Harvard confirms antique book is bound in human skin

Jun 07, 2014

Harvard University scientists have confirmed that a 19th century French treatise in its libraries is bound in human skin, Harvard University said this week, after a bevvy of scientific testing.

Arsene Houssaye's "Des destinees de l'ame" (On the destiny of the soul) is part of the antique book collection of the university's Houghton Library, which specializes in rare and antique works.

Harvard conservators and scientists used several methods to test the origin of the book binding material, using microscopic samples.

Through these tests, they were able to exclude the possibility that the book cover was made from the skin of a goat, a sheep or another animal.

"They are 99 percent confident that the binding is of human origin," said a post on the library's blog, citing senior rare book conservator Alan Puglia.

The conclusions confirm the veracity of a handwritten note in French found in the book, which said the book was bound "in parchment."

"By looking carefully, you easily distinguish the pores of the skin," added the note, written by a doctor who was a friend of Houssaye, who lived 1815-1896.

"A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering," explained the doctor, Ludovic Bouland.

Bouland said the skin was taken from the back of a woman who suffered from mental illness and had died of a heart attack.

The doctor said he had another book bound in human skin in his personal collection that was tanned with sumac.

Harvard said that "Des destinees de l'ame" was the only book in its collection bound in human flesh.

However, the practice, called anthropodermic bibliopegy, was once somewhat common, the university said.

"There are many accounts of similar occurrences in the , in which the bodies of executed criminals were donated to science, and the skins given to tanners and bookbinders," the library's blog entry said.

Two other thought to be bound in human skin, from Harvard's law library and its medical library, were also analyzed, but the tests revealed the binding was sheepskin.

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TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 07, 2014
"A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering," explained the doctor, Ludovic Bouland."

-Mais certainment.

"There are many accounts of similar occurrences in the 19th century"

"I suppose we can't really judge the past from our point of view, from our lens."

-Father Fintan Monaghan, a Catholic Church official in whose archdiocese the skeletal remains of almost 800 children were found in a septic tank, weighed in with an opinion on the matter."

-No no of course not. I guess lampshades aren't all that bad either. You really had to be there I suppose.
Osiris1
not rated yet Jun 07, 2014
O no! I suppose now we will hear apologists from lots of old nutzi SS about this
antigoracle
1 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2014
Some are a waste of skin, like the good old Father mentioned above.
arnoldsavage
1 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2014
In this article about an esteemed educational facility the writer made it a full 26 (!) words before misspelling and/or misusing a word. "Bevvy" is a term for a drink, as in, "I could use a bevvy after reading this trash." Or it is a misspelling of "bevy", ...
Consider the word "proofread".
Jumbybird
4.4 / 5 (7) Jun 07, 2014
In this article about an esteemed educational facility the writer made it a full 26 (!) words before misspelling and/or misusing a word. "Bevvy" is a term for a drink, as in, "I could use a bevvy after reading this trash." Or it is a misspelling of "bevy", ...
Consider the word "proofread".

You use the non-word bevvy and have the nerve to criticize a spelling error?
Sinister1812
1 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2014
So, this book got a skin graft? Mustve suffered some serious burns
alfie_null
1 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2014
Extract DNA and sequence it?
mooster75
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
So I'm the only one who's first thought was "cool; what book should I pick-I'll add a clause to my will!" . Maybe I need help...,
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
"A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering," explained the doctor, Ludovic Bouland.

Bouland said the skin was taken from the back of a woman who suffered from mental illness

Oh the irony on that one is just too thick.

(I wonder whether PETA would have anything to say about that?)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
It's ok, science has given it a name

"The history of this grisly craft, known as anthropodermic bibliopegy, goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages, when human skin parchments began to appear. A French Bible from the 13th century is one of the earliest examples. Some of the early books known to be bound in human skin are copies of the French Constitution, bound in the skin of members of the new republic's opposition."

-Architecture is sometimes made from human remains.
http://m.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=55222
hal_walden
5 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
"Bouland said the skin was taken from the back of a woman who suffered from mental illness and had died of a heart attack."

What they don't mention is that the heart attack was caused by having her back skinned off.