Harvard has one messed up library

We had this story about a book in the Harvard collection that was thought to be human skin but was really sheepskin.

This one is REALLY bound in human skin! Eww.

Harvard Confirms Book Is Bound in Human Skin – NYTimes.com.

Scientists at Harvard have confirmed that a 19th-century French treatise in the university’s libraries is almost surely bound in human skin, thus ending months of uncertainty and setting off a torrent of online Hannibal Lecter (get it?) jokes.

The book, Arsène Houssaye’s “Des destinées de l’ame” (On the Destiny of the Soul), came under renewed attention in April, after researchers concluded that another book at Harvard previously thought to be an example of anthropodermic bibliopegy — as the practice of binding books in human flesh is known — was in fact bound in sheepskin.

Now, it COULD be some other primate but that seems unlikely.

Read all about it from the LawBlog Caveat Lecter Houghton Library Blog.

Houghton’s book is now the only known book at Harvard bound in human skin. It was likely that of a criminal whose body was used after execution. Why someone would want such a ghoulish thing made, I can’t say.

  9 comments for “Harvard has one messed up library

  1. Chris Howard
    June 5, 2014 at 10:35 PM


    There, now that that’s out of the way let the serious discussion begin.

  2. Bob Blaskiewicz (@rjblaskiewicz)
    June 5, 2014 at 11:01 PM


  3. Old Muley
    June 6, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    How To Serve Mankind?

  4. busterggi
    June 6, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Although rare, there are a number of books famously bound in human skin. ABE even had an article on some several years back. So far no books are known to have been bound in fava beans.

  5. Lee
    June 6, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    Yes but have any of them made the New York Times best sellers list!

  6. Stephan Brun
    June 6, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I remember reading/watching that one friend of an executed person got a book bound in his skin as a matter of respect towards the dead. I don’t have a link for it, though ….

  7. June 6, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    This was not considered particularly outlandish at the time. There was a nineteenth century politician who had shoes made from the skin of a hanged criminal he wore on campaign speeches. Post mortem photography was common and unremarkable. Wakes were generally held with the body on a table in a private home. It’s only in the twentieth century that we in the west have become so isolated from death that a book bound from human skin seems excessively creepy. Granted the activities of a certain unpleasant mid twentieth century dictatorship also served to make such items appear beyond the pale.


  8. Tom
    June 6, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    If you’re referring to the Twilight Zone episode, it’s “To Serve Man”. Sorry to be “that guy”, but misquotes really get under my skin. 😉

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