Saturday, January 07, 2006

So, Private Collectors, Any of These on Your Shelves?

Some of nation's best libraries have books bound in human skin - "The best libraries then belonged to private collectors. Some were doctors who had access to skin from amputated parts and patients whose bodies were not claimed. They found human leather to be relatively cheap, durable and waterproof, Hartman said.

In other cases, wealthy bibliophiles may have acquired the skin from criminals who were executed, cadavers used in medical schools and people who died in the poor house, said Sam Streit, director of Brown's John Hay Library.

The library has three books bound in human skin -- the anatomy text and two 19th century editions of 'The Dance of Death,' a medieval morality tale.

One copy of 'The Dance of Death' dates to 1816 but was rebound in 1893 by Joseph Zaehnsdorf, a master binder in London. A note to his client reports that he did not have enough skin and had to split it. The front cover, bound in the outer layer of the epidermis, has a slightly bumpy texture, like soft sandpaper. The spine and back cover, made from the inner layer of skin, feels like suede."


  1. Anonymous4:02 PM

    Then there's the one about the mohel who bound all his Big Little Books in foreskins. But I want to tell ya...Hey, in a related story, I hear publishers make authors sign their contracts in human blood...

  2. Anonymous5:55 PM

    I'm reminded of an old Jack Douglas book which proudly proclaimed, "This book is bound in old Morrocan leather. So, if your old Morrocan grandfather is missing..."

    --Jerry House

  3. I have one of the original bound-in-human-skin Diagnosis Murder tie-in novels.

    Lee Goldberg signed it right on the areola.

  4. Anonymous11:42 PM

    I have one of those too, the jacket says its made of 100 per cent a-hole.

  5. That would be a funny comment if you weren't such an insecure little girl.

    Come back once you've grown enough hair to post your name with a comment.

    I feel sorry for you.

  6. No wonder the dedication page on my copy of Hitler's Children says "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust jacket."