The “Future Library” Is Planting Trees–And Ideas–For Books That Won’t Be Read Until 2114

Who says print is dead? A hundred years from now, the trees and text–by authors like Margaret Atwood–will be bound into a book (instructions on how to print a book, included).

If slow food and slow fashion were answers to McDonald’s and Forever 21, maybe this book is an answer to the Internet: Each word inside it won’t be seen for 100 years.


The Future Library, an art project based in Norway, is planting 1,000 spruce saplings in a forest outside Oslo this year. Every year, an author will contribute text that goes directly into a time capsule in the Oslo Library, unread. In 2114, the trees and text will finally be turned into a book.

“The idea to grow trees to print books arose for me through making a connection with tree rings to chapters–the material nature of paper, pulp, and books, and imagining the writer’s thoughts infusing themselves, ‘becoming’ the trees,” says artist Katie Paterson, who created the project.

Since it’s quite possible that books made of trees won’t exist in 100 years, the project also includes a printing press, along with periodic lessons over the coming decades so each generation still knows how to use it.

A small room in the Oslo Library will hold the texts, allowing people to sit nearby and read the titles, but nothing else. It will be made from trees cleared from the forest to plant the saplings–still, at least in the beginning, containing the scent of the trees.

Atelier Oslo and Lund Hagem

“The atmosphere is key in our design, aiming to create a sense of quietude, peacefulness, a contemplative space which an allow the imagination to journey to the forest, the trees, the writing, the deep time, the invisible connections, the mystery,” Paterson says.

And though cutting down a forest might not seem very environmentally friendly, the project will protect an area that might otherwise have be cleared much earlier–and more importantly, it’s a reminder that our decisions now can clearly affect people a century from now.


“In its essence, Future Library is hopeful–it believes there will be a forest, a book, and a reader in 100 years,” Paterson says. “The choices of this generation will shape the centuries to come, perhaps in an unprecedented way.”

The first text, by Margaret Atwood, will be contributed this year.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.