Bizarre New Edition of Charles Darwin Book Features First Ever Bacteria-Grown Cover

Charles Darwin
The first ever published copy of Charles Darwin's 'On The Origin Of The Species' is displayed as part of a new exhibition at Down House on February 9, 2009 in Orpington, England. The cover of a new bizarre edition of the classic text is made entirely of bacteria. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Dr Simon Park, a senior lecturer in molecular biology at Surrey University, has created the first ever cover of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species made entirely from bacteria. The seminal text, first published in 1859, laid the foundation of evolutionary biology.

“The pages took a week to grow as a thick (1-2cm) jelly-like wet bacterial mat and then I dried this over a period of two days, to remove the water, and to make the paper-like material. The book has six pages but only the cover is illustrated with bacteria at the moment,” says Park, curator of C-MOULD, the world’s largest collection of microorganisms for use in the arts. He hopes to complete the other pages as part of the ongoing project.

Park chose cellulose because it has the right consistency. Already used in the production of paper and cotton, when dry it can be transformed into organically-created paper. “The idea was to demonstrate a sustainable and alternative process for paper and book production,” he adds.

Park maintains that the book made entirely from bacteria is a first.

Last week, it was on display at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, an event exploring “the fertile space where science meets the arts.”

Creative Director of the Festival Amanda Tyndal welcomed Park’s participation, as part of the exhibition exposing members of the public to “a variety of mediums from the purely visual to hands on activity.”

“I think that people were initially shocked by the fact something aesthetically appealing could be made from a life form that usually provokes revulsion, but then there's a slow understanding and realisation of the many other positive processes that bacteria contribute to,” Park tells Newsweek.

The question now is whether others will follow suit in publishing books made from bacteria. Only time will tell if this trend continues to grow.