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Chapter 6 : Reflections on Cellulolysis
This chapter deals with the reflections on cellulolysis by narrating the experiences of Henry Tribe and Christian Nees von Esenbeck. Henry Tribe lifted a cardboard box containing a bottle of Turkish liqueur called Yeni Raki from his minicellar. He discovered that the lower side of the box had been colonized and degraded by a fungus. The interior of the bottom part of the box was softened and covered with the ascomata of Myxotrichum chartarum. While this was the first report of M. chartarum attacking such a tough target, the organism was discovered and named by Esenbeck who devoted most of his life to the study of fungi and algae, found it on writing paper and described its capacity to degrade the paper as a substrate. Its appearance in Henry Tribe’s wine cellar was no doubt associated with the fact that his so-called minicellar was in fact simply the space under the floorboards. Other authors have reported finding the organism in rich organic soil, plant debris, and dung from herbivores. Readers of this chapter are suggested to tear a small piece out of a newspaper, lay it on some damp soil in a plant pot, and keep it moist and warm for several weeks. The paper would gradually disintegrate and eventually disappear completely as it would be attacked by animalcules from the soil.