Scotland’s Enchanting Book Sculptures Head to Auction

Courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull

Anonymous book sculpture, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Eleven years ago, in March 2011, a librarian came across an enchanting paper sculpture of a tree growing out of an old book—nicknamed ‘poetree’—placed just outside the Scottish Public Library in Edinburgh. The gift came with a note, reading, “We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words…. This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas.”

The beauty and the mystery immediately captivated visitors. Three months later, another artwork appeared, this time born of a copy of Ian Rankin’s Exit Music and left at the National Library of Scotland. Following that, a series of exciting finds were made all over Edinburgh. The artist is an unidentified female paper sculptor, who, after all these years, has remained out of the spotlight while her anonymous good deeds have spread joy throughout the literary community.

Courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull

Anonymous book sculpture, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Beginning today, some lucky bidders will have the chance to buy one of these book sculptures. Five are being auctioned online through Lyon & Turnbull as a fundraiser for the Scottish Book Trust, a nonprofit that ensures equal access to books across the country. The charity organization initially commissioned these five sculptures in 2012 for the first Book Week Scotland. They include: Tam O'Shanter, by Robert Burns; Whisky Galore, by Compton Mackenzie; Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie; Lanark, by Alasdair Gray; and Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

“They all speak of magic, adventure, daring, and Scotland’s vital place in the history of world literature,” said Cathy Marsden, assistant head of rare books and manuscripts at Lyon & Turnbull, in a video posted by the auction house.   

Each sculpture carries an estimate of £1,000-1,500 ($1,350-2,000), and bidding closes on February 1.