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The cutting edge: the mysterious artist sculpting Scotland’s literary landscape

Who is cutting up the books of Scotland?

Book 4

Image: Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World hollowed out into a mysterious sculpture – gift to the Scottish Poetry Library. Artist anonymous. Courtesy Scottish Books Trust.

There must be something in the water: a reclusive artist is blurring the boundaries between visual and textual artforms. Thank you to ABC Radio National for bringing this phenomenon to my attention.

Two years ago, unattributed book sculptures started popping up all over Scotland. They first appeared in March 2011, when an exquisite piece of cut-paper artistry, made from a book, appeared in Edinburgh’s Poetry Library. Nine more followed. In 2012 the artist reappeared, as part of Book Week Scotland, creating five special sculptures, hiding them in locations relevant to the books they represented, with clues left each day for someone to find them. All five were found: a mini Treasure Island at the Scottish Sea Bird Centre, a Robert Burns tribute at his Birthplace Museum, Peter Pan at J M Barrie’s birthplace.

The artist is female but little else is known about her.  She wrote this for the guardians of the Poetry Library to find, saying she was: “…a woman, who had been a girl, whose life would have been less rich had she been unable to wander freely into libraries, art galleries and museums. A woman who, now all grown, still wants access to these places and yes, wants them for her children…”

Other sculptures took their inspiration from the work of poets Edwin Morgan and Norman MacCaig. The 10 sculptures toured around Scotland’s libraries last year and have entranced all who saw them with their delicacy, intricacy and beauty. I reproduce some of the images here. It seems the artist has not been as prolific lately – but what do you think? Is this artistry or vandalism? Your comments please.

Poetree from Gifted: the Edinburgh Book Sculptures on Tour 2012

Image:  Tree made out of a book and leaves torn from books, accompanied by a gilded eggshell with a poem lining. Gift to the Scottish Poetry Library. Artist anonymous. Courtesy Scottish Books Trust.

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Image: Whiskey Galore by Compton Mackenzie. Found on Island of Eriskay, Scotland, at Am Politician Lounge. Sculptor anonymous. Courtesy Scottish Books Trust.


Image: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson found at the Scottish Sea Bird Centre. Sculptor anonymous. Courtesy Scottish Books Trust.