A book locked away at Harvard University since the 19th century has, at long last, revealed its dark secret to the world.
Experts at the prestigious university confirmed the book held at Harvard, and written by French novelist Arsene Houssaye, is, in fact, bound in human skin.
It sounds rather macabre, doesn’t it? A book bound in human skin is the sort of item you’d expect to find in the library of Dr Hannibal Lecter or some other equally worthy fruit loop. Not in a globally recognized institute of academic excellence such as Harvard.
However, Harvard University boasts a pretty impressive library. In fact, it’s the largest library in the world, holding a staggering 18.89 million volumes.
So, if a hardcore bibliophile can’t find a book covered in human skin there, then chances are they won’t find it anywhere.
Strangely enough, the bookworms at Harvard were writhing in bitter disappointment earlier this year, when two of their three books thought to be bound in the skin of humans were proven to be sheepskin.
Yet, it was a case of third time lucky for the team of scientists and experts who have proven with 99.9% certainly that this particular Harvard book can be judged by its cover and that cover is human skin.
Unable to hide her triumphant joy at such a find, Heather Cole, assistant curator of modern books and manuscripts, immediately blogged her delight and wrote:
“Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs and cannibals alike: tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s 1880s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”
The unbounded joy over finding a book at Harvard bound in human skin appeared contagious, causing commentators like ‘Zachary’ to jubilantly bark: “This is so rad.”
The book, entitled Den destinees de l’ame –translated as Destinies of the Soul– is described as “a meditation on the soul of life after death.” The macabre volume was presented by the French novelist to one of his friends.
A medical man by the name of Dr. Ludovic Bouland was responsible for binding the book and left a note in the volume explaining: “A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.”
The skin of the poor soul used to bind the book, was, according to the good doctor, taken from the back of an unclaimed body of a female mental patient.
It’s doubtful if the lady in question gave her consent to end up as ’50 Shades Of Flay,’ but apparently, back in the day, binding books in another person’s skin was the thing to do.
To give this sinister practice its correct name, ‘anthropodermic bibliopegy’ really took off in the 16th century. The ‘human donors’ were usually people with little say in their own destinies, such as executed criminals or people guilty of being poor.
According to scholar Daniel K. Smith, the reason there’s not more books in Harvard bound in human skin is that book-binding is a hard art to master, and human skin rips more easily than the skin of sturdier livestock animals.
All I can say is, thank god for Kindles!
Image Via Wikipedia]