The History behind Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

Mein Lieblingsblog über mittelalterliche Chirurgie hat ein nettes Posting über in Menschenhaut gebundene Bücher. Die Illu zeigt die Häutung von Jonas Wright im 17. Jahrhundert, dessen Haut für den Einband eines spanischen Gesetzbuchs benutzt wurde. Yummy!

This is a book bound in the flesh of William Burke, the notorious murderer. Between 1827 and 1828, Burke and his accomplice, William Hare, drugged and killed 16 people for the sole purpose of selling their bodies to the anatomist, Dr Robert Knox. During their murder trial, Hare turned King’s Evidence in exchange for immunity. Burke was eventually found guilty of the murders and hanged before [ironically] being dissected in Edinburgh Medical College.

The process of binding books using human flesh is known as ‘anthropodermic bibliopegy’. One of the earlier examples dates from the 17th century and currently resides in Langdell Law Library at Harvard University. It is a Spanish law book published in 1605. The colour of the binding is a ‘subdued yellow, with sporadic brown and black splotches like an old banana’. On the last page, there is an inscription which reads:

„The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma [possibly an African tribe from modern-day Zimbabwe, see [above] illustration] on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.“

Books of Human Flesh: The History behind Anthropodermic Bibliopegy