State Library of Victoria \ Inside a dog
Skip to main content

Skin & Ink: Literary Tattoos

Dec 19,2013
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Our futures stretch ahead of us like blank pages. Our pasts are closed chapters; pages full to bursting with recorded events, with people, with days and nights and thoughts and fancies.

Some people like to take a scrap of those pages with them into the future, permanently scribbled on the canvas of their skin.

Literary quotations make great tattoos; image tatts can be pretty hit-and-miss (click here for some examples) but it’s pretty hard for the artist to stuff up actual writing. I find myself craning to read tattoos on stranger’s skin.  I’m interested in the words that you choose to carry with you, like a gravestone epitaph you’re wearing prematurely. This is what is important to me, the subtext reads.

 It’s a lasting tribute to your favourite authors, to the most iconic illustrations, to those books that just came along at the right time and took up residence in a little nook of your soul. Having the actual words of a genius wordsmith forever scratch onto your outsides could be pretty inspiring, too. Like a reminder penned on your palm – buy milk, renew library books, make that doctor’s appointment – a literary tattoo could be just the everyday reminder your heart needs to beat on.

Here are some of the best literary tattoos I've come across!

 

Watership Down

The quote is actually the last line from the book. The colouring in this is just gorgeous.

 

Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll's Alice tales are some of my perennial favourites, and they make for brilliant tattoos, since they're ripe with well-known quotes, illustrations and imagery.

 

Peter Pan

One of the loveliest and most recognisable quotes from all of children's literature. I like the simple font, too.

 

The Lord of the Rings

Classic fantasy makes for some super geeky tatts.

 

Edgar Allan Poe

Isn't this a brilliant representation of my beloved EAP? To be honest, I think he was kinda handsome in a gloomy, sickly way.

 

T.S. Eliot

This line is from 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. Go read it now if you haven't - it's full of strong images such as this one.

 

Harry Potter

A fantastic tattoo source, since there's hundreds of things to choose from to incorporate onto your skin. Potter tattoos can get super creative, too, such as these clever black light ones, which are made with special UV-reactive ink.

Of course, there are plenty more out there! Share your finds in the comments!

Would you ever get a literary tattoo? What quote or book-related image would you choose?

Dec 21,2013

The movie design is really cool. But Death Eater tattoos are so evil, though! 

The best HP tattoo to get would be a small spell incantation (like Lumos) or a tiny lightning bolt, methinks!

Dec 20,2013

Hah... Lumos.

I think that if I did get a tattoo it would ultimately be literary, but I'm not sure if I want a tattoo of any sort. 

The ones above are all great, but there's so much to choose from... Something obscure, probably, if I had to choose, a reference only a fellow fan would get. I don't know. There is a part of me that thinks a Death Eater tattoo would be kind of awesome though...

Post new Comment

All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Please be patient - we're keen to know what you think and will get to your comment as fast as we can.