A genetic storage device has been used to "download" all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets on to strands of synthetic DNA.
Scientists were then able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.
The same technique made it possible to store a 26 second excerpt from Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech and a photo of the Cambridgeshire laboratory where the work took place.
Researchers were also able to turn a copy of Watson and Crick's paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.
The landmark study paves the way to storing huge amounts of data using the same method evolved by Nature to write the "Book of Life".
Theoretically, 100 million hours of high definition video could be stored in a cupful of DNA - equivalent to every film and TV programme ever created.
Unlike magnetic tape, which degrades within a decade, DNA is a hardy material that can last for tens of thousands of years. A DNA archive also requires no constant supply of electric power, as do hard disks.
For their experiment, the British scientists employed a California-based company to create strands of artificial DNA that corresponded to their coding instructions.
The end result was a small test-tube the size of a little finger containing a tiny amount of dry dusty material. This was the DNA, which was then "read" and decoded to reproduce the original files.
Details of the technique are described in the journal Nature.