The Symbiosis Book goes digital!

Many thanks to the staff and students at the herbarium, who helped to digitise The Symbiosis Book last week. The book was part of the Symbiosis Project, and is made of 15 large sheets of cotton paper, folded to form 30 pages. Some pages have artwork on both sides, some only on one. The book pages are neither flat nor entirely 2D; the decision to collage artwork and lichen on one side of a page or both was taken with structural integrity and longevity in mind. Given that more than 250 people have now turned the book’s pages, its holding up well! This did create certain issues with digitisation, however… if some pages appear to be at something of an angle, there’s probably a lichen collage hiding on the other side. The slide show below shows all the pages containing art, and the book covers, hand-stitched by Beth Coin, our artisan book-binder.

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Pages hand-dyed by Scott Mantooth in Knoxville (USA), are interspersed with plain pages guarded with tracing paper, and occasionally the ‘flimsy’ used in preparing lichen specimens. The artists represented in the book include; Immy Smith (UK – thats me!), Scott Mantooth (USA), Marcel Bakker (Netherlands), Michelle Anderst (USA), Chris Voyce (UK), Veronique Robigou (USA), artists from The Move Up Project @ The Rising Sun Arts Centre (UK), Shoei Japanese College Choir (UK & Japan). Many more artists contributed to the luggage tags in The Symbiosis Exhibition, and the staff of herbarium RNG and EMLab at the University of Reading contributed their time, equipment and expertise in constructing the book and images in it. This truly was a global project, with the book materials travelling over 8000 miles. Full details of the project, a complete list of contributing artists and collaborators, and future book appearances can be found on the Imagining Science website. You can also see a video of me talking about the book pages here!  To leaf through the book at your own pace just click on any of the images in the gallery below.

About Immy

I'm an artist and former neuroscientist, and I'm a visiting artist at Herbarium RNG at the University of Reading, UK. I'm interested in natural forms and textures, and the overlaps between biological images and surreal art. You can see more of my work at and and I'm @DrImmySmith on Twitter. I'm part of a science-art collaborative group called 'Imagining Science' and you can find out more at
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