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Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them Hardcover – October 7, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 57 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews


“Oh my god, this gorgeous, gorgeous book. It will, like its subject, alter you permanently. We sometimes forget: each tattoo has its story. Many are lovingly recorded here--from the wicked to the profound to the ridiculous. This gorgeous, gorgeous book perfectly chronicles the stories that we wear on our skin.” ―Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists

“For anybody who ever looked at a stranger's tattoo and wondered why?, Pen & Ink offers a gorgeous, hilarious, and moving Because. In its pages, the most amateurish, outlandish, and bizarre tattoos become portals into their owners' lives and dreams. In the process, they become beautiful.” ―Peter Trachtenberg, author of Seven Tattoos

“In Pen & Ink, Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton have captured the fascinating stories people secret beneath their skin, how they have marked their skin and why. The revelations in this remarkable collection are, in turns, poignant, charming, heartbreaking, and honest. Like tattoos, these stories leave an impression that will linger.” ―Roxane Gay

“Inspired . . . Drawn in a whimsical, tender style, MacNaughton's portraits are captivating in their intimacy . . . Without judgment or regret, this emotionally raw collection, featuring an introduction by Cheryl Strayed, explores how we find permanence in an impermanent world.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Kitschy, hipster . . . MacNaughton's drawings are lovely . . . . The book is charming . . . enchanting. This is a title that readers can leaf through a little at a time, savoring the illustrations, or perhaps devour in one sitting.” ―Library Journal

“[One of] the best art books of 2014.” ―Huffington Post

“The real reasons people get tattoos.” ―Flavorwire, 25 Must-Read Books for the Fall

“Fascinating . . . Gorgeous.” ―Mother Jones

“Each ink drawing is a secret story. What I love most about this book is that it doesn't cover just huge sleeves and complicated tattoos, it also honors the newly popular (again) art of poke-and-stick tattoos.” ―Design*Sponge, Best Illustrated Books

Pen & Ink is absolutely delightful from cover to cover.” ―Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

“Beautifully illustrated . . . More than a keepsake for tattoo enthusiasts; it is an artifact of diverse, deeply human histories, like the cave paintings of Lascaux or an illuminated manuscript, a compilation of intimate knowledge we can only hope to see continued in the future.” ―Shelf Awareness

“Illustrator and visual storyteller Wendy MacNaughton--she of extraordinary sensitivity to the human experience--and editor Isaac Fitzgerald catalog the wild, wicked, wonderfully human stories behind people's tattoos. . . . The stories--sometimes poetic, sometimes political, always deeply personal--brim with the uncontainable, layered humanity that is MacNaughton's true medium.” ―Brain Pickings' Best Art, Design & Photography Books of 2014

Pen & Ink takes a brilliant concept--hey, what's the story behind your tattoo?--and brings it to life with MacNaughton's vivid illustrations and BuzzFeed Books editor Fitzgerald's knack for getting true, fantastic stories . . . The collected portraits are funny and sometimes heartbreaking, and they show human nature and experience in all its endearing colors.” ―Flavorwire, "The Year's Most Beautiful and Interesting Art Books"

Pen & Ink reads like a good book of poetry, like an illustrated sonnet sequence. It makes literature out of the experience of tattoos without being . . . precious, or pretentious, or opaque, or ugly. This book is as strong and weird and reckless and smart as the people in it.” ―The Drunken Odyssey

“The second my eyes met the beautiful drawings I was in love.” ―Conz Preti, on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

“Reveal[s] the often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories behind these permanent remnants of our fleeting opinions, passions and phases.” ―O, The Oprah Magazine on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

“New favorite Tumblr.” ―Maria Popova, @brainpicker on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

About the Author

Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and been given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. He has also written for McSweeney's, Mother Jones, and The San Francisco Chronicle. He is the editor of BuzzFeed Books. Visit him at and follow him @isaacfitzgerald. He lives in New York City.

Wendy MacNaughton is a New York Times bestselling illustrator whose books include Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, and whose work has appeared in places like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lucky Peach, and Print Magazine. Visit her at and follow her @wendymac. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.14 pounds
  • Hardcover : 144 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1620404907
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1620404904
  • Product Dimensions : 7.43 x 0.76 x 8.77 inches
  • Publisher : Bloomsbury USA; F First Edition (October 7, 2014)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 57 ratings

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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
57 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on November 12, 2014
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 3, 2015
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Kathryn Boler
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2015
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1.0 out of 5 stars This has got to be the biggest waste of six pounds in have ever spent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 18, 2015
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