Anthropodermic Bibliopegy
October 26, 2015 1:33 AM   Subscribe

The Macabre Practice of Binding Books in Human Skin: Whether a reminder of mortality, a strange souvenir, or a punishment for a crime, the impetuses behind anthropodermic bibliopegy are as varied as the lives of their skin donors.
posted by frumiousb (21 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd be curious to know more about if and when these were popular as mementos mori for family members. I only really know about the Victorians, and they were weird as hell when it came to mourning - I wouldn't put human skin-bound books past them.

My university library has a book bound in human skin from the French Revolution, but I'm sure access is restricted. Besides - yeeech.
posted by teponaztli at 1:49 AM on October 26, 2015


An io9 link on human skin books as memento mori. From clicking through the links in the main article it seems that although they talk about these books as memento mori it seems more "execution souvenir" than something Dad would have left behind for his kids.
posted by frumiousb at 2:00 AM on October 26, 2015


The creepiest thing about it to me is that they just look like any other leather-bound book. You'd want to think a book bound in human skin would be noticeably grotesque, but really, we're all just bags of meat and bones and leather.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:01 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, out of morbid curiosity I looked up the catalog page for the one at my library, and the description reads, in part:

Binding: Human skin, resembling black pebble-grained morocco; with metal clasps; edges gilt.

Yeeeech.

They do sound more like execution souvenirs, but at least one article mentions family members in passing. There have been some very gruesome (by modern standards) mementos in the past, and it may not have been that big a leap to go from hair/tooth jewelry and corpse photography to this.
posted by teponaztli at 2:09 AM on October 26, 2015


Perhaps the National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (mentioned in this recent post) could add anthropodermic bibliopegy to their product range…
posted by misteraitch at 2:20 AM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, they certainly did. I was a dramaturg for a theater group many years ago and I was researching post-mortem photography and memento mori for a piece they were doing. It was a strange and wonderful world to explore. But after now wasting a half an hour of time clicking through, I can't find any documented examples of anything which would fall into that category. Would be cool to be proved wrong, though.
posted by frumiousb at 2:24 AM on October 26, 2015


The Mütter Museum recently held its fifth annual Death Salon, and there was a panel discussion called "Skin Deeper: Identifying & Analyzing the World’s Books Bound in Human Skin." There is also the bookbinder's perspective.
posted by datawrangler at 3:01 AM on October 26, 2015


If I ever make it big, I plan to leave behind a will with all sorts of extravagant and comedic requirements before my inheritors can get their grubby paws on my vast fortune: you bet there's going to be at least one book getting bound, I just have to figure out which one.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:24 AM on October 26, 2015


Either the Necronomicon or Everybody Poops. I haven't decided yet which way I lean.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:31 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was thinking K&R, kind of covers both bases.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:32 AM on October 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


K&R bound in human skin sitting on the keyboard of a VT-100 with a Jacob's Ladder sticking out the top was kinda how I pictured the lab of the programmer-archeologist in A Deepness in the Sky.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:41 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Funny but this does not squick me out particularly. We're all just animals at the end of the day, humans are just a bit more thin-skinned about it.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:24 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The creepiest thing about it to me is that they just look like any other leather-bound book. You'd want to think a book bound in human skin would be noticeably grotesque, but really, we're all just bags of meat and bones and leather.

There was an article (possibly linked from here) a few years ago, about one of the human-skin lampshades produced in the Holocaust (and dealing with the questions of what to do with such an object). The article mentioned that there was something viscerally distressing about the appearance of the object, coming from the thinness and colour of the skin used, and suggesting that, on some level, people perceive it to be made of human skin and react with revulsion.
posted by acb at 5:45 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Elmo and a book, with a face, bound in human skin, sing about skin on Sesame Street. This is a real thing that really happened and it still gives me nightmares.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:13 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Now I have to decide between Necropants or Books in my will.
posted by srboisvert at 6:14 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Elmo and a book, with a face, bound in human skin,  sing about skin on Sesame Street. 

To the tune of jingle bells. "Skin skin skin! Skin skin skin! Skin skin skin skin skin!" Not joking, that's the song. What it's like in Elmo's World apparently.

All of the Sesame Street characters are a little bit mad, but yeah, if you told me that one of them had become a trophy collecting serial killer Elmo would be my first and only suspect.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:21 AM on October 26, 2015


about one of the human-skin lampshades produced in the Holocaust

If you're talking about Mark Jacobson and the lampshade found in New Orleans, they found it was cow skin in the end.
posted by dragoon at 11:26 AM on October 26, 2015


I can think of a few books I'd like bound in my skin: How to Lie With Statistics, That's Not What I Called About: A History of Talk Radio, a Bloom County comics collection, The Lathe of Heaven, Redshirts (that one I'd will TO Mefi's Own Scalzi). My weight loss so far has left me with baggy skin that'll just get worse if I reach my goal, so I'll have the materials, but it's unlikely my estate will be able to afford more than a simple cremation and scattering my ashes in mathowie's back yard.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:19 PM on October 26, 2015


That elmo bit reads more like a missing episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared than a sesame street song. Damn.
posted by sandswipe at 5:19 PM on October 26, 2015


You can use my skin after I die to cover a book, but you have to promise to include my chest hair and at least one tattoo. I am imagining a book version of those gross little sculptures with eyes and teeth that were the subject of an FPP a while back.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:05 PM on October 26, 2015


I asked about this in Ask Metafilter a few years ago and was directed to a taxidermist. But my family shut me down so I left it there

http://www.metafilter.com/activity/27082/posts/ask/
posted by mdoar at 6:17 PM on October 26, 2015


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