Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Books with covers made of human skin

By triji Apr 1, 2024
News

Tests indicated that the source was human skin, which had been removed from a deceased woman without her consent. In a manner that was devoid of hypocrisy, Harvard addressed the unpleasant past of the book by removing the binding.

The cover of that “old tome” was made of imitation leather. It is human skin. The illustrious Harvard University has made the announcement that it has deleted the “particular” attribute of a book that it has kept in one of its libraries for more than ninety years. It wasn’t until 2014 that it was learned that the skin in question belonged to a deceased woman. There is one book among the large collection of 20 million books that is bound with human skin that has been housed in the hallowed halls of the Houghton Library, which is located close to Boston, Massachusetts. This book has been there for nearly a century. Prior to the latest decision to step in and intervene.

“A book about the human soul deserved to have a human cover

“Des destins de l’âme” was a collection of essays written by Arsène Houssaye and published in the year 1879. It was not until much later that the French physician Ludovic Bouland tied it in human skin. Since 1934, it has been one of the items in the collection of the University. The idea of the book is a contemplation on the soul and life after death, and a handwritten note by Bouland is included with the volume. with the letter, Bouland states that “a book about the human soul deserved to have a human cover.” The woman had bound the book using flesh that had been extracted “without consent” from the body of an unknown patient who had passed away at the French psychiatric institution where she worked.

A review conducted by Houghton Library, which was spurred by recommendations from the Fall 2022 Report of the Harvard Steering Committee on Human Remains in University Museum Collections, resulted in the removal of human skin from the book. It was initially accepted into deposit by John B. Stetson, Jr. (1884-1952), an American diplomat, businessman, and Harvard alumnus (AB 1906). In 1944, the book was transferred from Widener Library to Houghton Library. Finally, in 1954, Ruby F. Stetson, Stetson’s widow, donated the book to the Houghton Library. The book has been in the collections of the Harvard Library since 1934.

During the early 1880s, the author, Arsène Houssaye, presented his friend, Dr. Ludovic Bouland, with the printed text of the book. Bouland was grateful for the gift. That “a book about the human soul deserved to have a human cover” is stated in a note that was penned by Bouland and included in the volume. This remark also includes a description of the procedure that was utilized to treat the leather in order to make it suitable for the intended usage.

Within a mental health facility, the unidentified patient passed away.

The specific identity of the leather that was used to bind the book is unknown to us, and we will never be able to pinpoint it. According to the evidence, Bouland bound the book with leather that he had obtained from a woman when he was a medical student. The leather had been taken from somebody else. Bouland allegedly removed this skin from the body of an unidentified deceased patient who was being treated at a French psychiatric hospital, according to a document that was intended to accompany the book written by John Stetson but has since been misplaced. A scientific method called as peptide mass fingering was utilized by the library in 2014 in order to test the binding, which ultimately confirmed that the binding originated from a human.

A statement has already been made regarding the case by Harvard University, which is widely regarded as the oldest university in the United States. This statement is an attempt to capitalize on the interest that has been generated by the book’s dark history. Regarding the human remains, a respectful disposition will be given, with the intention of restoring the woman whose skin was used to her previous level of dignity. The Library is currently conducting additional research on the anonymous patient, the book, and Bouland in terms of their provenance and biographical details. Additionally, they are talking with the appropriate authorities in France in order to establish the most effective method for completing these tasks. According to what is written on the website of the university, “We anticipate that this procedure will take months, and possibly even longer, to finish.”

What is the name of the phenomenon that involves binding books using human skin?

There is evidence that dates back to the 16th century that anthropodermic bibliopegy, which is the process of binding books with human skin, came into existence. There is a large number of reports that describe the execution of offenders, followed by the donation of their bodies to scientific research, and the subsequent distribution of their skins to bookbinders. “There are not a large number of these books in circulation, it has been a practice occasionally done primarily to generate surprise, rather than for any practical reason,” Simon Chaplin, who was the head of the Wellcome Library in 2014, said to the BBC at the time. Chaplin was referring to the fact that the library preserves books on the history of medicine. In a general sense, it seems to have been carried out during the 19th century by medical professionals who had access to human bodies for the purpose of dissection.

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