Anthropodermic bibliopegy

Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books in human skin. Though uncommon in modern times, the technique dates back to at least the 17th century.

History

Surviving historical examples of this technique include anatomy texts bound with the skin of dissected cadavers, volumes created as a bequest and bound with the skin of the testator, and copies of judicial proceedings bound in the skin of the murderer convicted in those proceedings, such as the Red Barn Murder.

The libraries of many Ivy League universities include one or more samples of anthropodermic bibliopegy. The rare book collection at the Langdell Law Library at Harvard University holds a book, "Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae", a treaty of Spanish law. A faint inscription on the last page of the book states:

(The Wavuma are believed to be an African tribe from the region currently known as Zimbabwe.)

The John Hay Library's special books collection at Brown University contains three human-skin books, including a rare copy of "De Humani Corporis Fabrica" by Vesalius.

Some early copies of Dale Carnegie's Lincoln the Unknown were covered with jackets containing a patch of skin from an African American man, onto which the title had been embossed. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/02/26/DD3HV8EPO.DTL San Francisco Chronicle] ]

Fiction and legend

It was commonly believed for a time that prominent Nazis, such as Ilsa Koch, had commissioned the creation of items from the skin of victims of the Holocaust, including books and lampshades. However, no lampshades or books bound in human skin have ever been found, and in the absence of evidence the claim is now held to be an urban legend. The Nazis are known to have taken and preserved individual pieces of skin, chiefly those sections displaying tattoos; several examples of such can be found within the collections of the National Museum of Health and Medicine and the National Archives, although neither institution places these items on display.

The binding of books in human skin is also a common element within horror films and works of fiction.

Peter Greenaway's 1996 film "The Pillow Book" contains a sequence in which the body of a writer is exhumed and his skin painstakingly tanned, written upon, and bound into a book.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2006/01/07/some_of_nations_best_libraries_have_books_bound_in_human_skin/ "Some of nation's best libraries have books bound in human skin", Associated Press story]
* [http://www.bostonathenaeum.org/highwayman.html 'The Highwayman' at the Boston Athenaeum bound in its author's skin]
* [http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/News-archive/Browse-by-date/2001/Features/WTX024047.htm A book bound in human skin acquired by the Wellcome Library]
* [http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/section-item.asp?sid=12&iid=2240 Another example of a book bound in human skin, with image.]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/south_yorkshire/7115174.stm 'Spooky' face on skin-bound book] . BBC News, 27 November 2007.
* [http://www.weirdnj.com/stories/_local02.asp An article about murderer Antoine Le Blanc, whose skin was made into wallets and book jackets.]
* [http://www.straightdope.com/columns/040604.html Did the Nazis make lampshades out of human skin?]
* [http://www.hlrecord.org/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticle&uStory_id=3d42c486-82ec-41f5-92ce-30d8f886dbfb Books Bound in Human Skin; Lampshade Myth?]


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