There you are, sitting in a station in the wee small hours, the last train gone, harsh lights flickering overhead, the quiet of night beyond the platform, nothing to do but wait for the dawn express. What would you like to be reading in those hours, the waiting time? What text would you have with you? This was the question asked by artist Ryan Gander and critic and editor Jonathan P. Watts last year, when they approached some 500 artists, writers, musicians, designers and creatives to produce an A4 page of text or drawing, and annotate it with their thoughts.

It began in an old train station in Saxmundham in Suffolk. says Watts, talking to me from his studio in Norwich as “The Annotated Reader” is installed at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery, where it will remain on the walls until the city-centre gallery closes for refurbishment later in the summer.

“I've worked with Ryan on and off for years,” says Watts, of the conceptual artist based just round the corner from him. “We were initially asked to put an exhibition together for a new gallery space in this rural train station. We didn't have many resources and we needed to get lots of people there to look at the space, so the exhibition really started from the idea of a problem we needed to get around.” It was from this point, and the idea of a long wait for a train – something that those of us who live in the country will probably know a bit about - that the two devised the idea.

Crucially, the artists asked the contributors to annotate their copy too, “to demonstrate their own reading of it. And as soon as we had this second layer, we had possibilities for a simple format that could multiply and point in different directions.” The pair decided to ask 500 artists, because there are 500 sheets in an A4 ream of paper. “We wanted to pin it to the wall, floor to ceiling so that people could tear pieces off and assemble their own anthology. It seemed something generous, people sharing material which had been influential for them, or that they wished they'd seen when they were younger, and generous for the audience too, because they could assemble their own anthology.”

Anthologies, indeed, were part of the inspiration for the form of the work, from Lucy Lippard's annotated “Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 – 1972,” to Anthony Huberman's “Today we should be thinking about...” which charted a six month art project by a San Francisco curator.

And then there was a hitch – somewhat substantial. “The train station burnt down!” says Watts. But they decided to put the exhibition on anyway, launching in October last year in a space on Cork Street in London, to coincide with the Frieze art fair.

The lot now comes to Edinburgh, one stop on a tour that will take in venues as far ranging as Turin, Antwerp, maybe New Zealand, where stacks of each A4 reader will be lined up on the wall, so that visitors can take the pieces they are interested in. The lot will also be available to buy for £5 from a vending machine in the gallery on USB stick, for completists with a large stack of paper in their printer.

The range of texts and drawings is remarkable, the contributions global. The inspirations and topics range widely too. When the work was staged in a train station in Great Yarmouth last year, the station master took the work down, in part on the grounds that one of the pieces, by Abraham Cruzvillegas, was from a text called Demolition (1965) which alluded to demolition and destruction as a creative act – specifically referencing train stations. “I think he thought it was a reflection on his own slightly run-down station,” says Watts, laughing.

Watts has his own favourites amongst the varied texts in the exhibition, from Marina Abramovic's work with students on the physical and mental requirements for being an artist, to the painter Benjamin Brett's annotation of Alain Robbe-Grillet's text, the Dressmaker's Dummy, which he has appended with detailed marginal drawings.

The lot, being held simply in files on a computer, makes for a relatively economical exhibition, says Watts. “When a gallery wants to put it on, we just email them the file,” he says. “They just have to cover the printing costs.” With the Fruitmarket, itself right next to Waverley train station, about to close for restoration and expansion until next year, those who will miss its thought-provoking programme of exhibitions should get down to the gallery now and start ripping paper off the walls – with luck, reading one text a day, the gallery might just be open again by the time you've finished.

The Annotated Reader, The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh, 0131 225 2383, 20 Jun - 14 Jul, Daily 11am - 6pm