Permanent Ink: Tattoos for Readers

Alison Morris - July 10, 2008

I’m very entertained by the idea of this temporary tattoo booklet from You can view a close-up of one of these beauties at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories or click on the photo below to see smaller versions of all the tats to be found in this booklet.

Most of the tattoos in this booklet, though, aren’t half as interesting or entertaining as the real-world booklover tattoos I’ve seen. Max from Where the Wild Things Are brandishes a fork on my friend Tim Scarlett’s ankle. My pal Janet Potter has a beatiful ampersand on her hip. As I mentioned once before, lexicographer/editor Steve Kleineder has the phonetic alphabet chart tattooed on his back. (Not that I’ve seen it, mind you.)

A search for "tattoos" and "book" on Flickr yields a clever Vonnegut salute, and (holy cow!) a winner in the Connect-the-Dots category. There’s also an open book, splayed pages, books on a shelf, a fiery typewriter, a reference to To Kill a Mockingbird, a tribute to Snape, Harriet the Spy (!), an ant traveling by tesseract, another ampersand fan, and (my favorite) an image adapted from the cover of Ann Fadiman’s Ex Libris.

We book lovers are so attached to the objects of our passion that it make sense to me that some of us would want to wear those objects in a literal, permanent fashion. Are you one of those folks? Or do you WISH you were brave enough to be? If so tell us about your real-life book tattoos, dream-life book tattoos, or book tattoo sightings. 

17 thoughts on “Permanent Ink: Tattoos for Readers

  1. jesseja

    why not put temporary tattoos of book covers in new books so you could advertise what you’re reading if you choose to? great marketing.

  2. Reka

    I was a huge Nancy Drew fan as a kid, so when I went to get my first tattoo I brought in one of the original blue and orange hardcovers from the 1930s and had Nancy’s silhouette, the one with the cloche had and bias-cut dress, tattooed on my arm. My favorite thing about it is that people of all ages recognize that it’s Nancy and get bright-eyed as they tell me how much they love the books. I would love to get a Moomin tattoo one of these days, but I haven’t really figured out what or where. My cat is called Little My, though, so perhaps that’s enough.

  3. maroon mouse

    Intruigingly enough, the owner of that connect-the-dots tattoo *works* in kids’ books — that’s Colleen Venable from Roaring Brook. Proof, I think, that kids’ book people really ARE the coolest….

  4. Anne

    I have a book tattoo – Shelley Jackson published her short story ‘Skin’ in the form of tattoos, one word per person and I’m one of her words!

  5. writeroffthelake

    Ahhhh…if that phonetic alphabet was a braille alphabet instead, you could read it instead of seeing it. Hummmm…maybe an idea for a character in a future novel. [Mind: make note of that!]

  6. writeroffthelake

    I LOVE the idea of the temporary tattoos in the book covers of new books. I’d DEFINITELY wear them (yes, I have worn temp tattoos and have been looking for more), but only for the books I like. Sure beats the usual bookmark, of which I have enough of for the rest of this life time, thank you.

  7. Davida

    I have an ex libris plate with an open book, tiny devil and pen on the inside of my bicep. The woman who did a small tattoo on my back had one of the greatest book tattoos I’ve seen before a since – the cover illustration from Still Life with Woodpecker on her thigh.

  8. Mary

    Alison, you should get the hookup, as I did, from your sister-store. I bought the Illustrated Librarian tattoo book from the Brookline Booksmith. For me, that’s as close as I get to permanent ink.

  9. Stephanie

    O, I love seeing other people’s book tattoos. I have several, and I ended up writing so much that I turned it into a blog entry! (Can’t put in a link, but I am bookavore.)

  10. Cover To Cover

    we have made temp tattoos a couple of times with the permission of artists Calef Brown and Marla Frazee, and our logo and phone. Super cute! If I were to ever get permanent ink it would be either Snowy in his space suit or Moomintroll.

  11. xmassheep

    Could you perhaps let me know/ask my permission in future if you are going to link to my flickr page? I actually had a set for these pictures with a disclaimer on regarding the copyright of the images as I’m a little uncertain of the image rights and don’t wish to be sued. Thanks

  12. ShelfTalker

    xmassheep, Sorry! I came across your photos via a keyword search, which took me to individual images rather than the actual set, which means I never saw your disclaimer. I’ve taken out the link and will definitely get your permission before linking to any of your pics in the future.

  13. xmassheep

    Hey, no problems. You could have kept the link – I was just worried about not showing the disclaimer which is why I commented. Such is life (and keyword searches!)

  14. Kirsty

    I’m really looking forward to getting a book tattoo. Want an open book on my ankle or maybe wrist. The ones above are great! It’ll be my third tattoo and I really want it to be something personal.


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