So Harvard Miiiight Have a Couple of Books in Their Library That Are Bound With Human Flesh
I mean, only three. That's not so bad, right?
Hey, so you know how flesh is a thing that’s normally supposed to be attached to your body? And you know how fancy books are usually bound in leather, which is dried flesh from other animals that aren’t human? Yeah, we’re pretty sure you know where we’re going with this. We don’t like it, either.
It’s not exactly a well-known fact of the Harvard Library, but their collection is home to three different anthropodermic-bound books (that’s the technical term for “OH GOD IT’S PEOPLE”). Even creepier, it was apparently a pretty popular practice to bind books with human skin in the 17th century—particularly tomes on the anatomy of the body. Bear in mind, we were still occasionally murdering people to use as dissection tools in anatomy lectures until sometime in the 19th century, so using their skin to house our reading material isn’t that far off.
However, as Roadtripper notes, the books in Harvard’s collection aren’t strictly anatomy books. One is a treatise on medieval Spanish law, bound in the skin of the author’s friend. People often books bound in the skins of their friends or family members as a commemorative act. Jeez, and you thought pressing their cremated ashes into diamonds was creepy.
Another book in Harvard’s Houghton Library collection has the skin from an “unclaimed body of a female mental patient.” That book, of course, is about life and death, and naturally the author felt that, “A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.” Yeah, that makes sense and isn’t terrifying at all.
While Harvard doesn’t go out of their way to advertise the fact that they’ve got several clearly marked people-books, they don’t plan to get rid of them, either. After all, they are still books.
“The text rather than the binding of a book is what matters to most students and scholars.” Lea Professor of History Ann Blair told the Harvard Crimson back when they first reported the story in 2006. Cool. Easy for you to say. Your skin is presumably still attached, while ours is now currently crawling. Ick.