Have you heard about the book sculptures in Edinburgh? Over a number of months in 2011, an anonymous artist (we know that it is a woman) gifted to the city (first UNESCO World City of Literature) some incredibly crafted sculptures made from books. They were all delivered surreptitiously to literary locations around the city – the first to the Scottish Poetry Library, but also over time to the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum, the National Library, and the marquees of the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Many pay tribute to Edinburgh writers – Ian Rankin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Hogg and Norman MacCaig. The story of the mysterious sculptures grew bigger and bigger on the internet, with everyone wondering when and where the next might appear. There were 10 of them, plus a bonus extra given to Rankin. Each one came with a tag, paying tribute to libraries, book events and the power of words and the imagination. A very few people know who the sculptor is, but have respected her wish to remain anonymous.
I love the 9th one, delivered to the National Library of Scotland. It was inspired by Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, a book in which three explorers find a high plateau still inhabited by dinosaurs in the South American jungles. It is that novel which forms the ‘base’ of the sculpture, and a paper Tyrannosaurus Rex is bursting out of the pages, while tiny men with weapons lurk in the foliage. It is fabulous!
No. 11 pays tribute to Ian Rankin’s The Impossible Dead and features Rankin himself as a skeleton, enjoying a sociable time with a friend while sitting on his book and drinking his favourite beer, Deuchars.
Another is a ‘poetree’ (shown above), another is made from Rankin’s Hide and Seek and depicts an Old Town tenement and celebrates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, while another illustrates Norman MacCaig’s beautiful poem Gifts with an exquisite feather cap, and a tiny bee perched on a delicate paper glove.
You can learn more about the book sculptures in a nicely illustrated book called Gifted: The Tale of Ten Mysterious Book Sculptures Gifted to the City of Words and Ideas, published by Polygon, or view an album of the sculptures on Flickr here.