Sunday, December 2, 2012


This is just about the best story ever! It's art, books, and guerrilla theater all rolled into one!

Feast your eyes on the handiwork of Scotland's "secret book sculptor."  This anonymous female artisan crafts intricate art pieces out of books and their pages and leaves them hidden away in public places to be discovered.

Last year, she caused a mini media sensation leaving her book sculptures in neglected corners of literary places like the Scottish Poetry Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Each piece was found with a hand-written tag reading in part: "A gift for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..." (Here's a great article on the story so far, with pics.)

This past week, in honor of Scotland Book Week, the mystery artist created five new pieces inspired by the masterworks of famous Scots authors, and clandestinely placed them in appropriate venues around the country. Then she tweeted hints about their whereabouts on the Twitter account of each venue. This wonderful tribute to Peter Pan, with Peter and Wendy rising up out of the book and racing toward the moon, was found in the J. M. Barrie Birthplace in Kirriemuir. (Photo by Chris Scott.)

Here's Long John Silver and a montage of piratical iconography celebrating Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. This one was discovered at  the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick. (Photo by Sasha DeBuyl/Scottish Book Trust.)

Other tribute pieces are devoted to Robert Burns' narrative poem, Tam o' Shanter (found at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway), Compton MacKenzie's beloved  shipwrecked spirits story, Whiskey Galore (which turned up at a pub on the island of Eriskay, in the Western Isles, where the story takes place), and Alisdair Gray's modern semi-dystopian classic Lanark (placed in the Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh Library). (Here's a slideshow of the new pieces.)

With each sculpture, the artist also leaves a note, referencing a quote from the book in question, each note ending with the same mantra: "...Because reading matters..."

What I love about this project, besides the glorious artwork, is the recycling and repurposing of old books (while retaining the emphasis on reading), and the clandestine nature of the operation, creating what now amounts to a national treasure hunt in Scotland as new pieces are announced.

If the artist had just started making these pieces, as marvelous as they are, and then tried to promote them through normal channels, I bet she would have had a hard slog of it. She'd have to find a gallery who thought the work might interest their particular clientele, then wait through the process of shows, reviews, and (hopefully) sales to establish her name. Or she might have opened an Etsy shop or tried to sell the work on eBay, but I bet they wouldn't have nearly the same cachet.

What's great about this story is the artist's anti-celebrity stance, her insistence on anonymity. She doesn't care about making her name; she's too busy making art! Of course, it's also a brilliant marketing tool—even if her name is unknown, everybody in Scotland now knows her work.  But the fact remains that all her pieces so far have been given away, in support of books, literacy, and culture in general. And how cool is that!


  1. awesome article--thanks Lisa!

  2. My pleasure, Jana — I just love this story to pieces!