Collection of wood samples in book form (‘xylotheque’), c 1845

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
1800 - 1849
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Books are made of paper, and paper somehow consists of wood. But when samples of wood are disguised as a book, it’s not a biblio-que, but a xylo-theque.

The entry book for the ‘cabinet of manufactory products’ has a registry of ‘800 samples of indigenous and foreign woods, contained in 80 small book slipcases in 8 red cardboard boxes in book form’. The ‘nature of the acquisition’ and therefore the circumstances surrounding the acquisition are unknown. A handwritten directory specifies the individual species of wood and dates the collection to January 1845. Listed on the last two pages are 36 other wood samples that were added in the years after 1845.

There is evidence that plant collections (herbaria) have been compiled since the Middle Ages for the purposes of natural history studies. Wood collections in book form date back to the 18th century. They were modelled on the ‘cabinets of natural specimens’ popular around that time. The underlying objective was to document existing wood species systematically and showcase them in a way that was appealing. Forest management was to be improved as a result; indeed, given the growing demand for timber from many trades and industries, new approaches to silviculture were now being sought.

Besides the wood sample itself, the ‘books’ in the xylotheques preserved to this day also contain other tree parts such as seeds, leaves and twigs. The collection at the Technisches Museum Wien differs from this version insofar as it is comprised merely of small wooden boards. On the plus side, the designations would seem to indicate that the samples themselves originate from all the world’s continents. Besides ‘standard woods’ such as oak, larch and pine there are also exotic woods such as pomegranate, coconut, sandalwood, teak and even a chunk of ‘beef wood’ (manilkara kauki or brown ebony). This wood derives its bizarre name from the colour tone of the freshly cut timber. And so the collection as a whole offers an unusually broad spectrum.

Date of origin: c 1845

Inv.Nr. 3401/1

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