Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: the xylothek

the xylothek


Alnarp, Sweden is the home of a unique Wooden Library.

"The wooden library, or xylothek (from the Greek words for tree, xylon, and storing place, theke) consists of 217 volumes describing 213 different species or varieties of trees and shrubs.

A xylothek is generally speaking a collection of simple pieces of wood specimens placed together in some kind of cupboard. In a refined form it is in the shape of "books" where you can find details from the tree inside, everything arranged as a "library". This latter form flourished in Germany around 1790-1810. Four different manufacturers existed and three of them offered their products for sale. The Alnarp collection is an example of that.

Each "book" describes a certain tree species and is made out of the actual wood (the "covers"). The spine is covered by the bark, where mosses and lichens from the same tree are arranged. "Books" of shrubs are covered with mosses with split branches on both covers and spines."

Read more about these exquisite works, and their history and how they came to be in Alnarp, Sweden. View the gorgeous photos by Mikael Risedal - be sure to click on each to view much larger.


(Thanks to wood s lot for this stunning find a while ago. I'm late posting this.)

Marja-Leena | 21/11/2006 | 12 comments
themes: Books, Culture


This is truly a unique way of documenting history that I've never seen before. The craftsmanship is indeed detailed, and it must have taken many painstaking hours to put this collection together.
It's also a discovery and something seldom posted on other Blogs - that's what makes yours so special to me! Amongst the many other talents you have, you are willing to share, and that's very special too.

Roger, glad you enjoyed this. The craftmanship is truly amazing as well as the whole idea of putting together this huge collection. i wish I could go see the real thing. And thanks for the nice praise, but you know that I found this on another blog!

Marja-leena: Wow - these volumes are truly amazing! I'd never heard of this way of documenting trees before -but it makes perfect sense! And the 'books' are so gorgeous - what it must be like to be able to open them and pore over them! It seems like the samples inside would become frail over time, though. Clicking on the thumbnails to reveal more detail was the next best thing to being there in person. Thank you for sharing!

I suppose 'readers' of these would be classed as wood worms.

This just boggles me. How amazing, and thanks, thanks tons for sharing!

Since I've done classes with these people -- -- I have a soft spot in my heart for these kinds of things.

(Suppose that means I'm full of pith. Sorry.)

Jackie: you're welcome, I'm glad you share my enthusisasm for these. You work with wood - can you imagine doing a project like this?

Anna, hehehhe! You are too funny.

Lori, glad you like! I think it's marvellous that you are studying wild plants. Full of pith indeed :-) This knowledge of herbals that our ancestors and natives had is so very important to keep alive and in practice! I need to learn it too. There's so much out there that I don't think I'll ever learn it all in my lifetime - do you know what I mean?

Wow, interesting way to document these trees. I hope they didn't do the same with the local fauna!

Hi Leslee, fauna might be a bit harder to do into books, so let's hope not. Oh and Happy Thanksgiving!!

fauna might be a bit harder to do into books
I'd be all for a return to vellum. Save the trees - kill a sheep!

Dave - yes, hadn't thought of that one! I know vellum was originally made from sheep leather, but I wonder if it is still done anywhere? (By the by, the animal rights folk may disagree, you know.)

What a fascinating topic, and beautiful workmanship on the books. Thanks for sharing. :-)

Hi Michelle! Thanks for visiting and commenting! I'm happy to meet you and visit your interesting health blog, which I've bookmarked to read more.