Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” is, quite literally, lit. A new version of the book from French designers Super Terrain appears to have black pages at first glance, but the words reveal themselves when the reader holds a flame near.
“This week our colleagues from Super Terrain are working in the Lab as a last stop on their all-over-Europe printing adventures,” the Charles Nypels Lab at Netherlands-based Jan van Eyck Academie shared on their Instagram last month. “They showed us this remarkable book they made ‘Fahrenheit 451.’”
Bradbury’s novel, published in 1953, tells the story of a dystopian American society that outlaws books and burns any that it finds. The title is meant to reference the temperature at which paper starts to burn, but that’s a point of contention in the scientific community. Super Terrain’s version of the book encourages the reader to burn the book for themselves, a somewhat curious design choice considering the novel doesn’t exactly support the idea of burning books.
Thermochromic materials, which change color as temperature changes, are nothing new. Duracell batteries use them to show how much charge is left, while some thermometers use them to indicate how hot a patient’s forehead is. Some use liquid crystals to shift along the color spectrum, as the crystals moving further apart or closer together the light rays interfere in different ways. Others use leuco dyes, organic chemicals that shift between two different structures.
In fact, you probably see leuco dyes all the time. Try burning the receipt in your pocket, which was most likely printed on thermal paper!
Super Terrain’s use of color-changing materials is a novel approach to the, er, novel. It’s not the first time a designer has experimented with “Fahrenheit 451”, though. In 2013, graphic artist Elizabeth Perez designed a cover that contained a match in place of the “1,” with striking paper along the spine. It’s an easy way of burning the book after reading, although it does mean you can only show your friends the trick once.
See Super Terrain’s burning book in action here: