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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 Universitymarker 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 Zimbabwemarker.)

The John Hay Librarymarker's special books collection at Brown Universitymarker 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.

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 Medicinemarker and the United States National Archivesmarker, 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.

In the Evil Dead series of films and comic books originally created by Sam Raimi, a fictional Sumerian book called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis is bound in human skin and inked with human blood.

The video game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem centers around a book called the Tome of Eternal Darkness which is bound in human flesh.

Notes

  1. San Francisco Chronicle


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