A few months ago, the Internet was abuzz with rumors that the Harvard Library has a couple of books that may or may not be bound with human flesh. Days later, the library released a report that two of the books in question are not human so we can all just calm down. Except… whoops! The third one is.
This particular 19th century book is a copy of the French poet Arsene Houssaye’s Des destinees de l’ame, which was reportedly bound by its recipient, Dr. Ludovic Bouland, with “skin from the unclaimed body of a female mental patient who had died of a stroke.” Apparently “a book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering,” Bouland wrote in an enclosed note. Cool, that’s not serial killer logic or anything. Just what were you a doctor of, exactly?
While the other two rumored fleshbooks from the HLS Library and the Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library were both eventually discovered to have been bound with sheepskin, scientists and conservers have also been hard at work analyzing this other book, which can be found in Houghton Library. After using peptide mass fingerprinting to identify the material, they have come to this conclusion: they’re 99% confident that this book used to be a person.
Houghton Library is quick to point out that anthropodermic bibliopegy, as it’s known, was a pretty common occurrence back when people didn’t have Saw movies to placate their bloodlust. “The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book,” they said in a recent blog post.
But that doesn’t stop them from being quite proud of themselves, of course: “Houghton’s book is now the only known book at Harvard bound in human skin,” the library’s blog added.
Senior Rare Book Conservator Dr. Hookbinder Lecter has refused to comment.
- So we’ve gone from three bound fleshbooks to one!
- HLS Library recently cleared the air about their alleged human skin volume
- People have done some pretty gross things with their own skin