I’ve uploaded a set of photographs of my day in the archives at the Kew Museum of Economic Botany’s archive of their Museum No. 4., the Museum of British Forestry, opened to the public in 1910 at Cambridge Cottage. I went round with Caroline Cornish – who writes on Colonial Forestry and Circuits of Display, and has also introduced the museum’s collections here. My specific interest was in the classification and labelling changes, which is why I took so many photos of competing nomenclature on bits of wood. This is also linked to the shift in focus of the forestry exhibition as the nature of forestry as a discipline shifted between colonial display, timber processes, botany and natural science, etc. The specific name for this kind of wood library is ‘xylarium’ and there are others around the world.

A selection of my early photos are of the Japanese wood-books in the collection, currently believed to be of pedagogical use. Simon Schama in Landscape and Memory discusses the German versions of these books (p. 19) which are fabricated from their own subject matter, with literal leaves and folios, and might be kept in a xylotheque (another kind of wood compendium). Modern versions of this include Anselm Kiefer’s ‘The Cauterization of the Rural District of Buchen’ (1974, a scorched wood-book), and even Ronald King’s ‘Log Book’ from Circle Press (1995).

anselm kiefer cauterization

Anselm Kiefer, ‘The Cauterization of the Rural District of Buchen’

The photo set is available here and includes old photos of the original forestry museum (in which pieces of wood were at one point arranged like books, and said to have ‘spines’), as well as a photo of the tray of items David Nash was consulting the day I was in, at the beginning of his Kew residency.


~ by amycutler on December 9, 2012.

One Response to “Xylarium”

  1. […] not be able to include these (the wood specimens are amazing things and can be seen in my photos here). The same goes for some of the items from the Epping Forest archives, which include an antique […]

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