Anthropodermic bibliopegy, or books bound in human skin, are some of the most mysterious and misunderstood books in the world’s libraries and museums. The historical reasons behind their creation vary: 19th century doctors made them as personal keepsakes for their book collections or at the request of the state to further punish executed prisoners. Persistent rumors exist about French Revolutionary origins as well. The best evidence most of these alleged skin books have ever had were rumors and perhaps a pencil-written note inside that said “bound in human skin”… until now.
Our team has developed an easy, inexpensive, and truly authoritative method for testing alleged anthropodermic books to see if they’re of human origin. Our goal is to create a census for the alleged anthropodermic books of the world and test as many as possible to learn the historical truths behind the innuendo. We keep our partner institutions’ results anonymous unless we get their permission to share. UPDATE: The team’s work is currently on hiatus. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Alleged Anthropodermic Books Identified: 50
Books Tested or In Process: 31
Books Confirmed as Human: 18
Books Proven to Be Not Human: 13
Results last updated: May 2019
Header photo of MALDI preparation by Megan Rosenbloom.