USA. A book bound in human skin in the library. Harvard University has made a decision

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Harvard University has announced the removal of human skin from a book in its library. Scientists made a macabre discovery in 2014. As it was established, the French book “Destinées de l'Ame” in the local collections, published in the 19th century, was bound in the skin of an unidentified woman.

“Des Destinées de l'Ame” (Polish: “The Fate of the Soul”) by Arsène Houssaye has been in the collection of the Houghton Library, part of the Harvard University Library where rare books and manuscripts are kept, since 1934. In 2014, scientists found that the material in which this book is bound is human skin.

A book bound in human skin

Now Harvard University has decided to remove human remains from the book's binding, the British BBC reports on Thursday. “After careful review, engagement, and deliberation, the Harvard Library and the Harvard Museum Collections Returns Committee have agreed that the human remains used to bind this book no longer belong in the collection of the Harvard Library due to the book's ethically charged origins and subsequent history,” explained in the statement.

It added that they were looking for ways to ensure that “human remains are treated with the respect that will enable the dignity of the woman whose skin was used to be restored.” Harvard also said the library is currently conducting “additional biographical and background research on the anonymous patient.”

SEE ALSO: Human remains at the construction site. Next to them is a wedding ring, a piece of belt and a bullet

Anthropodermic bookbinding

“Des Destinées de l'Ame” was written by Arsène Houssaye in the mid-1880s. It concerns reflections on the human soul and life after death. It is believed that the author gave this book to his friend, Dr. Ludovic Bouland, who had it bound in human skin from an unidentified woman. This woman was supposed to be his patient who died of natural causes.

Inside the book was a note by Dr. Bouland stating that no decorations had been impressed on the book's cover in order to “preserve its elegance.” “I saved this piece of human skin taken from the woman's back,” he wrote. “A book about the human soul deserves to have a human cover,” he added.

As the BBC notes, the custom of binding books in human skin – anthropodermic bookbinding – has been known since the 16th century. There are numerous confirmed cases of donating the bodies of people who were executed for scientific purposes in the 19th century, and whose skins were later sent to bookbinding workshops.

– There are not many books like this, said Simon Chaplin, the manager of the Wellcome Library, a collection of books on the history of medicine, in 2014. “It was an occasional practice, used mainly to create a sense of excitement rather than for practical reasons,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Human remains in a well on an abandoned property. They were found by a man mowing the grass

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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