ONE of the most beautiful books ever published in Scotland will go on sale to the public after its formal launch tomorrow, and inside it readers will find the extraordinary true story of a woman artist who spent her life in near obscurity but whose astonishing artworks are now winning new fans.

Christian Small lived in the village of West Linton for 60 years, and while her family knew that she painted – and even sold a few works “for peanuts” – it was only after her death at the age of 91 in 2016 that the truth emerged. Around 120 photographs of her artworks were found which revealed the breath-taking range and quality of her drawings, watercolours and collages.

Now Small is being championed by admirers determined to make her work better known. Her daughter, Jenny Alldridge, and her lifelong friend – actress, writer and poet Gerda Stevenson – have collaborated on the book Inside & Out, the art of Christian Small, which will be launched in the village tomorrow.

That will be followed in August by an exhibition in the Chambers Institution in Peebles which will display many of Small’s paintings and drawings, especially many of the works that so finely illustrate the book.

It will be the third exhibition of her work, the first just a small display at her funeral and the second that took place in the West Linton Village Centre shortly after her death.

It was that exhibition organised by a family friend which showed just how much people did not know about Christian Small’s art – she never had a proper exhibition in her life and was reluctant to contribute to others “because she didn’t like a fuss,” as her daughter put it.

Yet some had recognised her genius: sculptor Susan White-Oakes said her work was “exceptional” and her drawings “outstanding”.

In an exclusive interview, Jenny Alldridge, designer with Skye Batiks clothing company told The National: “As a result of the exhibitions, the core of her friends and people from the local art club and her family got together to produce the book.

“Gerda, who knew my mum from her earliest days came on board to write the biographical element and on behalf of the family I got involved in the production of the book, writing some of it.

“It was very difficult to write the biographical element because we knew very little about her life. She was intensely private and hated any fuss.

“For instance, she never talked about her father who was a war hero who won the Military Cross but suffered mental illness in later years.

“I think she was not happy a lot of the time, and her art was therapy to her. I think she got lost in her art.

“As far as we know, she never marketed her works for sale, but people managed to persuade her to sell some of her works to them.”

One of those people was Gerda Stevenson, also originally from West Linton, who recently published her second books of poems, Quines, which features a work about Small.

She said: “I remember as a teenager I was so proud to own one of her paintings, which was of dandelions. It was the first painting I ever bought and it is framed above my fireplace to this day. I insisted on paying her a fiver for it from my wages as a waitress at the local Old Bakehouse restaurant, but it’s like gold dust to me now.”

The book, a collaborative labour-of-love effort between the Braveheart actress and Jenny Alldridge along with designer Simon Fraser, has done Christian Small proud. Inside & Out, published by Lyne Press of Skye, goes on sale tomorrow for £12.