31 July 2014

In search of words...

Imagine you worked in a library. (Go with me for a second on this one.) Imagine you worked in a library and one very normal, average day, you came across a box sitting on a shelf and no idea how it got there. Inside that box was this.

The Poet Tree (Poetree). This is the book sculpture that started it all. The first book sculpture was found at the Scottish Poetry Library.

It is a gift, and an anonymous one at that. It is entirely made from paper and is incredibly delicate and beautiful.

But it doesn't stop there, over the course of a year, more book sculptures mysteriously pop up at other libraries, museums and even an old cinema. Each one carries a message and the media goes into a frenzy. Who is this book sculptor? Why is she leaving these all over Edinburgh? How is she getting them in without anyone noticing? Will there be more? Where will the next book sculpture be left?

Gramophone and coffin. The second book sculpture, one of the 10 sculptures that was not on display - source
In the months between March and November 2011 there were a total of 10 book sculptures left all over Edinburgh. The mystery and artistry of the book sculptures got so much attention that people were dropping into these libraries and museums just to see the sculptures. They even went on tour towards the end of 2012. At the end of the tour, a 13th book sculpture appeared at the Poets Library, back where it all started.

So much detail in this one, be sure to look closely. The third book sculpture - Cinema, found at the Edinburgh Film house

But that wasn't to be the end of the story. The artist was commissioned for 5 book sculptures as part of Book Week Scotland in late 2012 (I didn't get to see those though) and last year two more sculptures showed up at the Scottish Poetry Library and Leith Library. Despite the media and the commission, the artist has maintained her anonymity.

Who hasn't grown up with stories of dragons? The 4th book sculpture - Dragon's Nest, The Storytelling Centre

I had read about these sculptures a couple of years ago but completely forgot about it until late one night while seeking things to do in Edinburgh, I came across it again. So I got myself a map and went on a literary hunt to find them all.

"Nothing beats a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and a really great book...except maybe a cake as well" The 5th book sculpture, Tea, cake and a book, Edinburgh International Book Festival

Who hasn't been lost in a good book? Book sculpture 6 - Lost in a good book...left at Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust

Notice the E crossed out below? Cheeky comment on funding cuts. The 7th sculpture - Magnifying glass, Edinburgh Central Library

The feathers made from paper actually look like they might be soft to touch. And how cute is the bumblebee on the glove? The 8th book sculpture -Cap and gloves, Scottish Poetry Library

The 9th book sculpture roars and charges out of The Lost World - Dinosaur, National Museum of Scotland

The 10th book is a little Jekyll and Hyde. Street Scene - Edinburgh Writers’ Museum

During my quest for the book sculptures of Edinburgh, I detoured to Greyfriars Kirkyard to say hello to Bobby and Old Jock again and stop for a bite.

I'm not sure how it had escaped me, but I forgot about Edinburgh's most famous writer. As I was sipping my coffee and watching people walk by on the street my eye caught a sign, this sign.

To digress for a moment; there are two interviews with JK Rowling that talk about her writing in cafes Edinburgh. The famous cafe everyone knows is Nicholsons (which is now Spoon Cafe). But in a very early interview, she is interviewed in The Elephant. I stopped in there for a peek later and it was busy, full of people writing, friends chatting and Harry Potter tourists. Of course JK Rowling isn't Edinburgh only famous writer, there is Ian Rankin (who received his very own book sculpture), Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Kenneth Grahame to name a few.

Not part of the original 10 sculptures, this one is more recent and was found in May 2013.

Possibly my favourite. This sculpture was presented at the end of 2012 after the original 10 sculptures completed their. A Child's Garden, Scottish Poetry Library

Anyway, if you are a book worm or literary enthusiast, Edinburgh has a lot to offer. You can seek out the book sculptures, visit the Writers Museum, do a literary tour (departs from the writers museum), visit the Decon Broadie pub or cafe, say hi to Greyfriars Bobby, write in a cafe JK Rowling wrote and much more. Heck, why not visit during the Edinburgh Book Festival which starts in a week?

If you are interested in seeing these sculptures for yourself, you'll find book sculpture map of Edinburgh on this page, my tip is to start at the Scottish Poetry Library and work your way up the Royal Mile (or vice versa) rather than trying to see them in order.

Would you travel for a literary fix? 


  1. Absolutely fantastic ! what a story and what a gift the creator has given. Thank you for sharing

    1. My pleasure :) I love art promoting and protecting art. Its a great idea.

  2. Absolutely amazing!!!
    Human beings are such creative and complex creatures...
    Thank you for sharing this!
    Tammy x

    1. They are. Some more than others - I couldnt make something like that. Its so delicate!

  3. What a beautiful thing to set out and do, reigniting peoples' interest in librabries and mixing in the love of art scuptures into the literary world. I think if I go to Edinbugh I will definitely go book sculpture hunting.

    1. I know right?! I admire that too.
      Oh do! Even if its just one or two.

  4. These are just fantastic!!

  5. Wow, these sculptures are pretty incredible. I might travel for bookish reasons, after all I've hopped on a plane three times for concerts and festivals - twice from Johannesburg to London!

    1. Arent they? Edinburgh is so close, it'll be a much easier hop than Johannesburgh to London! Now thats dedication!