‘A library is more than a building of books,’ the anonymous book sculptor wrote on the note attached to her first gift, a sculpture crafted from the pages of books and left anonymously in the Scottish Poetry Library.
These beautiful book sculptures are a love letter to libraries, and a celebration of the power of story. A paper egg at the foot of a swirling paper oak holds a jigsaw of words to form the Edwin Morgan poem, A Trace of Wings – a poem which tells us that we see beauty in a flash, a glance, and then it is gone like a flash of a bunting’s wings.
The book sculptures, however, remain a glimpse of beauty and generosity in a world which is so often hard and cynical. One gift depicts a reader lost in a forest of words, the trees cut from pages rising high behind her. What you do not see you can imagine – the deep blue sky in the background as night falls, the crackles and rustles and forest-y sounds which the lone reader is too absorbed to hear, the comforting sense of darkness, the warming sense of cold, the cosiness of the sculpture sings. The black text on the white paper has always made me think of snow.
Other gifts are a paper cinema screen from which the characters explode, running towards the enthralled audience; a dinosaur coming boldly to life from between the covers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World; an old-school gramophone which you feel really is playing the songs of the 1950s as couples dance slowly unseen in the background; a cup of tea and a cake. From the fantastical to the everyday, the sculptor tells us, there is magic in books and stories which cannot be found elsewhere – a cup of tea and a dinosaur are not incompatible, the comfort of one and the danger of the other sing, and herein lies the beauty of stories.
That the sculptures were gifted anonymously is a sign of generosity not only of the sculptor herself (though this is undeniable) but also of stories – the deep humanity of the words we use to pass stories on from one person to the next, mother to child, elder to younger, author to reader. The sculptures reflect the infinite magic of libraries like Edinburgh Central Library, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Poetry Library, where the shelves are lined with books, between the covers of which are endless adventures and ideas, if you dare to open the cover.
Four of these sculptures are on display in Central Library – works of art for everyone who loves stories, created by a fellow wanderer in the forests of fiction. Stories are what make us human. These sculptures remind us of that, and they are truly beautiful.
This blog post was written by Hope Whitmore, writer and member of the Central Library team. You can read more of her gorgeous writing on her Barnes & Noble Review page.