Wooden Books of Padova University – San Vito di Cadore, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Wooden Books of Padova University

San Vito di Cadore, Italy

While most books are made of wood, these wooden books are truly made of, and all about wood. 


Once a collection of roughly a hundred, nearly half of these rare wooden books have been lost or destroyed since their creation in the late 1700s or early 1800s, leaving only 56 of these amazing objects.

What is particularly curious about these books is that while most books are made of wood, pulped into paper, these books are both about trees and constructed of them; their construction and contents are truly one and the same. Each volume is about a different species of tree, with its cover made from the wood of that tree, showing both wood radial, longitudinal, and cross profiles. And on each spine is a section of the tree’s bark.

Inside are the book’s contents - but rather than paper describing the tree, each book holds bits of the tree itself. Seedlings, leaves, roots, sawdust, charcoal, flowers, and seeds are all fastened in place and numbered. Each book is accompanied by a handwritten piece of parchment with a legend explaining what each sample is.

While it would have been impossible for them to know this in the early 1800s, collecting these samples in this way was far better than simply writing or drawing accounts of the trees. As modern science can now read the DNA contained in these samples - and see the blueprint for the trees themselves - each of these strange wooden books contains more information then 10,000 pages of prose ever could have.

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December 16, 2009

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