The Living Mountain
Special Edition
Susie Leiper

A beautifully illustrated, handwritten edition of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, a text that blazed the trail for nature writing, by award-winning calligrapher and painter Susie Leiper

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In this stunning calligraphic edition of The Living Mountain, Susie Leiper breathes new life into Nan Shepherd’s seminal outdoor classic.

Nan Shepherd walked the Cairngorms. Susie Leiper writes the Cairngorms. Leiper has taken Shepherd’s timeless account, an exceptional early example of nature writing, and written it entirely by hand. Few people today have the skill or tenacity to copy out a complete text, ‘walking’ the pages, and bringing them to life. Leiper senses a parallel between the meditative act of sustained writing and the steady rhythmical movement of walking.

Written by Shepherd during World War II, The Living Mountain reads like a love letter to the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland; Shepherd describes her wanderings in the mountains with great sensuality, mediating on the landscape and the strength and inspiration that come from communing with nature. Leiper’s beautiful calligraphy and organic, abstract illustrations match the text’s essential quality, adding another layer of richness and texture to this important and evocative work of art.

In The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd treats the mountain as a metaphor for life, with a compelling enthusiasm for both its physical and philosophical attraction. ‘To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain.’ She aims not for the summit, but explores the Cairngorm plateau through all her senses, examining rock, air and light, flower, bird and man: ‘all … aspects of one entity, the living mountain’.

A passion for mountains and a career as a calligrapher and painter lie behind Susie’s desire to create a magnum opus: her own edition of The Living Mountain. The unjustified columns of soft grey text are punctuated by silver paragraph breaks, the oil-painted illustrations a set of abstractions and playful renderings of salient words and phrases. The restrained design and palette of each spread reflect the brutish starkness of the Cairngorms.


280 × 225mm
240 pages

Clothbound hardcover with head and tail bands

Presented inside a clothbound slipcase

Printed ribbon

Deluxe edition includes
4 signed prints, 270 × 215mm, and signed tip-in

How it works

If our funding goal is met before GMT this project will commence development. All pledges will be immediately refunded in full if the funding goal is not met.

Estimated delivery

Winter 2024


Tracked worldwide

I’ve admired Susie Leiper’s calligraphic art for almost as long as I’ve loved Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. To see these two rivers of creative power meet and mingle in this new Volume edition is, simply, thrilling.

Robert Macfarlane, award-winning author
This sumptuous edition of The Living Mountain includes a specially commissioned cover and slipcase; both are clothbound, with a simple but thoughtful design that mimics the natural, textural aesthetic of the book itself. A ribbon, printed with Leiper’s striking lettering, completes the package.
Inside the book, Susie Leiper’s stunning calligraphy is rendered in a soft organic grey, punctuated with silver bullet points – paragraph breaks that ask the reader to pause, like rocks on a trail. The illustrations – a mixture of ‘word-pictures’ that introduce the chapters, and artworks that depict and abstract the shapes, sights and details of the landscape – draw out the text’s sensuality.

Lengthy transcriptions are immersive ... The hand of Susie Leiper opens a path through the entirety of Nan Shepherd’s classic Cairngorms memoir The Living Mountain and it’s as if we paced the landscape right behind her.

Elizabeth James, Senior Librarian, National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The deluxe edition comes with a signed tip-in, as well as a selection of four exquisite prints (270 × 215mm) chosen and signed by Leiper herself. The four artworks have been selected to mix colours and subjects to depict the range of textures, abstracted shapes and word-pictures from inside the book. Beautiful and intriguing, they offer the viewer a fresh perspective, whether viewed singularly or as a set.

… the overall impression is one of poetry … and of exquisite delicacy in the making.

Duncan Macmillan, The Scotsman

For serious collectors, the original book is also available. Six years in the making, this splendid art object contains Leiper’s authentic calligraphy and oil-painted illustrations. The complete text has been meticulously handwritten across 232 pages and bound in six separate volumes, each with stunning exposed binding and housed in its own six-walled clamshell box, lined with white felt and finished with foil blocking. The spines are lined with hand-coloured Japanese tissue paper, each in a different colour – evoking the earthy hues of the Cairngorms, from the slate of the rock to the purple of the heather. The book boards themselves contain different but complementary designs: shapes and lines that speak to the abstract illustrations within, rendered in a mixture of debossing, embossing and hand tooling in blind; some are even highlighted with silver palladium leaf. This fine material is also used for the bullet points that serve as paragraph breaks in the main text; turn your head and they seem to leap from the page, transforming from a deep lead into a shimmering silver. 

Meet the artist

As a calligrapher and painter, Susie Leiper undertook her formal training as a scribe on the Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten, illuminated bible for more than five hundred years. The discipline required to be a scribe blossomed into a freedom that allowed her to take calligraphy and painting to a new level, to work on formal commissions such as letters patent for the House of Lords, and to combine lettering and painting on everything from vast walls and canvases to tiny tablets and artist books. She lives and works in Edinburgh.