporary book artists and graphic novelists who are indebted to the artists who made the wordless novels of the early 20th century. Arthur liked to say that his wife Mata "brought color and light to the collection," an influence that is evident to anyone who visits our unique library. But peel the layers back to the core and you come to the novel in pictures, in stark black and white, like every silent film of the same era. They all share the same artistic challenge: tell a tale without the use of words.

We'll be screening silent films at the Jaffe Center's Book Arts Gallery throughout the exhibition! Watch this page and our events pages for information on films and screening times.

The First Floor Lobby and JCBA Lobby portion of this exhibition is accessible in the public areas of the Wimberly Library. Regular library hours are Monday to Thursday 7:40 AM to 2 AM, Friday 7:40 AM to 6 PM, Saturday 10:30 AM to 6 PM, and Sunday noon to 2 AM. The portion of the exhibition installed inside the Jaffe Center for Book Arts may be viewed Monday to Friday, 10 AM to 4 PM. The Wimberly Library will be closed for several national holidays and semester breaks during the period of this exhibition: Labor Day (September 5), Veterans' Day (November 11), Thanksgiving (November 24 through 27), and Winter Break (December 24 through January 2). Hours when classes are not in session (December 19 through January 9) may be reduced. View hours each day at the library's home page:

From I-95 or the Florida Turnpike, exit Glades Road, east. The FAU campus is located just east of I-95 on the north side of Glades Road. If you enter the campus at FAU's main entrance (the one furthest west on Glades Road... and the first one you get to approaching from I-95 or the turnpike), you will enter on West University Drive. Continue straight on West University Drive to the traffic light at its intersection with Volusia Street. Turn right onto Volusia Street. You will see a parking garage on Volusia Street, and the Wimberly Library is the next building east of the parking garage.

Current Exhibition


Fall 2016

Past Exhibitions

Dialogue Book + Art

Spring 2016


Spring 2016

The Last Word

Summer 2015

Elephant House

Spring 2015

Born from folding

 Early Spring 2013


Spring 2012


Late Fall/Early Spring, 2010/2011

Carbon Alternative

Fall 2010

Proceed and be Bold!

Spring 2010

Animated Library

Spring 2010