An Exploration of Literary Tattoos [NSFW]

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The world of literary tattoos is surprisingly large, yet it remains relatively niche. Sure, there was Shelly Jackson’s SKIN project about five years back, but otherwise it’s fairly infrequent that we hear about the two worlds intersecting. That’s why when Penguin announced Penguin Ink, their re-covering of several classic (or modern classic) novels with cover art from leading tattoo artists (including the now epically badass-looking Bridget Jones’ Diary ,) it whet our appetite for more book/tatt intersection. Thanks to online communities like Bookworms With Ink and Contrariwise (as well as good old Flickr), we were able to not just satiate but gorge on skin ink of the bookish variety both good… and bad. We had a few caveats: no Harry Potter, no Twilight, and no Alice In Wonderland. Every single one of those has been done to death. Some of our favorites both highbrow and lowbrow (as well as a few very NSFW) after the cut.

The Highbrow:

David Mitchell’s literary tour-de-force Cloud Atlas translated into a gorgeous piece of body art.

A cute, fitting nod to Beatrix Potter

This visual homage to Oscar Wilde’s Salome has us wanting to see more.

A simple, well-designed nod to Joyce is always in fashion.

One of many The Little Prince tatts we came across, but one of our favorites. Again, simplicity and elegance win out every time.

This C.S. Lewis quote is made all the better by the hanging comma, a comment on where the tattoo ends and the sentence continues. Note to those looking to get literary tattoos: the more of a grammar and punctuation nerd you are, the better. Commas are sexy.

There are many, many Shel Silverstein tattoos out there. We’re fans of this one of his Missing Piece.

The Lowbrow:

OK, sure this is supposed to be a nod to Vonnegut, but, dude, it looks like a fire hydrant. Sorry.

A codex from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. It was her second choice. Her first was a caricature of James Patterson.

We know that’s supposed to be a mockingjay from the new YA megaseries The Hunger Games. Everyone else is going to think you spilled something.

He has some long explanation for this involving a Rimbaud poem and his girlfriend’s lips. How unfortunate.

Oh, wait, wait….you’re a redhead? And so you’re getting that line from “Ariel” on your back? You’ll so be the coolest kid in gym class.

It’s a line from “Invictus,” which is pretty classy. You, ma’am, are obviously not.

We’re debating what Shakespeare would find more upsetting: this tattoo or Sarah Palin’s recent comparison of herself to him.

And finally…

Peaches Geldof’s “Disappear Here” tattoo, a nod to Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, appears to be written in Old English. And that’s about the nicest thing we can say about it… or her.

What literary tattoo(s) do you have, or would you get? Tell us in the comments.

Special thanks to Elana Roth, Helena Fitzgerald, and Marley Magaziner for assistance.