photo courtesy of needcoffee.com
It conjures up thoughts of Witchcraft and Sorcery, or one would think you would find a book bound in human skin on the bookshelf of Hannibal Lecter. Even in the 1993 Disney movie Hocus Pocus, the spell book owned by Winifred is bound in human skin.
While the thought of a book bound in human skin will seem completely grotesque to most of us they do exist, in fact there is actually a name for it, Anthropodermic Bibliopegy, which in definition is the practice of binding books in human skin.
Although you probably wont see this done very much today, it was somewhat common in the 17th and 18th centuries, but came to a stop pretty much at the end of the Victorian Age.
While researching this, I found that one reason books were bound in human skin was as a form of punishment for criminals condemned to death, their own skin would be used to bind the record of the criminals own trials, so that even in death they where still being punished.
Another example of this practice was by Physicians binding Anatomy books in human skin (talk about keeping it real !!!)
The skin itself came from medical cadavers and convicted felons sentenced to death, the skin was harvested and tanned like any other leather, although it is said to have a bizarre “waxy” smell to it (you think ?) and the pores of human skin are larger than that of cow or pig skin, and that is how fake books bound in human skin are identified.
There exists today a book bound in human skin and on the cover is the mans face his actual face!!!
The name of the book is “A True and Perfect Relation”, but dont worry about finding it at your local library as it was sold at auction in 2007 for $11000. However if you would like to see a book bound in human skin there are places you can go to see them, Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The University of California-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, are reported to hold copies of human skin bound books.
I seriously doubt you would actually be allowed to hold one of these books but you should be able to view them.
This all brings me to a question, would a book bound in human skin be a must have for a true bibliophile ?
Obviously copies do exist and are held in private collections, I am sure if one wanted a copy and had enough money a book bound in human skin could be purchased. Although for me personally, I would not want one in my collection, while I am a fan of the obscure and the oddities that exist in this world, a book bound in human skin would be just to macabre for me to own.
But to each their own.