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.

Current Count

Alleged Anthropodermic Books Identified: 47

Books Tested or In Process: 30

Books Confirmed as Human: 18

Books Proven to Be Not Human: 12

Results last updated: September 2016

Proven anthropodermic books from the Mutter Museum collection. Photo courtesy of the Historic Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Proven anthropodermic books from the Mutter Museum collection. Photo courtesy of The Historic Medical  Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Header photo of MALDI preparation by Megan Rosenbloom. 

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