As promised I am posting about books bound in human skin. So what started me thinking about this? I remembered reading an article about a book found in London back in April of 2006. Authorities thought the book was dumped after a burglary. The book was written in French, but no additional information regarding its contents was made available. At that time they were looking for the owner. It just popped into my head the other day that I’d heard nothing else about this. I did some poking around on the internet but didn’t turn up anything. I’m amazed at this, that it just fell out of public knowledge. You’d think we’d see an article, “Still no leads in human book case.” Something at least.
So, the binding of books in human skin is anthropodermic bibliopegy. This practice was popular as the skin err leather was cheap, waterproof, and durable. The skin came from a variety of sources such as executed criminals, amputated body parts, med school cadavers, or when a patient died and had no family to claim the body. It was common, if a patient led to a particular discovery, to bind the related text in their skin as sort of a spooky honor. George Walton’s memoirs were bound in his own skin. Many libraries actually have some of these books, but must keep them away from the general public. They are not allowed to be displayed as novelty items. I’m not sure if that’s the law or just respectfulness. I don’t know if it’s legal to have these kind of books in a private collection. I’d be interested in what the law is in regards to that.
The image below was released by British police in an effort to locate the owner.