Benches built from books unveiled in George Street

Top Scottish authors were the first to try out Edinburgh’s new ‘book benches’ after they were installed in Dobbies' urban gardens in George Street today.

Ken MacLeod (left), Lizzy MacGregor and Ron Butlin try out the new bench
Ken MacLeod (left), Lizzy MacGregor and Ron Butlin try out the new bench

Widely billed as the biggest trend in American town planning, the aim of a ‘parklet’ is to create a vibrant community space that celebrates the city it is based in. Edinburgh’s are the UK’s first and are supplied in partnership with Dobbies and Essential Edinburgh. 

The four hand-carved sit-on sculptures, built from wooden versions of Edinburgh’s favourite books, have been commissioned and installed by the City of Edinburgh Council to commemorate the 10th anniversary year of the city’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture and Sport Convener, said: “As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Scotland’s Capital city is a genuine hub for all things linked to literature. These additions to the city’s streets to celebrate 10 years of this fantastic designation can only go to reinforce that status further.

“You could get lost tracing through the rows upon rows of books featured in these sculptures. Like any good bookshelf, you’re sure to find a title that suits your tastes.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener, said: “For the last year we have pedestrianised parts of George Street to test different uses of the space to encourage more people to visit. This has been very successful with footfall increasing in every block.

“It was suggested by interested groups, including members of the public and local businesses, that more seating would we welcomed for those just wanting to take in the stunning Georgian architecture and relax with some essential Edinburgh reading on George Street.”

Crafted by Peter Graham of Bespoke Design with the support of DWA Landscape Architects Ltd, the benches are intended to celebrate the Scottish Capital’s reputation as a home of great literature. 

A list of the city’s ‘top 40’ titles as compiled by the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust can be found carved into the sculptures.

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust director, Ali Bowden said: “Contributing just 40 writers from a City of Literature that has hundreds of brilliant poets, storytellers and writers is a deadly and impossible task. We called on the help of book fans online and, with a lot of careful thinking, we put together 40 of the books that make up the benches.

“Some of these books have changed the world and all of them are fantastic reads. People shouldn’t just sit on them, but go visit their local library or bookshop and get a copy!”

The benches will remain in the urban gardens until later this year before touring other city locations. The gardens, known as ‘parklets’, have been designed to provide green spaces in the city centre.

Further information

The book benches have been designed to emulate titles that might be found in a New Town home. The selection includes the following 40 books as chosen by the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust:

Fiction

44 Scotland Street (2004) by Alexander McCall Smith

Complicity (1993) by Iain Banks

The Fanatic (2000) by James Robertson

The Game of Kings (1961) by Dorothy Dunnett

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) by Muriel Spark

Trainspotting (1993) by Irvine Welsh

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006) by Maggie O'Farrell

Classic Fiction

Waverley (1814) by Sir Walter Scott

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) by James Hogg

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson

Noctes Ambrosianae (1820 – 1835) by John Wilson et al.

Marriage (1818) by Susan Ferrier

The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771) by Tobias Smollett

Non-fiction

A Treatise of Human Nature (1740) by David Hume 

Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes (1878) by Robert Louis Stevenson 

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Theory of the Earth (1788) by James Hutton

History of the Reformation in Scotland (1586-1587) by John Knox

Mary Queen of Scots (1969) by Antonia Fraser

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh (1948) by Chiang Yee

Curiosities of Crime in Edinburgh (1861) by James McLevy

Royal Edinburgh: Her Saints, Kings, Prophets and Poets (1890) by Margaret Oliphant

Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1786 by James Boswell

Poetry

Robert Fergusson Selected Poems (2007) edited by James Robertson

The Poems of Norman MacCaig (2005) edited by Ewen McCaig

The Ever Green (1724) by Allan Ramsay

The Magicians of Edinburgh(2012) by Ron Butlin

Luckenbooth: An Anthology of Edinburgh Poetry (2007) edited by Lizzie MacGregor

Crime

Body Politic (1997) by Paul Johnston

Fatal Last Words (2009) by Quintin Jardine

Black and Blue (1987) by Ian Rankin

Case Histories (2004) by Kate Atkinson 

Children’s

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) by J.K. Rowling

Fleshmarket (2003) by Nicola Morgan 

Maisie Comes to Morningside (1984) by Aileen Paterson

Greyfriars Bobby (1912) by Eleanor Atkinson 

A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) by Robert Louis Stevenson

Science-Fiction

The Night Sessions (2008) by Ken MacLeod

Player of Games (1989) by Iain M. Banks

Halting State (2007) Charles Stross

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