Is this the pre-order of all time?

The wheels of traditional publishers can grind exceedingly slow, with the lead time between completion of a novel and publication often a year at least, but the great Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is writing a new work that won’t be published for another century.

It’s not the fault of a slow-moving publisher though, as Atwood is the first writer to contribute to Future Library, which is a new public artwork by Scottish artist Katie.

Each year from 2014 to 2114, the Future Library Trust is to invite a writer to contribute a new text to a growing collection of unpublished, unread manuscripts.

The City of Oslo has donated a forest in Nordmarka just outside the city and in May this year, Katie Paterson planted 1,000 new trees. The plan is that in 100 years, the trees should be cut down to provide the paper on which the texts will be printed as an anthology of books in 2114.

I wonder whether printed books will be a novelty in 100 years time, or whether the industry and expertise needed to print books will have been lost.

Atwood’s manuscript is scheduled to be handed over next May and she says,“I am very honoured and happy to be part of this endeavor. Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”

Katie Paterson says: “I imagine Margaret Atwood’s words growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialized, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book.”

The manuscripts will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the new Deichmanske Public Library opening in 2018 in Oslo. The room has been designed by Patterson and will be lined with wood from the forest. The authors’ names and titles of their works will be on display, but none of the manuscripts will be available for reading until their publication in a century.

More details about the project can be found at Future Library.