Book Sculptures

In literary Edinburgh, a story has unfolded, created from the pages of books and pieced together lovingly by  unknown, artistic hands.

A series of beautiful and carefully crafted book sculptures have appeared around the Scottish capital, delivered unseen to cultural organisations and each with a handwritten tag. Every note contains the words:

This is for you, in support of libraries, books, words, ideas…

Mystery Artist

We have no idea who has created these treasures, but would like to thank them for all they are doing to support libraries, books, words and ideas – and a personal note of thanks for giving one to @EdinCityofLit, the Twitter account I set up. I was twinkling with excitement when we found it: it made my literary year!

I know my former colleagues at Edinburgh City of Literature are working with the other sculpture recipients to bring them all together for an exhibition, so that others can marvel at these delicate artworks.

The Poe-tree

The tale beings in March 2011, when Scottish Poetry Library staff came across a sculpted paper tree growing from a book, left on a library table. The golden eggs beside the tree contain words that spell Edwin Morgan’s “A Trace of Wings”, and a tag reads:

It started with your name @ByLeavesWeLive and became a tree… We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… a gesture (poetic, perhaps?)

The NLS Gramophone

In June, the National Library of Scotland received a sculpted gramophone, made from the pages of Ian Rankin’s Exit Music. The whole sculpture is a visual interpretation of the two words of the title: the gramophone for music, and the coffin for exit.

The tag says that they support libraries, and are against their exit.

There’s a further Ian Rankin link: the coffin could be a reference to the tiny coffins found on Arthur’s Seat and housed in the National Museum of Scotland, a display that inspired an earlier Rankin novel.

The Filmhouse Cinema Screen

There’s an Ian Rankin connection to the Filmhouse sculpture too – it’s been made out of another of his books. It is exquisite in its detail, with a horse and soldiers emerging from a cinema screen and charging into the audience. It was personally handed to Filmhouse staff – but nobody can remember what they looked like…

The note adds that it’s for ‘all things *magic*

The Storytelling Dragon

I really love this one: it’s an enchanting fairytale of a hatching dragon, emerging from a book. The tag reads:

Once upon a time there was a book and in the book was a nest and in the nest was an egg and in the egg was a dragon and in the dragon was a story…..

Lost in a Classic Edinburgh Novel

Deep inside the branch-carved pages of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner  sits a lonely figure, a raven perched next to them.

The tag on the gothic-y sculpture, which is made from an Everyman’s edition of the 19th century psychological Edinburgh thriller, reads:

To @EdinCityofLit – a gift

LOST (albeit in a good book)

This is for you in support of

libraries, books, words, ideas…

“No infant has the power

of deciding … by what

circumstances (they) shall

be surrounded” ~ Robert Owen


The Book Festival Tea and Books

The Edinburgh International Book Festival’s gift was found on a signing table, sat amidst the hustle and bustle of the Bookshop tent.

On the specially papered tea tray sits a cup and saucer, resting on a Good Book and with a cake close by.

There’s even a reference to the Scottish Poetry Library: the tea bag is full of tiny letters and reads ‘By Leaves We Live,’ the name of the SPL’s Twitter account.


Central Library’s Magnifying Glass

‘Let There Be Light’ says the engraving above the Central Library entrance, a  sentiment echoed in the magnified Edwin Morgan words on the sculpture found there:

When I go in, I want it bright,

I want to catch whatever is there

in full sight.

These sculptures are clearly in support of our ‘expansive’ libraries, championing them in the face of the financial pressures. Libraries are our access to written worlds and great knowledge, to stories and to new ideas.

My thanks to Alex for emailing to let me know: the librarians had found the sculpture but didn’t know about the other gifts.

The Lost World

Friend and literary photographer Chris Scott had been joking on Twitter that a dinosaur sculpture should be made from pages of The Lost World, and secreted near the dino exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland. At City of Literature, we had run a campaign celebrating the Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World – he’s an Edinburgh lad, who mentions the city as the book’s inspiration – so it seemed apt.

The sculptor must have heard us, because *it happened.* Cue much excitement.

The Final Song

It began at the Scottish Poetry Library, and it ended there too. A beautiful feathery creature was discovered, with a long letter from our wonderful and mysterious friend, letting us know that the end had come, and all ten stunning sculptures had now been bestowed upon cultural Edinburgh.

Wait a second… One, two, three… I only get nine?

Edinburgh Up Close

Oh, nope, wait – there’s the last one. The poor Writers’ Museum was feeling a little left out, but they got the very last hurrah – an intricate model of an Edinburgh close, or alleyway.

Photo Gallery

Literary Paparazzo Chris Scott has taken some stunning pictures of the sculpture, including this one taken as I introduced Ian Rankin to the City of Literature’s sculpture.

Chris’s Book Sculpture Photo Gallery >

Finding the Sculptures

My colleague Ali and I found our sculpture during the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was blogging daily – you can read my post about EdBookFest Day 12 and the discovery of the sculptures.


Ali and I  had a chat with the Guardian about the exciting discovery.

BBC World put together a package for their global Fast Track programme, likening the mystery sculptor to urban artist Banksy.

The Edinburgh Evening News did a Page 11 spread on the discovery of the Central Library sculpture (and took a cheesy pic.) STV News ran a piece about the sculptures on the nightly news.


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