A Tribute To Paper … In Paper

By Louise Ure


Hi, all. A very short post from me today, but a good one.




In case you haven’t heard before, there’s a rash of anonymous gift-giving going on. Specifically, some incredibly talented artist is creating paper sculptures out of books, and leaving them as gifts in libraries all across Edinburgh.


Even more specifically, they often feature one of Ian Rankin’s books. One even includes the tiny face of Rankin in a crowd scene.






The notes offer thanks, “in support of libraries, words … ideas.”


I won’t paraphrase the good articles I’ve read about this; they’ve already done a lovely job describing the artwork, the librarians’ reactions, and the deepining mystery behind the gifts. Take a look at this write up from a blogger at Central Station, for the whole story, and lots more great photos.


And when you come back … go ahead, we’ll wait … let me know what kind of tribute you’d leave in a library. Or if you were equally as talented as this paper-craftsman, what author or book would you choose to eulogize?



20 thoughts on “A Tribute To Paper … In Paper

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Louise

    What amazing sculptures. I hadn't heard anything about them. I admit there's a part of me that is unhappy with the idea of destroying a book in order to create them, but I guess it's only like cutting down a tree to produce a wooden sculpture . . .

    The only time I've ever gone dumpster diving was to rescue abandoned books ;-]

  2. Reine

    Hi Louise,

    I love that the gifts are given, "in support of libraries, words . . . ideas." Sculpture as eulogy! How wonderful! I would eulogise all the books that could not be saved in form, by their digital deliverance, in the whole of their thoughts and words, for the future.

    I actually had a brief opportunity to do a little piece of that work at the Andover Harvard Theological Library. One of my student jobs was to identify books, locate them, and sort them for electronic salvation. Originally it was called the "Dead Books Project," but when publicity took off the public objected, thinking we were "killing" books rather than rescuing those that were dying slowly on acid paper. I forget what the new name for the project was, but the best part of the books – "the words [and] ideas" were saved.

  3. Sarah W

    That . . . is amazing. What a gift — of a Gift!

    As a librarian, I can say that tributes of chocolate and tax levy votes are always acceptable.

    Or donations of your time and talents — one of our artist patrons painted a gorgeous alphabet mural for the children's area at our branch for the cost of materials and others are helping us index our archives.

    And if I were as talented as the artist above, I think I'd choose to bring attention to Fahrenheit 451 this week.

  4. Jake Nantz

    I think I'd sculpt the intent behind the last line of the chapter entitled "Sanity" in Stephen King's RAGE. That book had a profound influence on me when I was in high school (no it isn't what led me to be a teacher, promise), and I'd love to give that love of reading back to the adolescents of today in any way I could, even if it was just a representation. Not enough kids reading these days, and we need more. A lot more.

  5. Louise Ure

    Hi Zoe, I had a pang of that thought, too: "Oh, no, they're desecrating books!" But no, it's not desecration, it's celebration.

    They are grand, aren't they, Reine? And I adore your "Dead Books Project." I think it was perfectly aptly named. No reason to change it.

    451 would be the perfect eulogy, Sarah. Now I have to go prepare chocolates and stacks of gold coins to leave in the library.

    Jake, is there any way you could build that last chapter into your teaching curriculum? You'd be creating your own sculpture, and, just like your teaching, passing it on. (Alas, maybe not in these days of "teaching to the test.")

  6. Jake Nantz

    Louise, sadly no. The book is a psychological about a young man shooting his math teacher and taking his high school class hostage, so I don't think parents would be very happy with me. I just identified with the character's angst when I was that age. The last line is about the moment of realization, the "sanity" that a jumper undergoes when he realizes it's too late and he can't get back on the ledge, so again, not sure how parents would feel. I don't teach to any test, as my job with seniors is to prepare them for life beyond high school, and my final exam is mine, not some state exam. But I do have to be careful of the evil damaging books I suggest to my kids…don't want any math teachers being picked off because of me.

    Besides, I teach Brit Lit, and SK's a yank. 😀

  7. Louise Ure

    Yeah, Jake. I couldn't remember RAGE, and with that description, I can understand the difficulty of including that in a teaching moment! But, oh, I do remember those moments of epiphany when I was a teenager … reading something with which I could identify and not feeling like a crazy person anymore.

  8. Judy Wirzberger

    Well I would love to see Nancy Drew and The Secret in the Old Clock, but my favorite The Art of Racing in the Rain would be spectactular and my, how mavelous Gone with the Wind. You've set my mind a churning. Oh and all the characters from the great Dr. Seuss.

  9. Cornelia Read

    Oh, Louise–how beautiful, thank you for writing about this!

    And I think I might do one of my own books if I had this person's talent.. just because I'd feel too weird cutting up anyone else's–it would seem like VERY bad juju to me. But I would make it a tribute to someone else's books, defininitely.

  10. Rob Browne

    As amazing as these are, I can't help be bothered by the fact that the artist had to mutilate books to create them. I love the work but feel guilty for loving it.

  11. Louise Ure

    Judy, Racing in the Rain would be a great sculpture, complete with a road track and a floppy eared dog.

    Cornelia, cut up our own works in tribute to another? Great idea, but it might destroy the anonymity of the gift. Unless it's a social commentary? Heck, I still like the idea.

    Rob, rest easy. The book (ideas and all) have already been devoured and appreciated. And now passed along in another form. Erg … that makes it sound a bit like digestion, doesn't it?

  12. Alafair Burke

    Oooh, Art of Racing in the Rain and Dr. Seuss are both great. Those are totally cool. In some BFP (blatant family promotion), I'd add any book by James Lee Burke (aka my dad). His new one is out today!

  13. Lisa Alber

    Wow, just gorgeous. I love the innovation, even though I too feel a little guilty loving them so much. If I could create such art, I'd honor the first adult mystery I read (when I was 13) — this was after I'd read through all the Nancy Drew mysteries — which was "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" by Dame Christie. She's the writer who truly hooked me!

  14. Reine

    Hi Louise,

    Thank you. I thought "The Dead Books Project" said it very well. I just now recalled that its name was changed to "The Brittle Books Project. " It was more descriptive of the state of the physical books. It made it sound like we were saving sick and dying books or resurrecting dead books (how perfect for a divinity school), which in fact we were doing. It had been awful having complete strangers treat you like a book killer, y'know?

    I spent many hours working in those stacks, and there were days when it looked like an old cemetery. I found books in there that had never been read, never thumbed through, and never even had their table of contents scanned. Some of those books had been there since the 18th century. Now all the books have been rescued from the grave. Their spirits have been released and can be accessed online by everyone, everywhere. Isn't that better than not killing dead books?

  15. Shizuka

    This is the best art I've seen in a really long time.
    And since paper books seem to be under-appreciated these days,
    the artist is committing her or his own act of reincarnation.

    The books I'd sculpt if I had the talent: A Little Princess (a childhood favorite),
    The Likeness, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

  16. Alexandra Sokoloff

    My God, gorgeous. I don't feel guilty at all about it, either. The paper is just a delivery system – it doesn't mutilate THE BOOK.

    But it does make the art that much more dimensional.

  17. Louise Ure

    Thank you, Reine, on behalf of unread authors everywhere.

    And Shizuka, reincarnation is a perfect word for it. As is Alex's "new dimensions of art."

    Too cool, huh, David?

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