Book bound in human skin found at the Harvard University

Book bound in human skin found at the Harvard University

A 19th century book of writer Arsene Houssaye, owned by Harvard University library has been found bounded in human skin.

The test to check the book’s cover was carried out by the University, after a note by the author was found in the book. The note stated that the book has been bound using skin of an unclaimed female patient’s back, who had died of a stroke.

The book contained essays about the human soul and life after death by French novelist Arsene Houssaye. He had gifted this book with this special human skin binding to his friend Ludovic Bouland.

The note found in the book was by Dr. Bouland, it said that no ornaments were put and no stamping was been done on the book cover just to “preserve its elegance". He further stated that a book about the meditation on the human souls deserved to have a human covering.

The practice of using human skin for binding books goes back to as early as the 16th century. The term given to such a practice is anthropodermic bibliopegy. Later in the 19th century many accounts have been reported where bookbinders used to bind books in human skins. The skins were generally of executed criminals.

To check whether the book was actually made out of human skin as claimed by the note found, Harvard University conducted many tests. The early tests showed that the binding was made of skin more likely of human origin or its close primates. Eventually, tests had confirmed that the cover was made of human skin.

This book is the only human skin bound rare book in the Harvard University.


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