Edinburgh’s Mysterious Paper Sculptures Spur Literary Inspiration

by on November 6th, 2010
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An artist with a flair for suspense made the rounds of Edinburgh’s libraries and museums in recent months, surreptitiously placing intricate paper sculptures to delight the public. The first such sculpture, a tree, was dubbed “poetree” by staff of Scottish Poetry Library where it was found on a table, the Guardian reported.

The only clue to the origin of the gift was a note referencing the same Patrick Geddes quote that the library used for its twitter name, @byleaveswelive. The note read, in part, “it started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree… a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words…”

Soon after, similar paper sculptures mysteriously appeared in literary institutions throughout Edinburgh. The National Library of Scotland received a paper gramophone and coffin sculpted from Ian Rankin’s exit music.

The sculptures numbered 10 altogether, with the secretive benefactor pronouncing on delivery of the last, “it’s important that a story is not too long… does not become tedious…”

The unknown donor called the gift of artistic surprises “a tiny gesture in support of the special places,” the Poetry Library blog noted.

Since delivering the sculptures, the benefactor created a short video called “A Book for Christmas,” showing the making of a paper sculpture.

For now, there’s no centralized exhibit of the intriguing paper sculptures, though there is some talk of creating one, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature said. The UNESCO staff received one of the two sculptures hidden in plain sight at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in gratitude for its support of libraries, books, words and ideas. Another bookseller at the festival also received one.

For now, visitors to Edinburgh who want to see the sculptures that set the internet abuzz – those that are on display- will have to visit the individual institutions to which they were gifted. And maybe that’s the way it should be. The sculptures appear to have been a tribute to the inspiration culled from visits to the public library or national museums. What better way to share the inspiration than to encourage visits to those places?

Here’s where to look for that inspiration in Edinburgh:

Scottish Poetry Library
5 Crichton’s Close
Canongate
Edinburgh EH8 8DT

The tree sculpture and a second gift, a feather cap, are on display.

National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh

The grammophone has been on display periodically.

Central Library
7-9 George IV Bridge
EH1 1EG
The magnifying glass is on display here.

Scottish Story Telling Centre
43-45 High Street
EH1 1SR

The Story Telling Centre displays the dragon it received.

Filmhouse
88 Lothian Rd.
EH3 9BZ

The film tribute piece is not currently on display at this indy film venue.

Writer’s Museum
Lady Stair’s Close
EH1 2PA

Short on space, the Writer’s Museum has not displayed its paper sculpture.

National Museum
Chambers Street
EH1 1JF

The National Museum is considering display possibilities for its paper sculpture gift.


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