Placed on plinths at the end of bookshelves in the Leisure Reading section of the Central Library are ten exquisite sculptures made from books, cut, shredded, incorporating wire, string and glue. All are beautifully formed into a series of intriguing shapes which each tell their own story; all communicate the theme: “support of Books, Words and Ideas”. The ten sculptures made from books reveal a passion for the written word, each with its own individual message on a gift tag from the anonymous donor to a number of cultural venues around Edinburgh. Each gift includes a tag on which is written “in support of Libraries, books, words, ideas”; each tag also contains a specific phrase or words relating to that venue, such as “a gesture (poetic maybe)” in “Poetree” for the Poetry Library, and “…and all things MAGIC” in the book sculptural cinema for the Edinburgh Filmhouse.
The idea of being “lost in a good book” is embodied in the first image of a girl huddled under a tree, created from James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. The girl appears to become part of the book itself, with the ideas flowing through her hair; her whole body is enveloped by the branches of the tree. Teased by snippets of words such as “sublime”, “Frankenstein”, “explain”, “written”, the sculptural image invites the viewer to delve more deeply into the book itself.
Another sculpture evokes the deliciousness of reading with a coffee and cake. The unknown book is transformed into a cupcake, a cup of tea on an upturned glass and a small book with the words “A REALLY GREAT BOOK”; the words “Nothing beats a nice cup of tea of coffee and a really great Book” is circled like a swirl of milk inside the teacup. Tea-stained text and tea leaves on the tea tray add to the image of immersion in ideas and words. This particular sculpture was gifted to the Edinburgh International Book Festival and speaks to the sheer pleasure of reading in a café or festival setting.
Two of the sculptures evoke hidden worlds of the imagination and of animal form. A T-Rex emerges from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in one, and a dragon from its egg in a nest made from Ian Rankin’s Knots and Crosses in another. In the latter, the theme of words and ideas coming from (and through) books – birth and re-birth – emerges: “Once upon a time there was a book and in the book was a nest and in the nest was an egg and in the egg was a dragon and in the dragon was a story”. The viewer is drawn into the constant evolution of story-telling with ideas being born and re-born each time a story is read.
Throughout the exhibition, the anonymous donor reminds us of the need to maintain libraries, books and ideas. Sometimes this is done more directly, as in one of the sculptures that consists of a magnifying glass with the “e” crossed out in “expensive” to read “Libraries are expansive”, so emphasising the richness of books to humanity and their inherent importance to society. Another sculpture, donated to the National Library, depicts a coffin, made from The Casquet of Literature, and gramophone from Ian Rankin’s Exit Music; its gift tag adds “… against their (libraries’) exit” , creating a visual pun on the threatened public library closures. The exhibition is a beautiful portrayal of the need for books, words and ideas in people’s lives.