I've got you under my skin...
November 14, 2005 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Anthropodermic book bindings: books bound in human skin. Living in Edinburgh, I knew they existed, but I didn't realise there were so many of them.
posted by Flitcraft (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bah, they're missing the necronomicon!
(incidently, this is cool).
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2005

Blech. Thanks for ruining my perfectly good breakfast. Other than that, nice post.
posted by mullingitover at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2005

Wow. If Ilse Koch had been a librarian, I guess.
posted by alumshubby at 12:33 PM on November 14, 2005

The University of Georgia Library has a book that is thought to be bound in human skin in its Rare Book Collection. It's the only piece of information about the library that the campus tour guides seem to tell freshman tour groups.

The Library has never had the book DNA tested. The documents that accompanied the item when it entered the collection indicated the binding material. The book itself was, if I remember correctly, bound in the mid-1800's. The subject matter is ancient history and I think it's written in either Greek or Latin.

The usual way the book is displayed is in a case with other books bound in other types of skin (lamb, calf, etc.). They aren't labelled and the observer is invited to try to figure out which one is the human.
posted by 100watts at 12:37 PM on November 14, 2005

I know this is wrong, but I really want to find one of these books and touch it. There has got to be one in Pittsburgh somewhere.
posted by Alison at 12:39 PM on November 14, 2005

That Ilsa Koch had human skin used for various purposes (denied here as myth) is sta ted here:

This testimony seems to make it clear that the use of skin from Nazi prisoners was in fact used for various purposes.
posted by Postroad at 12:41 PM on November 14, 2005

I don't think that's really "wrong," Alison, but I doubt you'd be able to find an owner of an anthrodermic book who let strangers touch it.
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:44 PM on November 14, 2005

Wow, great post - thanks. Although few more pics would have been great!

I too would love to at least see one of these books, not sure if if I would touch or not though.
posted by fire&wings at 12:46 PM on November 14, 2005

Why wouldn't you want to touch it? I, too, am curious to know what human leather feels like.
posted by agregoli at 12:47 PM on November 14, 2005

"A goode Booke is the pretious life blood of a master spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on purpose to a life beyond life"

Milton, Areopagitica

It puts the lotion on its skin?
posted by kosem at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2005

It matters not what this paper be made of
Give me notebooks made of human flesh
Dried on steel hooks and nooses
Make uses of use, uses of us
It's all overwhelming me, oak and elming me
I have seeded a forest of myself
Little books from tall trees

posted by wakko at 12:52 PM on November 14, 2005

Dried on steel hooks and noses

posted by Citizen Premier at 1:01 PM on November 14, 2005

Ms. Koch didn't seem to have actually used human skin for a lampshade, but she did a lot of her decorating with tattooed swatches of skin and shrunken heads. :oP
posted by alumshubby at 1:26 PM on November 14, 2005

Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book deals indirectly with the issues inherent in anthropodermic book bindings, if anyone is looking for a more filmic approach. I think it sounds like an elegant (if morbid) alternative to cremation or burial when I'm gone.
posted by jrb223 at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2005

I could see human skin being quite nice for a book binding, its already quite thin and supple so you wouldn't have to pare it down any thinner...
When I was working at a historic village I used to demonstrate a lot of leather work. Its funny how many people would freak out when you showed them a full cow skin, complete with brands and scars. Most of these people were wearing leather jackets and shoes. I suppose it depends on how closely the material resembles something you care about, or at least something with a face.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 2:18 PM on November 14, 2005

I suppose if you know any old people, you could ask them for their skin after they died. If they're into the macabre they might be willing to part with enough for a book.

Hell, I'd let people do it if I wasn't planning on being cryogenically frozen :P
posted by delmoi at 2:28 PM on November 14, 2005

you must find the necronomicon!
posted by wumpus at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2005

Dammit, I was going to post this, but I'd already posted today. (I saw it at Plep.) I'll at least contribute this touching quote from the first link:
A faint inscription on the last page of the book reads: "The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my deare friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King btesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace."
I'd also like to point out that the first link is self-Godwinizing! (Scroll down.)
posted by languagehat at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2005

Too much text, not enough pictures!
posted by nonmerci at 2:44 PM on November 14, 2005

Bah, they're missing the necronomicon!

My thoughts exactly. In fact, I didn't see any books of arcane lore or of spells to raise demons, etc. pffft

Great post though, really interesting stuff. Actually, I don't think I'd be adverse to having my skin used to bind some books after my death, I love books. Of course, it would have to be a high-quality book. No John Grisham for my epidermis please.
posted by marxchivist at 3:08 PM on November 14, 2005

Other notable specimens include: a copy of the Koran at the Cleveland Public Library purportedly bound in the skin of a particularly devout believer who decreed the binding in his will

Mate, I am sooo there!

I was gonna be blasted into space, HST-style, but now I've changed my mind. ;)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:18 PM on November 14, 2005

Ah, here's one with a nice photo of the book.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:54 PM on November 14, 2005

Gah! Disgusting! I've got to take a shower now, thanks.

....cool post.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:56 PM on November 14, 2005

A picture is worth a thousand words.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:31 PM on November 14, 2005

Damn, flitcraft rendered my pun useless.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:34 PM on November 14, 2005

*dismissive wave*
I'm not interested unless it's inked in human blood as well!
posted by brundlefly at 7:51 PM on November 14, 2005

Excellent post.

There's a photo of preserved tattooed human skin in Modern Primitives, if memory serves. Kinda freaky to see it laid out on a tray.
posted by scratch at 6:48 AM on November 15, 2005

Mmm...feel the rich corinthian leather. It's so hard to find Corinthians these days.
posted by penciltopper at 4:48 PM on November 15, 2005

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