Wednesday 23 April 2014

The Xylothek - A Wooden Library

I have to admit that up until recently I had never heard of a Xylothek or xylotheque though I did have a clue, recognising the  'theque'  part,  put me in mind of  'bibliotheque'  originally from Ancient Greek βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothēkēbook-room).  And the xylon from the Greek xylon for "wood". So there you have it .... Wood library, how could  WeirdWood  not investigate that subject further !

But just as a library is something more than merely a collection of books, a xylotheque is something more than just a collection of wood. Almost all developed countries with worries about their flora have at least one xylotheque with their flora and one with flora from other places in the world.
The xylotheque with the largest number of samples is the Samuel James Record Collection of the Forestry School of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, which houses 60,000 samples. The second largest xylotheque belongs to the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. As of September 2004, it had 57,165 samples.The Thünen Institute of Wood Research in Hamburg has more than 37,000 samples.

The Schildbach Xylotheque of the Ottoneum (Natural History Museum) in Kassel (Hesse, Germany).

Wooden libraries - xylotheque or xylothek, flourished for a short period in history, around 1790-1810, mainly in Germany. They were a further elaboration of the cabinets of natural curiosities that were common during the 18th century, and consisted of simple pieces of wood specimens placed together in some kind of cupboard. In a refined form it took the shape of "books" where you could find details from the tree inside and arranged as a "library".

Each "book" describes a certain tree species and is made out of the actual wood for the covers. The spine is covered by the bark, mosses and lichens from the same tree are arranged inside. "Books" of shrubs are covered with mosses with split branches on both covers and spines.
Inside there are dried leaves, flowers, fruits, seedlings, a piece of the root, and cut branches.  In a compartment inside the spine lies a delicately written description of the tree, its biology and its practical use.

Below is another xylothek of a different style ~ this one seems a bit rougher, but still beautiful in its own unique way.

I think these wooden books are stunning, what great things to have displayed in a book case by themselves, real tactile educational tools.

I like to think that in a way the WeirdWood Blog is a Xylotheque, but in cyber format   :-)


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