The trend of binding books to human skin peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in Western Europe and the British Isles. Thematic books, including astrophysics, pornography, the Bible, but most often publications on human anatomy were, bound to human skin.
Skin donors were most often criminals sentenced to death who wanted their bodies to make sense after death. They considered it an honor. However, most of the bodies came from criminals who had no idea how their bodies would be treated after death.
French Writers Trend
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the French writer and astronomer Camille Flammarion wrote dozens of scientific works and science fiction novels. He received a strip of skin as a gift from an aristocratic fan who died of tuberculosis. Flammarion fulfilled the countess’ wish, and in 1925, published the scientific publication Terres du Ciel bound to her skin.
In 18th and 19th century France, several books tied in women’s skins appeared so that a nipple appeared on the cover. For example, the obscene book The Marquis with Sade Justine et Juliette or the novel Praise of Women’s Breasts by Claudia-Francois Xaver Mercier.
There was also a great demand for books bound in exotically tattooed leather – one such copy of Alexander Dumas’s novel The Three Musketeers has survived to this day.
Warning to Protestants
The book Idolatrie Huguenotre or Huguenot Idiolatry provides a different view of human skin binding. This book describes the real and imaginary sins of French Protestants.
Its author, the Catholic writer Louis Richeome bound it to Protestant skin. Probably to show how the enemies of Catholicism will end. According to the author, the Huguenots were not Christians. The book is now stored at the University of Memphis as evidence of intolerance in the 17th century.
The skin has been tanned in the same way as animal skin, but its human origin is relatively easy to recognize today because it has a different structure. One of the most famous books bound in human leather is A True and Perfect Relation. A 1606 copy is bound in the face of priest Henry Garnet, who was involved to blow up the British Parliament.
After the execution, his body was skinned and quartered. A book cover describing the trial of the defendants was then made into the skin of the priest’s face. Father Garnet is still clearly visible in the book. In 2007, A True and Perfect Relation was auctioned for $ 11,000.
Featured image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay