The Info List - Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

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ANTHROPODERMIC BIBLIOPEGY is the practice of binding books in human skin . As of April 2016, The Anthropodermic Book Project "has identified 47 alleged anthropodermic books in the world's libraries and museums. Of those, 30 books have been tested or are in the process of being tested. Seventeen of the books have been confirmed as having human skin bindings and nine were proven to be not of human origin but of sheep, pig, cow, or other animals." (The confirmed figures as of May 2017 have increased to 18 bindings identified as human and 13 disproved. )


* 1 Terminology * 2 History * 3 Examples * 4 Identification * 5 Ethical and legal issues * 6 Popular culture * 7 Notes * 8 Further reading


_Bibliopegy_ (/bɪblɪˈɒpɪdʒi/ _bib-li-OP-i-jee_ ) is a rare synonym for bookbinding . It combines the Ancient Greek βιβλίον (_biblion_ = book) and πηγία (_pegia_, from _pegnynai_ = to fasten). The earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1876; Merriam-Webster gives the date of first use as _circa_ 1859 and the OED records an instance of _bibliopegist_ for a bookbinder from 1824.

The word _anthropodermic_, combining the Ancient Greek ἄνθρωπος (_anthropos_ = man or human) and δέρμα (_derma_ = skin), does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary and appears never to be used in contexts other than bookbinding. The practice of binding a book in the skin of its author - as with _The Highwayman_, discussed below - has been called 'autoanthropodermic bibliopegy'.


A book in the Wellcome Library
Wellcome Library
bound in human skin.

An early reference to a book bound in human skin is found in the travels of Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach
Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach
. Writing about his visit to Bremen
in 1710:

Auch sahen wir noch ein klein Büchelgen in Duodetz, _Molleri manuale præparationis ad mortem_. Man würde daran wohl nichts merkwürdiges finden, und warum es allhier stehe, erkennen, wenn man nicht vornen läse, daß es in Menschen-Leder eingebunden sey; welcher sonderbare Band, desgleichen ich noch nie gesehen, sich zu diesem Buche, zu besserer Betrachtung des Todes, wohl schicket. Man sollte es wohl vor Schwein-Leder ansehen. — Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, _Merkwürdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen, Holland und Engelland_

(We also saw a little duodecimo, _Molleri manuale præparationis ad mortem_. There seemed to be nothing remarkable about it, and you couldn't understand why it was here until you read in the front that it was bound in human leather. This unusual binding, the like of which I had never before seen, seemed especially well adapted to this book, dedicated to more meditation about death. You would take it for pig skin.) — translated by Lawrence S. Thompson, _Religatum de Pelle Humana_

The purported oldest surviving anthropodermic binding appears to date from later in the 18th century. The Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA
owns a copy of _Relation des mouvemens de la ville de Messine_, printed in 1676, with the following note believed to have been written by James Westfall Thompson : 'The binding is human skin. The book is from the library of Armand Jerome Bignon (1711-1772), librarian of Louis XV .' This binding was analysed in 2017 by the PMF-MALDI process (See Identification, below), and is in fact sheepskin. The catalog entry has been updated to read: "a manuscript note on the front endpaper of the volume, possibly in the hand of former owner James Westfall Thompson, states that the book was allegedly bound in human skin, although recent lab testing on a binding sample has now definitively shown that claim to be false."

The majority of well-attested anthropodermic bindings date from the 19th century. An exhibition of fine bindings at the Grolier Club in 1903 included, in a section of 'Bindings in Curious Materials', three editions of Holbein's ' Dance of Death ' in 19th century human skin bindings; two of these now belong to the John Hay Library at Brown University.


Surviving historical examples of this technique include anatomy texts bound with the skin of dissected cadavers , volumes created as a bequest and bound with the skin of the testator , and copies of judicial proceedings bound in the skin of the murderer convicted in those proceedings, such as in the case of John Horwood in 1821 and the Red Barn Murder in 1828. There is also a tradition of certain volumes of erotica being bound in human skin. Examples reported include a copy of the Marquis de Sade 's _Justine et Juliette_ bound in tanned skin from female breasts. :98 Other examples are known, with the feature of the intact human nipple on one or more of the boards of the book. :99

What Lawrence Thompson called "the most famous of all anthropodermic bindings" is exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum , titled _The Highwayman: Narrative of the Life of James Allen alias George Walton _. It is by James Allen , who asked to have his memoir bound in his own skin and presented to a man he once tried to rob and admired for his bravery.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh preserves a notebook bound in the skin of the murderer William Burke after his execution and subsequent public dissection by Professor Alexander Monro in 1829.

The Newberry Library in Chicago owns an Arabic manuscript written in 1848, with a handwritten note that it is bound in human skin, though "it is the opinion of the conservation staff that the binding material is not human skin, but rather highly burnished goat". This book is mentioned in the novel The Time Traveler\'s Wife , much of which is set in the Newberry.

The French astronomer Camille Flammarion 's book _Les terres du ciel_ (The Worlds of the Sky) (1877) was bound with the skin donated from a female admirer.

A portion of the binding in the copy of Dale Carnegie 's _Lincoln the Unknown _ that is part of the collection of Temple University 's Charles L. Blockson Collection was "taken from the skin of a Negro at a Baltimore Hospital and tanned by the Jewell Belting Company".

The National Library of Australia holds a book of 18th century poetry with the inscription "Bound in human skin" on the first page.

Bookbinder Edward Hertzberg describes the Monastery Hill Bindery having been approached by "n Army Surgeon ... with a copy of Holbein's Dance of Death with the request that we bind it in a piece of human skin, which he brought along." Further description of the proffered skin and binding, which was inlaid with different piece of leather and decorated with a skull, is in the short paragraph.

A contemporary account of the execution of Henry Garnet for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot , _A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings Against ... Garnet a Jesuit_, was alleged to be bound in Garnet's skin when auctioned in 2007.

As well as the examples of the Dance of Death exhibited at the Grolier Club (see above), an 1856 edition was offered at auction by Leonard Smithers in 1895 and an 1842 edition from the personal library of Florin Abelès was offered at auction by Piasa of Paris in 2006.


The identification of human skin bindings has been attempted by examining the pattern of hair follicles , to distinguish human skin from that of other animals typically used for bookbinding, such as calf, sheep, goat, and pig. This is a necessarily subjective test, made harder by the distortions in the process of treating leather for binding. Testing a DNA
sample is possible in principle, but DNA
can be destroyed when skin is tanned, it degrades over time, and it can be contaminated by human readers.

Instead, peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) have recently been used to identify the material of bookbindings. A tiny sample is extracted from the book's covering and the collagen analysed by mass spectrometry to identify the variety of proteins which are characteristic of different species. PMF can identify skin as belonging to a primate ; since monkeys were almost never used as a source of skin for bindings, this implies human skin.

The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia owns five anthropodermic books, confirmed by peptide mass fingerprinting in 2015, of which three were bound from the skin of one woman. This makes it the largest collection of such books in one institution. The books can be seen in the associated Mütter Museum .

The John Hay Library at Brown University owns four anthropodermic books, also confirmed by PMF: Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica , two nineteenth-century editions of Holbein's Dance of Death , and _Mademoiselle Giraud, My Wife_ (1891).

Three books in the libraries of Harvard University
Harvard University
have been reputed to be bound in human skin, but peptide mass fingerprinting has confirmed only one, _Des destinées de l\'ame_ by Arsène Houssaye, held in the Houghton Library . (The other two books at Harvard were determined to be bound in sheepskin, the first being Ovid\'s _Metamorphoses_ held in the Countway Library, the second being a treatise on Spanish law, _Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae_, held in the library of Harvard Law School . )

The Harvard skin book belonged to Dr Ludovic Bouland of Strasbourg, who owned a second, De integritatis Samuel Putnam Avery 's copy "bound by Kauffmann-Petit (...) in human skin, tooled in black on spine and covers; gilt turn-ins; marbled endpapers".

_Des destinées de l'ame_ by Arsène Houssaye (_circa_ 1885) Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard University
Harvard University
, Houghton Library, FC8.H8177.879dc Presented by Arsène Houssaye to the bibliophile Dr Ludovic Bouland of Strasbourg, who bound it in skin which he had removed from 'the back of the unclaimed body of a woman patient in a French mental hospital who died suddenly of apoplexy ' Front cover


_ THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION. You can help by adding to it . (September 2016)_

* Repatriation and reburial of human remains * Human Tissue Act 2004 * Paul Needham, A Binding of Human Skin in the Houghton Library: A Recommendation (25 June 2014)


The binding of books in human skin is also a common element within horror films and works of fiction:


* In the novel The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling , a bookbinder is brought "leather" by a client with which to undertake a "special binding" of this nature. * In H.P. Lovecraft 's horror story " The Hound ", the narrator and his friend St John, who are graverobbers, have a collection of macabre artefacts. Amongst them, "A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumoured Goya
had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge." * In the novel _The Eye of God_ by James Rollins , Vigor receives a package from Father Josip Tarasco that contains a skull and an ancient book bound in human skin. * P. C. Hodgell 's Kencyr series features "the Book Bound in Pale Leather", which appears to be bound in living human skin. * Chuck Palahniuk 's novel _Lullaby _ features a book bound in human skin called "The Grimoire ". * The crime novel "Leathered" by Steven Goss features a collector of macabre artefacts, including books bound in human skin. * In David H. Keller 's short story "Binding Deluxe", first published in _ Marvel Tales _ (May 1934), a bookbinder uses the skins of the men she murders to create a "deluxe" binding for a set of _ Encyclopædia Britannica _. * In Linda Fairstein's mystery novel _Lethal Legacy_, a book collector shows investigators an 1828 book of trial proceedings that is bound with the skin of a convicted murderer.


* Peter Greenaway 's 1996 film _The Pillow Book _ contains a sequence in which the body of a writer's lover is exhumed by an obsessed publisher; and his skin, which she wrote upon after his death, is painstakingly tanned and bound into a book. * In the _Evil Dead _ series of films and comic books originally created by Sam Raimi , a fictional Sumerian book called the _ Necronomicon Ex-Mortis _ is bound in human skin and inked with human blood. * In the episode "Like a Virgin" of the TV series _Supernatural _, the book containing the spell to release the Mother of All is printed (rather than bound) on human skin. * In the Disney
film _Hocus Pocus _, the eldest Sanderson sister's (played by Bette Midler ) fictional spellbook is bound in a patchwork of human skin with an enchanted, moving human eye embedded in the cover. * The eponymous book in the Canadian television series _Todd and the Book of Pure Evil _ is allegedly bound in human skin.


* The video game _Eternal Darkness: Sanity\'s Requiem _ centers around a book called the "Tome of Eternal Darkness" which is bound in human flesh. * In the video game _ Shadow Hearts _, one of the characters is able to use a book bound from human skin as a weapon. * The video game "Assassin\'s Creed Unity " features the practice of binding books in human skins in a mission set in 18th century Franciade.


* ^ Megan Rosenbloom, _A Book by its Cover: Identifying & Scientifically Testing the World\'s Books Bound in Human Skin_, _Watermark: Newsletter of the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences_, volume XXXIX, number 3 (Summer 2016), page 22 * ^ The Anthropodermic Books Project, home page, checked 22 May 2017. * ^ Google Ngrams Viewer for _bibliopegy_ * ^ The Oxford English Dictionary places it in Frequency Band 2, for 'words which occur fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These are almost exclusively terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people. Many are technical terms from specialized discourses.' OED entry for _bibliopegy_, checked 1 September 2016. * ^ OED entry for _bibliopegy_, checked 9 September 2016. * ^ Merriam-Webster definition for _bibliopegy_, checked 9 September 2016. * ^ Thompson, _Religatum de Pelle Humana_, pages 140-142 * ^ Merkwürdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen, Holland und Engelland, volume 2, pages 192-193 * ^ Thompson, _Religatum de Pelle Humana_, page 135 * ^ Jade Alburo, _Scary Books from YRL_, 31 October 2012 * ^ UCLA
library catalogue, call number DG975.M532 R2 1676 * ^ Metzger, Consuela. "Human Skin Binding at UCLA? Say it’s not so….". _ UCLA
Library: Preservation Blog_. Retrieved 22 March 2017. * ^ The Grolier Club of the City of New York. _Exhibition of silver, embroidered and curious bookbindings, April 16 to May 9, 1903_ (: The De Vinne Press, ), exhibits 177-179 (pages 58-59). * ^ "Killer cremated after 180 years". BBC News. 17 August 2004. Retrieved 4 July 2007. * ^ _A_ _B_ Thompson, Lawrence (April 1946). _Human Skin_. v.34(2). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. * ^ Catalogue record and Digitised version * ^ Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Archived 2016-09-06 at WebCite * ^ Frequently Asked Questions about Audrey Niffenegger\'s The Time Traveler\'s Wife * ^ Books Bound in Human Skin; Lampshade Myth? * ^ Temple University Libraries and Charles L. Blockson, _Catalogue of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection: A Unit of the Temple University Libraries_, Temple University Press, 1990, p. 16. ISBN 0877227497 * ^ "Poems bound up in a human skin". Canberra Times. 8 August 2011. * ^ Hertzberg, Edward (1933). _Forty-four years as a bookbinder_. Chicago: Ernst Hertzberg and Sons Monastery Hill Bindery. p. 43. * ^ Jeremy Dibbell, _Garnet Book Images_ PhiloBiblos, 28 November 2007. * ^ Callum James, Leonard Smithers: Human Skin Binding, _Front Free Endpaper_ (May 27, 2009) * ^ The Anthropodermic Book Project, The Science, checked 13 September 2016. * ^ Beth Lander, Fugitive Leaves * ^ Beth Lander, The Skin She Lived In: Anthropodermic Books in the Historical Medical Library * ^ John Hay Library.Frequently Asked Questions: Is it true the John Hay Library has books bound in human skin? * ^ Cole, Heather. "Caveat Lecter", _ Houghton Library Blog_. June 4, 2014. * ^ Karen Beck (April 3, 2014). "852 RARE: Old Books, New Technologies, and "The Human Skin Book" at HLS". _The Harvard Law School Library Blog _. Retrieved April 3, 2014. * ^ Summer myth-busters tackle campus tall tales, Berkeley News. * ^ Carolyn Marvin, 'The body of the text: literacy\'s corporeal constant', _Quarterly Journal of Speech_ 80(2) (1994), page 137 * ^ Grolier Club Library Catalogue Item Details, Marc Record only : " Human skin confirmed in Peptide Mass Fingerprinting analysis conducted by Dan Kirby Analytical Services" * ^ Novák, Caterina (2013). "Those Very ‘Other’ Victorians: Interrogating Neo-Victorian Feminism in The Journal of Dora Damage" (PDF). _Neo-Victorian Studies_. 6 (2). ISSN 1757-9481 . Retrieved 30 November 2015. * ^ H.P. Lovecraft, _Dagon & Other Macabre Tales_. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1965, p. 153 * ^ "Alice’s ultimate weapon "The Holy Book of Flesh" is said to be bound from human skin". Judgement-Ring.com.


* The Anthropodermic Book Project * Jim Chevallier, 'Human Skin: Books (In and On)', _Sundries: An Eighteenth Century Newsletter_, #26 (April 15, 2006) * Anita Dalton, Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: A Flay on Words, Odd Things Considered, 9 November 2015 * Jacob Gordon, In the Flesh? Anthropodermic Bibliopegy Verification and Its Implications, _RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage_ 17(2) (2016), pages 118-133 * Harrison, Perry Neil (2017). "Anthropodermic Bibliopegy in the Early Modern Period". In Larissa Tracy. _Flaying in the Pre-Modern World : Practice and Representation_. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: D.S. Brewer. pp. 366–383. ISBN 9781843844525 . * Carolyn Marvin, 'The body of the text: literacy\'s corporeal constant', _Quarterly Journal of Speech_ 80(2) (1994), pages 129-149 (subscription required) * Megan Rosenbloom, _A Book by its Cover: Identifying & Scientifically Testing the World\'s Books Bound in Human Skin_, _Watermark: Newsletter of the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences_, 39(3) (Summer 2016), pages 20–22 * Smith, Daniel K. (2014). "Bound In Human Skin: A Survey of Examples of Anthropodermic Bibliopegy". In Joanna Ebenstein, Colin Dickey (eds.). _The Morbid Anatomy
Anthology_ (First ed.). Brooklyn, New York: Morbid Anatomy
Press. ISBN 9780989394307 . CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link ) * Lawrence S. Thompson , _Tanned Human Skin_, _Bulletin of the Medical Library Association_, 34(2) (April 1946), pages 93–102 * Lawrence S. Thompson, _Religatum de Pelle Humana_, in _Bibliologia Comica_ (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1968), pages 119-160 (originally issued separately in 1949 as University of Kentucky Libraries Occasional Contributions no. 6)

* v * t * e

Book design


* Fonts


* Buckram * Leather * Anthropodermic bibliopegy * Treasure binding


* Marbled


* Half title

* bastard title

* Frontispiece * Title page
Title page
* Edition notice * Dedication * Epigraph * Table of contents * List of figures * List of tables * Foreword * Preface * Acknowledgments * Introduction * Prologue * Printer\'s mark


* Body text * Chapters * Parts * Sections * Tipped-in pages


* Afterword * Conclusion * Epilogue * Outro * Postscript * Appendix/Addendum * Glossary * Bibliography * Index * Errata * Colophon * Postface


* Bookplate or _ex-librīs_ * Catchword * Die cutting * Fore-edge painting * Pop-ups * Thumb index

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