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Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: an Extensive Survey and
Re-appraisal of the Phenomenon
To cite this version:
Jennifer Kerner. Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: an Extensive Survey and Re-appraisal of the Phe-
nomenon. [Research Report] Université Paris-Nanterre. 2019. �halshs-02321007�
Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: an Extensive Survey and Re-
appraisal of the Phenomenon
Paris-Nanterre University, Department of Anthropology, UMR 7055.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the practice of binding books with human
skin widespreaded. Although anthropodermic bibliopegy has often been mentioned,
no comprehensive overview has previously been undertaken. This study provides the
most extensive survey of books bound in human skin conducted to date.
Curation and study of human remains is a major concern for museums. In the
search of the most appropriate physicochemical identification method to carry for the
authentification of the leather, I discusse the advantages and disadvantages of each
archaeometric test. Protein signature, immunochemistry and DNA tests were assessed.
In order to highlight the importance of a reflexion around the exhibition of these
artefacts, sociological processes involved in their making and selling were discussed.
Human bindings were associated with the judiciary system in Great Britain, France
and U.S.A. as material witnesses to justice in action and part of post-mortem rites
performed around criminal bodies. The skin were often retrieved from the bodies of
the poor. This fact has not been without consequences for the study and exhibition of
these remains. Finally, ethical considerations will be considered in order to advance
towards a better preservation and presentation of these objects to the public.
KEYWORDS : bibliopegy, human leather, physicochemical analysis, curation
Books have long been objects of knowledge and pleasure, but they have also
at times become ostentatious luxury items, allowing their possessors to express both
their status and personality. This latter function became common in the late 19th and
early 20th centuries when bibliomania became widespread among the bourgeois and
aristocratic social strata of Western Europe (Silverman 2008). It was in this setting
that the use of eccentric binding materials blossomed as a practice. In the hopes of
attracting an eclectic array of zealous book collectors, an extensive selection of
materials, already known previously, were used, including precious silks from Japan,
China and Persia, ivory, and cork, as well as exotic animal skins (such as ostrich,
shark, python, seal, walrus, kangoroo, crocodile, and java lizard) (Blumenthal 
There seemed to be no limit for these collectors in their quest for novelty,
afflicted as they were by what has been termed: 'bibliopegic dandyism' (Jackson
1950). It is therefore perhaps no surprise that human skin, already known to have been
used in the creation of a variety of other objects1, was subsequently included in the
long list of materials constituting bookbindings.
The academic world has, from time to time, cast a curious eye upon this
phenomenon. However, although anthropodermic bibliopegy has often been
mentioned, no comprehensive overview has ever been undertaken. Recent
publications focusing on this phenomenon have consisted of specific case studies
(Harrisson 2017) or have referenced information previously provided in earlier and
dated (though abundant) sources (Blumenthal  (1969); Thompson 1946, 1969).
This relative timidity of researchers faced with these materials as their subject matter
may be driven by the sensitive and ethically charged nature of these objects.
I have undertaken the creation of a thorough catalog (Kerner 2017), detailing
all of the books which have been purported to be bound in human skin, and based
upon a review of the existing literature and the consultation of archival sources from
the major French, British and American auction houses (Table 1). Once the
compilation of the data into the extensive catalog was complete, I then verified the
existence of each book with the institution responsible for its conservation, and
gathered unpublished data relative to the artifacts in question, conducting inquiry with
the help of the curators and booksellers among archives and shelvings of the libraries.
Presented here is a survey of this catalog which constitutes the very first analytic
inventory dealing with the phenomenon of anthropodermic bibliopegy. Then, the
analysis of the corpus will lead us to reflections on the social functions that these
singular books may have performed.
Methodological obstacles including a lack of protocols for distinguishing
human skin from other leathers have resulted these objects being under-studied. I
personaly didn't conducted any analysis on the book I saw2, arguing that the question
of testing these peculiar objects is too complex to be conducted before a serious
methodological and ethic reflection. Curation and study of transformed human
remains is a major concern for museums (Jenkins 2011), moreover when not so old
societal issues come into play. Thus, in this article, I evaluate several methods for the
identification of these materials and recommend a suggested protocol. I will also
raised some ethical considerations hoping that this reflection will allow to begin a
study of these books in the better conditions.
I - Inventory
I was able to identify 136 volumes (existing, allegedly existing or ordered by
collectors without us being able to verify whether or not the order was fulfilled). The
datation of the bindings spread from the XIIIth to the XXth century. In the corpus, I
was able to find the current location of 70 volumes (Table 1). These works are mostly
of literary or scientific nature, typically preserved in university libraries. A few books
made with the skins of criminals (4, 7, 12, 19, 29, 30, 34, 46, 50, 71, 76, 88, 90, 109,
111) also survived and are exhibited in local museums. On the contrary, subversive
and profane works (including erotica, as well as common literature) were not able to
be localized, as they were housed and preserved by private collectors. While the
descendants of the original owners may very well have kept them, no trace of their
continued existence was found today despite our research.
I (1) - A variety of technical procedures
The methods used in the preparation of human skins for book binding vary
according to the origin of the skin. The skins of consenting donors (8, 11, 19, 58, 90),
those of hospital patients (2, 6, 21, 25, 36, 42, 60, 68, 85) or executed criminals (see
list above) (which make up 80 per cent of the cases included in our corpus) were
prepared intensively according to traditional tanning practices. These processes were
often very similar to the one used in the creation of leather from animal hides. Most
often, the preparation of these skins included stages of tanning, dyeing, gilding and
varnishing3. This rigorous preparation ensured a perfect preservation.
Skins taken from tattooed persons who lived on the fringe of society were
also applied to book bindings (70, 79, 84, 92, 105, 106, 20 per cent of cases in our
corpus). Their preparation was not afforded the same attention. These were prepared
differently than non-tattooed skins, and were merely rinsed or macerated in ether and
then dried on frames4. They were rarely actually tanned, and were usually undyed and
unvarnished (Sue 1765).
The preparation of skins was sometimes achieved in an artisanal manner and
was carried out by the doctors responsible for the removal of the fragment of skin.
The medical doctors Dr. J. Stockton Hough (1845-1906) and Dr. L. Bouland (1839-
1932) (Rogers & Horrocks 1989), were both personally responsible for the
preparation of hides as the handwritten notes found on their books prove it. However,
in these cases, the practice of binding was nonetheless, most often subsequently
performed by a professional. Fragments of human leather were sometimes worked by
master binders such as René Kieffer, and thus attained the status of objects of art (De
I (2) - Varying and not always identifiable providers
Human skin providers are typically involuntary suppliers, most often retrieved
from the bodies of the poor whose remains were not claimed after a death in hospital
as most of handwritten notes found on the books mentions it (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
21, 24, 25, 27, 34, 36, 37, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 58, 60, 62, 63, 64, 68, 76, 80, 85, 90, 91,
94, 95, 97, ). They remain anonymous and are designated only by their sex (2, 6, 17,
21, 23, 25, 27, 36, 37, 42, 43, 60, 67, 68, 85, 91), and possibly by their cause (7, 21,
25, 36, 42, 60, 91) and place of death (2, 6, 21, 25, 36, 42, 85, 91)5.
Of the 136 volumes in our catalog, the names of only 28 of the people whose
skins were used are known by name (7, 12, 19, 20, 21, 25, 27, 29, 30, 34, 36, 46, 48,
49, 50, 58, 71, 76, 88, 90, 109). Of these people, 17 of them were criminal (4, 7, 12,
19, 29, 30, 34, 46, 48, 49, 50, 71, 76, 88, 90, 109, 111). All of the others were
celebrities in the world of folk art (Perky the giant, 27, the 'negro' Bamboula, 87) or
intellectuals (Jacques Delille, 108). Only one indigent woman, Maria Lynch, figures
among the named (21, 25, 36) (Kerner 2017).
Statistically, consenting donors are rare. However, I have identified at least
eight cases of voluntary donors (8, 11, 13, 19, 44, 58, 63, 90). Members of the
intellectual elite dominate this group. I count two poets (8, 63) who wished to bind
their own works with their own skin, as well as three bibliophiles (11, 13, 58) who
wished to become the binding for a work of their favorite author (Thompson 1968).
It's interesting to highlight that these persons were always men and that the way their
whim has been seen by their contemporaries differs radically depending on their
reputation. Their gesture could have been seen as sublime – in the case of lovers and
distinguished professors – or ridicule – in the case of a failure of an artist and self-
published author as E. Kaffmann – (Cim 1909). Finally, two criminals (19, 90) are
also counted among these seven, though their full consent must remain cast in the
shadow of doubt (Kerner 2018).
I (3) - Thematic works
A review of the data reveals that the thematic content of books bound in
human skin is varied in nature.
Of the 136 volumes in our inventory, the thematic content of 127 volumes is
known (Figure 1). Another 46 are works of common literature (22, 24, 32, 35, 37, 41,
43, 45, 66, 67, 69, 70, 74, 79, 82, 83, 84, 87, 92, 94, 99, 101, 102, 103, 108, etc), with
an over-representation of essays on death and melancholic poems (16, 47, 55, 56, 57,
60). There also exist at least two political texts (15, 104), nine works of erotica (6, 66,
67, 72, 73, 96, 97, 105, 106), and nine religious texts (six of Judeo-Christian tradition
5 39, 53, 54, 65, 91 and one of Muslim tradition, 89). A total of 40 volumes deal with
medical science (1, 2, 4, 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 36, 40, 42, 51, 62, 68, 81, 85, 86,
107). Finally, the subject of judicature occupies an interesting place since seven books
describe the life or the trial of condemned individuals sentenced to death (12, 19, 30,
34, 46, 50, 90), three books are texts of law (33, 48), and one is an almanac of
I (4) - A collection of comprehensive works
I (4, a) - Iconography and interrelated content
With the phenomenon of anthropodermic bibliopegy, I distinguish a desire to
create a global or all encompassing work. Thus, the bookbinding material often
echoes the subject of the book, proposing what Dr. Bouland referred to as 'binding
congruent to the subject' (Figure 2). It is probably not insignificant that the work
entitled 'Chair' ('flesh' in french) by Verlaine (104) was created using tanned human
flesh. This relatedness between the nature of the container and its contents has given
rise to many puns, in both French and English. For example, a press article describing
a volume of E. A. Poe’s work (86), bound in human skin, was titled 'Peau et Poe'
('Skin and Poe' in french) (Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux 1910: 602).
The identity of the skin provider may be chosen with care in order to further
the quest for humor. Thus, the Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (70), more commonly
known as Johnson’s Dictionary, was bound in the skin of J. Johnson. This relationship
between provider and object is not exceptional: gynecology books and works of
erotica are often and specifically bound with the skin of women (20, 24, 34, 40, 84).
And it is common for the book bound in a criminal’s skin to carry within its pages the
story of his life (J. Allen, 19), his confessions (L.-M. Rambert, 89) or the summary of
his trial (W. Corder, 33) (Kerner 2018). Lastly, a book dealing with the pituitary
gland, often responsible for growth disorders, was bound with the skin of a giant
By observing these books, I realized that the imagery applied to the leather is
also carefully chosen, reflecting as much as possible the subject of the work within. A
gallows motif is thus cut out on the cover of J. Horwood’s book as a graphic reminder
of his death sentence (48). A red band recalls the scene of the crime on the cover of
W. Corder’s 'The Red Barn' (33). In the case of the book bound with the skin of L.-M.
Rambert (89), the fragment of epidermis retains the hair and nipple of the condemned
man, in an effort to preserve some part of the living and to provide the beholder with
the sensation of looking at a veritable portrait (Figure 4). As for tattoos incorporated
into bindings, they are also chosen according to the contents of the work (portraits of
women for books whose protagonists are female (70, 92), a flag for the cover of 'Le
Drapeau' ('The Flag' in french, 31) of J. Claretie, and so on).
The book is thereby a global work in which the content, selected iconography
and leather come together to form a coherent and comprehensive whole. The lengths
to which are gone in order to exhibit such works also speak to this desire to create an
I (4, b) - The exhibition of books
After an overview of the literature related to the topic (see references from the
census, Table 1) I realized that rare are the cases of books bound in human skin being
placed on the shelves of a library without first being showcased in an original manner.
A few have been displayed in bookstore fronts as elements of advertising in
Berlin and Milan (Thompson 1968). Others have been integrated as features of
provocative scenography alongside other objects of 'murderabilia' as a means to
inspire intense feelings within the onlooker. In line with this trend, the skeleton of J.
Horwood was thus exposed at the University of Bristol from 1821 to 2011, with a
rope around his neck, in proximity to the book bound in his skin (Fissell 1991: 168).
W. Corder’s death mask and scalp still rub shoulders with 'his' book at the Moyse’s
Hall Museum in Bury-St-Edmunds, despite countless ethical debates surrounding
II – Interpretation
These books functioned in a variety of ways: from the memento mori to the
mere object of curiosity, to the role of deterring agent utilized by the judiciary forces
that be. Whatever the case, a book bound in human skin has always been linked to a
strong social discourse.
In order to draw the most relevant anthropological conclusions, it is important
to take into account the chronological evolution of the connotations attached to these
books, as well as the context of the production and sale of such objects.
II (1) – Relationship to the realm of the judiciary
The first known cases of books bound with human skin are associated with the
judiciary system and were bound with the skin of convicts condemned to death. The
very first volume of this type was created in Great Britain in 1606 (46)7. There is then
a rupture in testimonies about this kind of production, followed by a significant wave
of manufacturing between 1800 and 1830. The trend was slightly later to catch on in
the USA, with a first occurrence dated to 1837 (19). Finally, France also produced
several volumes in the 1880s (14, 17, 29) (Figure 1).
These volumes played a complex role in the unfolding of 'post-execution rites'
(Hurren 2016), among other practices such as dissection (Richardson 1987),
experiments on the body (Flammarion 1894), exposure of the cadaver (Tarlow 2016 ;
Matteoni 2016 ; Penfold-Mounce 2010) or secondary use of bones in anatomical
collections (Geller 2015). This complex topic has been widely covered by many
researchers and I invite readers to consider the following paper, focused on the close
connection between abuse of the criminal body and manufacture of artefacts in the
stigmatization process of outlaws, for a synthesis (Kerner 2018).
III (1, a) Material witnesses to justice in action
The crimes committed by skin providers were always serious (homicides,
lèse-majesté crimes and treason) and the creation of this kind of book became an
exemplary sanction. It becomes apparent that this practice was one of humiliation
(Harrison 2017: 383; McGrowen 1987: 653), used as an educational tool – and a
persuasive one at that – with in mind the population that would be the spectator of this
treatment (Nystrom 2014). In transforming a number of death row inmates into
national anti-heroes, whose treatment became archetypal in its rigor, the British,
American and French Justice systems succeeded in creating strong symbols. The
bodily fragments of these individuals thus incarnated the image of the crime
mercilessly punished. Furthermore, they thereby served as visual support to
moralizing fables that were then easily disseminated among the most popular classes.
In this context, the authorities exhibited the books in public places.
However, these books were also relics that were exchanged in private settings.
In this case, the possession of such memorabilia became essential to proving one’s
presence at the execution or the 'spectacular post-mortem encore' that constituted the
public dissection (Hurren 2016: 276). These souvenirs could take the form of a
segment of the rope used for hanging, or a fragment of bone (Nunn 2005), or a piece
of tanned skin that might be used to cover various everyday objects.
These bound works were thus a materialization of different social frontiers:
those between the condemned and the justice department responsible for the
condemnation, followed by the possession of the criminal’s body, but also those limits
between the spectator of judicial ruling and the criminal who becomes a 'victim'.
II (1, b) Witnesses to individual suffering
Far from their role in provoking humiliation, these artifacts have seen their
function evolve and have become important elements in a positive re-appropriation by
the descendants of those condemned criminals whose skin they are bound in. They
became a medium for the perpetuation of the criminal’s legacy within a family
We can also consider that the justice system was not merely a machine
designed for crushing the hopes of the most hardened criminals. By giving the
condemned criminal the opportunity to suffer and to leave behind symbolic proof of
their punishment, the justice system also offered them an opportunity to publicly seek
forgiveness through their suffering and humiliation. A paid debt as civil martyrs:
therein would be the ultimate freedom for the condemned, thus allowed a role in the
staging of their own demise.
II (2) - Anthropodermic Bibliopegy in the context of the search for curiosities and a
fascination for tattooed skins
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many tattooed human skins were
treated in order to better preserve them for conservation. This effort was made with
either preservation in a museum setting in mind, frequently related to ethnographic
research, or, as was more often the case, for medico-judiciary archival purposes
(Quétel 2013; Angel 2013; Locard 1932). A. Lacassagne proposed to decipher
criminal personalities via the joint observation of anthropometry and the psychology
of the subject. The presence of tattoos was considered one of the 'signs' of latent
criminality in patients (Putigny 2007). The study of bodily modifications would come
to be at the heart of his research.
Along with the circulation of the writings of A. Lacassagne, a trend was born
and the collection of tattooed fragments of skin transcended the framework of the
academic milieu and spread to the upper classes. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th
century, there existed an important market for tattooed human skin, existing outside of
the circuit of anthropodermic bibliopegy (Risser 1937). Secondary use as a binding
was only one aspect of the exploitation of these precious fragments, which could even
be reserved in vivo with the tattooed subject (Bazal 1934). The cost of such a purchase
was prohibitive for the middle classes and this phenomenon mainly concerned a
cultivated subset of the social elite.
The book made of the skin of L.-M. Rambert (90) thus presents itself as a
fascinating object at the crossroads of two phenomena. By binding a book filled with
the confessions of L.-M. Rambert with the skin of the criminal himself, I assume that
J. Lacassagne, son of A. Lacassagne, reclaimed the old tradition of binding with the
skin of the condemned, while all at once illustrating the preoccupation with tattooed
skins that was so in vogue for his time.
II (3) - The muse, the poetess, the martyr and the prostitute: the place of femininity
within the phenomenon of anthropodermic bibliopegy
II (3, a) Authors
Women occupy a special place within the phenomenon of anthropodermic
bibliopegy. It is interesting to note that only two female authors have received the
honor of having their works bound in human skin. The first is L. Bourgeois, a
renowned midwife, known to have stood up to Court surgeons and to have advocated
for the contributions of women to medicine thanks to her book 'Recueil des Secrets
auquel sont contenues ses plus rares experiences pour diverses maladies,
principalement des femmes, avec leurs embellissement' (25) (Vons 2008). The second
is P. Wheatley, author of the book 'Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral'
(110), a poetess with an extraordinary destiny since she was a slave before becoming
the first black American woman author of world renown. Both are women who were
out of step with their time and who managed to free themselves from the social
constraints imposed by their sex and ethnicity, in order to gain a reputation worthy of
their male counterparts. It is undoubtedly this peculiarity that earned them a special
place within a practice that normally considers women only as an object of desire and
II (3, b) Female skin suppliers and eroticism
The sponsors of books bound in human skin have been exclusively men, and
except for the cases of Bourgeois and Wheatley, women are relegated to participation
in the creation of objects by bequeathing their skin. The providers are almost always
anonymous but their sex is carefully stipulated as a criterion of distinction (it is the
case for all the productions of Dr. John Stockton Hough cited in the census (2, 17, 21,
36, 42) as well as for most of the erotic novels counted (6, 73, 96, 97,)). These women
are thus reduced to their mere biological sex, and the manuscript annotations
obliterate all evidence of the social being that they were.
A notable exception is the Flammarion donor (44), provided with a charming
name though certainly not her own: the Countess of Saint-Angel. Her identity has
been the subject of much hypothesizing and tale telling. Indeed, she was made noble
by the writings of journalists (whereas her actual class was not known), in order to
further romanticize the story of her tragic destiny (Blumenthal  (1969)). The
choice of the fragment of tanned skin, described as having come from 'delicate
shoulders', participates in the manufacturing of a distinguished, almost virginal image
and is in stark contrast with the typical zones of selection, which concentrate on areas
with high erotic potential.
Indeed, based on my census, the most frequently selected skin samples from
women providers come from the breasts (five volumes, 6, 22, 73, 96,), but also from
the thighs (four volumes, 21, 25, 36) and the waist (two volumes, 2, ). These selected
zones reflect an associated sensuality, and underscore that the use of female skin for
the purposes of anthropodermic bibliopegy is directly related to its being inherently
imbued with erotic symbolism. Furthermore, with the exception of Flammarion’s
'Terres du Ciel' which is a book dealing with astronomy (44), “Life of Jesus” (91),
“Les mystères de Paris” (103) and “Des destinées de l'âme dealing with life after
death (60) all of the works bound in women’s skin deal with sexuality (whether it be
from a poetic, erotic or medical point of view : 6, 11, 22, 25, 36, 37, 38, 42, 67, 73,
85, 96, 97, 101, 102, 106).
Doctors have a very intimate relationship with the skin fragment since they
sometimes are responsible for it in all stages of its manipulation, from its removal
from the corpse to its preparation and subsequent use in binding. Their relationship to
the object is not devoid of sensuality: indeed, the tone of Dr. Bouland’s note is, in this
respect, rather suggestive (Figure 2).
If in modern medicine hyper-sexualized and deviant behaviors seem to be
confined to the rite of passage of the physician in the making (Godeau 2007), the
professional standards for physicians in the 19th and early 20th centuries and their
ethical position in relation to the patient’s body were not as moderated as they are
today. Thus, eroticism and dark humor were still part of the daily life of practicing
physicians for this era (the human skin bound book 'A Book about Doctors' by J. C.
Jeaffreson (62) – to cite only one – delivers some revealing anecdotes in this domain).
In this context, books made with skin of women seem to have replaced the
Anatomical Venus (Ebenstein 2016) and formaldehyde treated entire women's bodies
(McDonald 2005) in offering the members of the medical community a taste of
The powerful erotic symbolism of the works bound in female skin has
prompted some researchers to correlate the use of these skins to sexual deviances
related to necrophilia (Aggrawal 2016). This is a psychoanalytic interpretation that is
likely a bit too advanced, and above all too generalized, specifically as pertains to
those instances in which we may perceive a variety of intentions related to these
works, depending oftentimes on the creator, manipulator or consumer. In our view,
the use of a woman’s skin is in most instances related to an effort toward public
provocation in the context of a trend that was already deemed 'decadent' in nature.
Mistreated and objectified or elevated to the rank of a delicate muse, the
woman providing her skin is a polymorphous persona. Whatever her status, the
female leather provider (unlike the anonymous and forgotten male provider),
participates in the creation of the book’s associated charm. In this sense, women -
most often in spite of themselves - contributed to the spread of this phenomenon.
II (4) – The medical realm
A vast majority of the works (24 volumes) bound with human skin, and dating
to the end of the 19th century, is of a medical persuasion (1, 2, 4, 17, 18, 21, 23, 25,
27, 28, 36, 40, 42, 51, 62, 68, 81, 85, 86, 107) (Figure 1). This practice embodies a
whole series of inter-personal and inter-class relationships: between the different
doctors among themselves, but also between different members of the medical
profession and those outside of it, as well as between men and women in general.
II (4, a) The initiated versus the layman
Works of human skin constitute a specialized production that presents a
marked boundary between the patient and the possessor of medical authority. It is thus
the concretization of the doctor’s ultimate seizure of power over the patient by the use
of his body for purely 'playful' purposes.
Indeed, this artifact is the only object produced with human material, by
doctors, whose creation is not justified by a need to deepen knowledge or for the
transfer of knowledge to students of the discipline (skeletons, various anatomic
collections, etc.). The objects produced remain linked to the medical practice
(consultation document holders, medical books, etc.), just as it is for the doctor to
prove, by the possession of such an object, his full integration into the medical
profession. It is a matter of exposing one’s socio-professional belonging by the
possession of a singular object, moreover considered repulsive by the majority of a
A hierarchy within the medical profession also seems to be underscored by the
possession of this type of item. If even the busboy has access to the raw material
needed for the production of a book bound in human skin, it is typically the
distinguished doctor who possesses sufficient income to transform the material into a
finished, luxury object.
II (4, b) An amoral production
Doctors have developed a particular state of mind by establishing a distance
between themselves and their subject matter, i.e., the suffering patient or the
deceased. The latter momentarily loses its status of person in order to assume that of
an object. This forced detachment from the patients and their bodies is a protective
mechanism against sentimentality, and it ensures the smooth advancement of
treatment and research. This is what W. Hunter described when he spoke of the
'necessary inhumanity' involved in the dissection of dead bodies (Hunter 1784). This
non-empathic behavior intended to be adopted only sparingly and during very precise
operations within the physician’s range of responsibilities, unfortunately sometimes
went beyond the scope of medical investigation. In this case, such behavior may have
led to superfluous post-mortem treatment on the part of physicians, resulting in, for
example, the creation of human skin bindings. Because such activity no longer has
anything to do with a search for new knowledge or a passing of a previously existing
empirical understanding, it becomes injurious to the patient and their descendants. It
is for this reason that the sampling of a corpse for the creation of an object whose
purpose is amusement appears immoral in the eyes of our contemporaries. And yet,
such a production was also considered an amoral act in the era of its manufacture.
In what was perhaps an effort to rehabilitate the opinions of their colleagues,
some authors attempted to liken this practice, exercised by certain doctors, to a
commemorative act (Guelle 2002: 89). This assertion is based on the fact that books
created and annotated by doctors such as J. Stockton-Hough (2, 17, 21, 36, 42), or J.
Leidy (68) helped to preserve the memory of some of their patients to this day. I dare
argue that this is an unintended side effect. The initial and primary intention of the
bookbinder should not be confused with the result obtained several decades later.
Indeed, concerning J. Stockton-Hough, a wish to pay tribute to the patients is
improbable, as his disrespect for them is palpable (inter alia, through the handwritten
note I found on the leaf of 'Speculations on the Mode and Appearances of
Impregnation in the Human Female' which mentions that the human skin has been
tanned in a 'pot de chambre' (chamber pot in french)). Concerning Leidy, he used the
skin of a soldier when he was working as a doctor in the Union Army’s Satterlee
Army General Hospital in order to bind the book he wrote 'Elementary Treatise on
Human Anatomy' (Marvin 1994). This move seem to fall under an egotic pulse from
the author more than an homage to the deceased. Although the context of the period
must be taken into account to avoid unjust condemnation of our predecessors, it is
clear that their aim was by no means a commemorative one. At most, it can be argued
that the intention was not deleterious, though it may resemble the aggressive
appropriation of one social category by another.
III - 'Proving' the human provenance of leather: methods and limitations
As with all original practices that include human body parts, anthropodermic
bibliopegy has aroused fantasies and tall-tale telling alike. These fictions have been
widely conveyed – be it, due to ignorance, or a taste for sensationalism – by
newspapers and bibliophile publications alike. A reasoned re-evaluation of actual
books bound of human skin requires an appraisal of the diagnostic methods used thus
far, as well as those that will have to be implemented in the future, in order to
determine the taxonomic affiliation of the skin provider.
III (1) - Identification by oral or written testimony
The vast majority of human skin texts have been identified by oral testimony
subsequently translated into writing. The sources are varied and include newspaper
articles (14), letters of correspondence (44), wills of consenting donors (11, 62, 63,
64, 90), as well as autographs (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 34, 36, 42, 46, 48,
50, 60, 68, 76, 80, 85, 91, 94, 97) directly affixed to the cover or one of the pages of
the book in question for 32 cases. For example, 'Tabulae scelecti et muscularum
corporis humani' by B. S. Albinus contains the following autograph 'This book was
bound by me in human skin. Berlin. 1 June 1910. Paul Kersten'.
The use of these sources must be preceded by a critical investigation of the
provider of the information. As they provide a discourse that is inevitably shaped
according to the audience for which they were intended, it is necessary to confront the
incompleteness of some of these official sources, as well as, the wandering tendencies
of some journalistic texts.
Though these sources may be valuable, they cannot be considered to constitute
formal 'proof' of the existence or authenticity of the books in question.
III (2) - Identification by macroscopic and microscopic observation
Researchers using observation as means to identification may perform this
task at two levels of evaluation: macroscopic and microscopic.
On a macroscopic scale, leather has often been identified as human because of
the presence of nipples retained on the tanned skin fragment (6, 73, 90, 96). On a
microscopic scale, the arrangement of follicles on the surface of the skin is specific to
each species and can, therefore, theoretically allow for identification (4, 78).
Whatever the scale, identification by simple visual inspection poses obvious
problems because of the resemblance between human leather and porcine leather.
Indeed, the similarity between the skin of a human and that of a pig has been stressed
many times by doctors (Ranamukhaarachchi 2016). This is mainly expressed in the
morphology of the follicles, the cellular composition of the epidermis and upper
layers of the dermis but also in the skin immune system's functioning (Summerfield
2015). This similarity has led researchers to use pigskin for experimental purposes in
order to better understand the development of melanomas in dermatological cancer
(Herron 2009), as well as to improve care in the case of second degree burns (Davis et
Further examination is therefore necessary in order to identify the skin
III (3) - Physicochemical identification
The taxonomic determination of skin providers is positively feasible only
through physicochemical analyses such as protein analysis, radio-immunological
doses testing or genomic signature identification.
Several processes can be used on leather, with varying degrees of success. Our
research has led to the discovery of contradictory results provided by successive
analysis performed on a single object. This was the case, notably for example, in the
attribution of the species whose leather was used in the binding of 'Huguenot Idolatry'
(93) (Harrisson 2017) (Figure 3). Lowenstein concluded that the book has been
undoubtedly bound in human skin (Lowenstein 1985) whereas the analysis led by
Kirby yielded a negative result9. As both researchers used the same method (PMF
analysis), it sounds like this difference in the result is linked to divergent protocols of
sampling and/or decontamination procedures of the sample. However, because of the
sensitive nature of these objects, it is important to minimize loss or damage of the
book. Therefore, I argue that avoiding excessive numbers of sampling for
identification by a consensus building is an urgent matter.
In this perspective, following is a non-exhaustive overview and evaluation of
the various methods that can be used to distinguish different sources of leather.
III (3, a) - The identification of the protein signature (PMF; LC-MS / MS)
Among the mass spectrometry (MS) protein identification methods, differing
degrees of precision can be achieved. Peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) analyses
represent the simplest and most commonly used analysis of archaeological objects.
They consist of a simple measurement of the mass of tryptic peptides derived from a
protein (Thiede et al. 2005). The comparison of the trypsin peptides profiles within a
reference database then makes it possible to identify the protein. The disadvantage of
this process is that its successful completion can only be guaranteed by a relatively
pure preparation: in other words, the protein must be significantly isolated in order to
be recognized. This high sensitivity requires a very careful samples preparation and
can lead to biased results.
The efficiency of identification can be increased with LC-MS / MS and Nano
LC-MS / MS technology. These techniques use liquid chromatography (LC) coupled
with mass spectrometry (MS) in order to extract the 'signature' of the proteomes
analyzed, and propose identification, even when these are not isolated. The
nanometric version has an even greater sensitivity that allows for the identification of
peptides even once they have been modified (for example by an enzymatic digestion
process) or when they have been inserted into a complex protein mixture (Gaspari and
Cuda 2011). This means that leathers that have been highly modified by an extensive
tanning process still can be identified.
The identification of proteins by MS has been successfully used on a number
of medieval and modern documents made of skin (Fiddyment et al. 2015). A positive
aspect of the MS identification processes is that they are nearly non-visible on a
macroscopic scale and therefore compatible with a heritage preservation policy (Kirby
et al. 2013). Theoretically, a simple friction of the surface of the object to be analyzed
with a non-latex eraser is sufficient for a sample. The convenience of the sampling
procedures often motivates the choice of this method of analysis but, as we will see
later, this choice is not without consequences in term of contamination issues.
III (3, b) – Immunochemistry (pRIA)
On non-prepared skin, the provider species can be also determined by radio-
immunological doses testing (pRIA). This method consists of an exploration of the
cells and antibodies of a tissue in order to determine the specific immune mechanism
that the organism follows. Since each species own specificities in term of immunity,
the taxonomic affiliation of the individual can be determined according to the
composition of the sample. It has yielded convincing results in the analysis of
prehistoric residues (Lowenstein et al. 2006; Reuther et al. 2006). Unfortunately, it
has never been tested on prepared skin. One more time, theoretically, the small
fraction of material necessary for the analysis makes the process non-visible at a
macroscopic scale (Ferenčík 1993).
III (3, c) - Identification of a genomic signature (DNA)
The analysis of DNA fragments following their multiplication by PCR10 is
commonly used on bio-archaeological remains (Geigl 2015) and for identifying book
leathers (like it was the case for 'El Viaje Largo' by T. Medina, 72). Furthermore, it
may be advantageously used toward the differentiation between species supplying
skin (Hummel 2003). Because of the handling of books by human, it sounds obvious
to everyone that the identification of genomic signature on book is not possible by
making a sample upon surface: a sampling inside of the thickness is required, and, as
a result, triggers a destruction of a small part of the artefact. This constraint often
discourages the use of DNA analysis on books so-told bound in human skin.
III (3, d) - Pros and Cons of the Different Methods
Protein identification methods are reasonably priced with an amount of 80 US$ for a
LC-MS / MS or Nano LC-MS / MS test, and about 60$ for a PMF test. DNA and
immunochemistry remains the most expensive methods, with widely varying prices
across laboratories. Most of the time, partnership with laboratories solves the problem
and allows researchers to choose their identification method following other
EFFICIENCY FACE UP TO ALTERATIONS CAUSED BY TANNING
PROCESSES AND GENERAL STATE OF PRESERVATION
First of all, it is important to be aware that different methods of tanning exist:
with animal fats, with mineral like alun (Halasz-Csiba 2002) or plant-derived
materials. The way they variously affect the skin in terms of chemical testing remains
unknown for now.
Without taking account of the nature of the tanning process, the efficiency of
DNA analysis has been tested on books and manuscripts. It seems to be slightly more
effective in the identification of the raw material used in the production of
parchments, rather than those of tanned skins (Burger et al. 2001). However,
experiments on cowhide have highlighted the survival of elements allowing for
identification by DNA analysis (Vuissoz et al. 2007).
Contrariwise, to the best of our knowledge, there is no equivalent experiment
to verify the validity of PMF, LC-MS / MS or NanoLC-MS / MS analyses on residual
material on tanned skins. In the case of pRIA analyses, highly satisfactory results
obtained on burned archaeological bones (Potter et al. 2010: 916) lead us to be
optimistic for the results we can expect from analysis of tanned remains because even
alterated tissues remain traceable. No experimentation to date, however, can as of yet
support this sentiment.
My preference gravitates increasingly towards DNA analysis because of the
best known implications of its use on ancient leathers. Anyway, both methods can be
used and, as we will see below, the efficiency of physicochemical identification tests
is primarily down to the way they are conducted.
Ancient leathers are frequently exposed to issues of preservation (Mesquita et
al. 2009). As far as I know, no study has been led to measure precisely the impact of
rotting on the efficiency of the analysis listed above. Anyway, It has been proven by
experiments that fungi attack preferentially the outermost layers, whereas
actinomycetes (bacteria) alter significantly the leather fibres (Strzelczyk et al. 1987).
Depending on the nature of the agents of deterioration, analysis can therefore be
conducted despite of a visual appearance of deterioration but a diagnosis of the
different agents must be done upstream of testing.
CONTAMINATION AND SAMPLING PRECAUTIONS
Studies frequently point to problems with sample contamination during
protein (Bell et al. 2009) and genetic (Geigl 2015) analysis. Contamination may be
caused by various phenomena.
DNA contamination by anyone manipulating or who has manipulated the
object of analysis becomes especially problematic when potential human leathers that
have been manipulated by other people for decades are analyzed. Indeed, this 'human'
pollution, which is normally easily identifiable and taken into account in the majority
of leather or archaeological skin analysis, risks, in this case, to be fodder for
confusion. Protein signatures appear to be less prone to contamination as a result of
successive manipulations of objects by humans over long periods of time. Thus,
protein and immunochemical analyses have been assumed to be preferable for the
study of ancient bindings (Rosenbloom 2017). Anyway, none of these methods are
exempted from contaminations from treatment methods of the skin/leather used in the
Tanning methods using animal fats can logically lead more easily to
misreading of the leather's provider species due to proteinic mixing. Fortunately, the
vegetable tanning methods were the most frequently used for binding (Viñas & Viñas
1992). Anyway, the use of animal fats was common to treat the leather after its
tanning before the 19th century (Quétel 2013), and animal residues can be found on
the surface of some ancient books. Moreover, the addition of dyes and varnishes of all
kinds may affect a sample when it has been withdrawn in surface of the binding.
III (3, e) – A Wise and Reproducible Sampling Process
Hence, samples taken from within the leather, and not from surface areas, are
much more reliable. This kind of sampling process should be used, disregarding the
chosen method of identification. However, the visible hole made by this type of
sampling discourages its usage and has made it an uncommon practice. Unfortunately,
the wish of using non-visible sampling methods is a counter-productive decision
which leads to unreliable and contradictory results. Long-term preservation of these
books could be ensured more surely through a reasonable slighty destructive sampling
than with myriad of supposedly 'non-destructive'11 but inefficient samplings.
In any cases and regardless of the method which is chosen, the book area
chosen for sampling is crucial to avoid issues caused by contamination. Hence, I
advise against any sample taken on the inside of the binding, especially on the edge of
the book and on the contact areas with the paper cover (Figure 5). These areas bear
adhesives, which in bookbinding, are often made using animal proteins. The presence
of these animal proteins may distort the identification of the species providing the
leather. Unfortunately, these areas are prefered by some researchers for sampling,
because they do not alters 'visible' zone of the binding (Kirby 2015).
III (4) - The benefits of a transparent protocol and cross over study
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of systematic verification of the
identification of the provenance of leather by physicochemical analyses whenever
there is suspicion of the use of human skin in the creation of a binding. This approach
has allowed for the debunking of an identification of human origin applied to certain
bookbindings, which had once been 'authenticated' by original autographs12.
In addition to the detection of fraudulous goods for sale, a cross over study
between physicochemical data and autographic testimonials allows for the
identification of 'historical lies'. These forgeries are unfortunately less frequently the
subject of commentary or analysis by institutions than are their real counterparts. And
yet historical counterfeits are just as important as genuine human skin bound artifacts,
as they allow us to gauge the infatuation that the public harbored for these books,
willing to go as far as the production of forgeries in order to satiate demand and turn a
III (5) – A cautious study for sensitive remains
It must be remembered that the conservation, display and studing of these
artifacts poses ethical problems for contemporary curators and researchers.
The showcasing of these works in private, as well as public settings, while part
of the cultural landscape at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, had already
shocked some. For example, a journalist from the Essex Standard reported that a
cleric donated £5 to the hospital, displaying W. Corder’s book and skeleton so that
their exhibition might cease (Essex Standard 1841). Setting aside the question of the
permanence of the historical testimony that these works represent, researchers
underscore the need to repair the post-mortem humiliation perpetrated against the skin
providers (Needham 2014), going so far as to propose the interment of human leather
bindings in decent burials (Samuelson 2014).
The argument I can make against these suggestions is that a burial would
amount to the destruction of these works. Furthermore we have a duty to preserve and
transmit to future generations the existence and importance of such vestiges, as they
are the testimony of an important sociological phenomenon that goes far beyond the
On the other hand, and in the name of human dignity, it seems essential to
improve communication surrounding these works. It is crucial that sensationalist
communication surrounding them cease. It is also imperative that we provide a more
comprehensive study of the subject, as well as take further precautions when
exhibiting them within a museum framework. Thus it may be possible to reconcile the
preservation of these material witnesses with a renewed respect for the person who
supplied their skin for their creation. Explanatory supplements, as well as displays
designed to allow room for contemplation and recollection of the memory of the
person behind the object might soften the brutality of their exhibition, while all at
once ensuring the rational preservation of these peculiar artefacts and the transmission
of the historical knowledge that they carry. It is worth reminding that respect and
consideration of the hidden man or woman behind the artefact will have to be taken
into consideration during the study and sampling of each volume, depending on
various parameters (among others: the wishes of the descendants of the deceased, the
value of the artefact into its original context, etc).
This study highlighted how the phenomenon of anthropodermic bibliopegy
can be seen as a 'global art', seeking for a symbiosis between container and content.
The human skin books broad a complex social discourse that must be approached in
an historical perspective, in which geographical variations are discernible. These
peculiar artefacts, reflecting the moral values of their society and their original
owners, deserve a further study. Systematic identification of the human origin of the
skin will be a necessary step for a deeper comprehension of the phenomenon. This
paper provides an extensive review of the advantages and disadvantages of each
method of identification as well as a proposition of an adapted protocol of sampling. I
hope that this survey will allow the key players in this field of research to work all
together towards increased understanding of these fascinating artefacts.
I would like to sincerely thank all the people who have shared unpublished data and
photographs with me, thus helping to enrich the contents of this paper: A. Walker, E.
Brenner, P. N. Harrison (Baylor University), J. Gordon (Beeghly Library of Juniata
University), G. Baxter, L. Parker and A. McWhirter (St Edmundsbury Heritage
Service), D. Cronk and A. Scotia (National Library of Australia), M. Gibson
(Wilkinsons Auctioneers), F. Léger (Académie Nationale de Médecine) and M.
Vercambre (Musée Grévin).
My friendship and gratitude go to Marine Degli for our fruitful discussions about this
shared subject of interest.
1: G. Warden's skin shoes, W. Burke's skin snuff box, H. Pranzini's skin pocket-book
2: On some of the books I will mention, physicochemical analysis have been
conducted by the Anthropodermic Book Project, founded by Daniel Kirby,
Richard Hark, Anna Dhody and Megan Rosenbloom
(https://anthropodermicbooks.org/) in order to test a maximum of human skin
bound books in North America. Megan R. foresees to publish a popular science
book (Rosembloom 2017, elec. comm.) but highlighted in a recent conference that
a publication of a census of all the books they tested will be problematic because
of confidentiality issues (Rosenbloom 2016).
3: Some specific recipes have been reported by Graham (1965).
4: 'Le procédé de tannage était une simple mais prolongée macération dans l'éther,
puis grattage pour enlever l'épaisseur de la peau et ne laisser que l'épiderme'
(Mercure de France, volume and date unknown, cited by Dussert & Walbecq
5: As an example, this is the note that can be found in the book of C. Drelincourt 'De
conceptione adversaria. Disce, homo, de tenui constructus pulvere, quae te edidit
in luncem conditione Deus. Ed. altera.': 'Bound in Trenton N.J. March 1887, with
tattooed skin from around the wrist of a man who died in the Philada. Hospital
6 : KUMC Libraries Catalog (online
7: This book, 'A True and Perfect Relation of The Whole Proceedings against the Late
most barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats' has been sold in
2007 by Wilkinsons Auctioneers (M. Gibson pers. comm.).
8: W. Roughead wrote that a piece of Burke's skin was kept by his grand-father in
order to tell the story of Burke to his descendants (Roughead 1921:66).
9: Ed. Frank, curator of the precious and rare books department at the University of
Memphis, pers. comm. to Harrisson (reported in Harrisson 2017).
10: The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a method of amplification of the
residual DNA which allow to obtain, from a restricted sample, a greater amount of
DNA fragments. As we do so, the ancient and incomplete DNA may be more
11: Whereas these methods of sampling are destructive but less visually altering.
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ID Title – Author
(and topic of
Unknown T / Thompson 1946, p. 93 ; Cim 1905
2/ - Anonymous
Unknown T / Thompson 1946, p. 97
3/ - Anonymous XIXth
T / Bogeng 1909, p. 90
4/ - Anonymous
Thompson 1946, p. 98
5/ - Anonymous
* Personnal communication of David
Faulds (Curator of Rare Books and
Literary Manuscripts of The Bancroft
6/ - Anonymous
(For sell in
a library of
Paris in the
T / Goncourt 1898, p. 133
7/ - Anonymous
(Trial of Arthur
T / Thompson 1968, p. 137
8/ - Anonymous
Unknown T / Fitzgerald 1886, p. 123
9/ - Anonymous XIXth Unknown T / Blumenthal 1932, p. 119.
in Paris' in
10 Almanach des
Unknown T / Blumenthal 1969, p. 90
11 / - Anonymous
1920 Unknown T / Hunter 1958, p. 41-42
12 / - Anonymous
Smith's life and
Unknown T / Blumenthal 1969, p. 82
13 Little Poems
for Little Folks
1847 Unknown T / Thompson 1968, p. 148
14 / - Anonymous XIXth
T / Thompson 1968, p. 150
15 Relation des
la ville de
M. DG. LXXI.
HN / Thompson 1968, p. 135 ; Blumenthal
1969, p. 80
ad mortem -
used to be
of the 20th
HN / Thompson 1968, p. 135
17 Catalogue des
a who sold
it in 1901 *
HN / * Guelle 2002, p. 87 ; Marvin 1994
humani - B. S.
to the head
t of Special
do not own
/ * Marvin 1994 ; *** Personnal
communication to the author (April
19 Narrative of
the life of
alias James H.
the warden of
HN / Boston Athenaeum Catalog
20 / - Anonymous XIXth
HN / Wellcome collection ctalog
21 Les nouvelles
sur toutes les
l’homme, et de
la femme :
sur chacune en
très utiles pour
la pratique des
- L. Barles
HN / Thompson 1946, p. 97 ; Guelle 2002,
22 Diaboliques -
Unknown T / Dupin 1932
Diseases - Dr.
Unknown T / Thompson 1968, p. 148
femme - A.
by D. P.
Blumenthal 1969, p. 77 * Catalogue
de la John Hay Library
25 Recueil des
ses plus rares
- L. Bourgeois
/ De Crauzat 1926 ; Marvin 1994 ;
Catalog of the Historical Medical
Library of the College of Physicians
of Philadelphia ; * Guelle 2002, p. 86
26 Les Opuscules
- compiled by
S. J. Bourlet de
J. B. A. Suard
1796 Unknown T / Blumenthal 1969, p. 84
pituitaria - J.
C. von Brunner
and F. S.
T / KUMC Libraries Catalog (en ligne
28 La Princesse
Révolution - A.
Unknown T / Bouckaert 1929, p. 180
29 / - Anonymous
Unknown T / J. P. 1873, p. 292
30 / - Anonymous
Unknown T / Goncourt 1898, p. 137 ; * « Campi et
sa peau », Le Figaro, numéro 329 (24
novembre 1884) ; ** Museum
Archives, personnal communication
by M. Vercambre
31 Lincoln the
Unknown - D.
T / On-line library catalog, University of
32 Le Drapeau - J.
Unknown T / De Crauzat 1926
T / Thompson 1946, p. 94 ; De Crauzat
34 Trial of Corder
HN / Gatrell 1996, p. 258 ; Thompson
1968, p. 128 ; Blumenthal 1969, p. 83
; Egar 1873, p. 292
35 La vie de
Unknown T / De Crauzat 1926
on the Mode
in the Human
Female - R.
HN / De Crauzat 1926 ; Marvin 1994 ;
Thompson 1968, p. 142-143 ; Guelle
2002, p. 86
37 Le bien que
l'on dit des
femmes - E.
Unknown T / De Crauzat 1926
Unknown T / De Crauzat 1926 ; Anonyme 1913
39 Les Décrétales XIIIth
T / De Crauzat 1926 ; Thompson 1968,
40 Die knöcherne
Hand (and 11
in Berlin in
T / Thompson 1968, p. 131
41 Le neveu de
Rameau - D.
Unknown T / De Crauzat 1926
te edidit in
altera. - C.
/ Thompson 1968, p. 142-143 ; Gordon
2016 ; * Guelle 2002, p. 87
43 Les trois
- A. Dumas
Unknown T / Dr. Legrain interview in Mercure de
France CXLI 1920, numéro 831
44 Terres du Ciel
used to be
/ Thompson 1968, p. 144 ; Blumenthal
 (1969), p. 122
45 Sahara et
Sahel : Un été
année dans le
Sahel - E.
Unknown T / De Crauzat 1926
46 A True and
Relation of The
Garnet a Jesuit
HN / Personnal communication of M.
Gibson (Wilkinsons Auctioneers) to
47 Comédie de la
Mort - T.
Unknown T / Legrain 1920
Hispaniae - J.
49 / - Anonymous
/ / Marvin 1994 ; Hurren 2013, p. 303
50 / - Anonymous XIXth
HN / Connor 2004 ; Thompson 1968 ;
Blumenthal 1969, p. 83
51 / - Hippocrates XIXth
/ / Blumenthal 1969, p. 91
fubtiliez qui le
/ / / Blumenthal 1969, p. 83
sot par eux
en la Ville de
Paris / -
53 Aurora Alegre
del dichoso dia
de la Gracia
de Dios - J. B.
/ / AbeBooks Auctions
54 Holy Bible
/ / Thompson 1968, p. 122
55 The Dance of
Death - H.
/ Gissing 1978, p. 323
56 The Dance of
Death - H.
d by Dr.
Catalog of the library
57 The Dance of
Death - H.
d by Dr.
Catalog of the library
58 Iliade -
/ HN / Anonymous 1910 p. 941. (cited by
Thompson 1968, p. 138)
59 Odes - Horace XIXth
/ / / Anonyme 1906, p. 269-270
60 Des destinées
de l'âme - A.
d by Bill
/ Catalog of the library
61 / - Anonymous ? Dresden
/ / Blumenthal 1969, p. 91
62 A Book about
Doctors - J. C.
/ HN / A. Cim 1905 p. 295-296 and 300
63 Zwei Hundert
Männer - E.
ue du Dr.
HN / A. Cim 1905 p. 295-296 and 300
64 Épisodes de la
vie des insectes
/ - Anonymous
HN / A. Cim 1905 p. 295-296 and 300
65 The Imitation
of Christ - T.
/ / Nelson 2000
66 Le divan
chérif Solman -
/ / / Bouckaert 1929, p. 181
67 Mérite des
femmes - G.
/ / / De Crauzat 1926, p. 147-148 ; Nisiar
1910, p. 319-320
Anatomy - J.
HN / Thompson 1946, p. 97 ; Marvin
1994, p. 135 ; Guelle 2002, p. 88
69 Histoire de Gil
Santillane - A.
ue du Dr.
/ / A. Cim 1905 p. 295-296 and 300
70 Les trois
Dames de la
Kasbah - P.
/ Tattoo / De Crauzat 1926
dictionary - J.
Lych and S.
/ / / G. A. C., 1866 (cited by Thompson
1968, p. 137)
72 El Viaje Largo
- T. Medina
Catalog of the Bailey Library ; *
Personnal communication of Judith
Silva in Gordon 2017
73 Éloge du sein
des femmes -
C. F. X.
/ / / De Crauzat 1926 ; Interview of Dr.
Legrain in Mercure de France CXLI,
1920, n° 831 (cited by Thompson
1946, p. 99)
74 Le 40ème
d’artillerie - O.
/ / / De Crauzat 1926
75 Mexican codex
? Told to be
ing to this
T / Blumenthal 1969, p. 91
76 Poetical Works
- J. Milton
HN / Thompson 1946, p. 96, note 15
77 Poetical Works
- J. Milton
/ / Thompson 1968
78 Opera Joannis
proficua de G.
by Dr. D.
79 Fêtes foraines -
/ Tattoo / De Crauzat 1926
80 The Chronicles
HN / Thompson 1946, p. 97
81 Essai sur
corps - Brother
/ / Anonyme 1910, p. 771
s - Ovide
Countway Museum's Blogpost
83 Le Traicté de
Peyne : poëme
à madame de
Lorraynne. - /
/ / Catalog of the Grolier Club
84 Bubu de
- C-L. Philippe
/ Tattoo / De Crauzat 1926
85 De integritatis
- S. Pineau
HN / Thompson 1946 ; Thompson 1968
en - S. Plumbe
/ / / Anonymous 1929, p. 1010 (cited by
Thompson 1946, p. 93) ; Note and
87 Poems - E. A.
/ / / Anonymous 1910b, p. 602
88 / - Anonymous XIXth
/ / / De Crauzat 1926
89 Qur'an XIXth
/ / Thompson 1968, p. 146 ;
Blumenthal, p. 79
90 / - Louis-
HN / Pierre Bergé & Associés 2014, lot
91 Vie de Jésus -
/ HN / Anonymous 1919
92 Bérénice de
Judée - J. H.
/ Tattoo / De Crauzat 1926
patron de la
: diuisée en
huict liures &
dediée au Roy
de France &
Henry IIII - L.
d by Dr.
Catalog of the library
94 Les soliloques
du pauvre - J.
/ HN / Blumenthal 1969, p. 80
95 The Poetical
Kirke White :
Catalog of the library
96 Justine ou les
Malheurs de la
Juliette ou les
vice - Marquis
/ / / Thompson 1946
/ HN / Anonymous 1910c, p. 96-97
P. de Santa
Thompson 1968, p. 149 ; * Marvin
1994, p. 133-134
99 Le portier des
/ / / Anonymous 1898, p. 137
100 Das Rätsel des
Menschen : die
Geschichte - R.
/ / Blumenthal 1969, p. 78
101 The Life and
Gentleman - L.
/ / Thompson 1968, p. 143
102 A sentimental
journey - L.
/ / Thompson 1968, p. 144
103 Les Mystères
de Paris - E.
1874 / / / De Crauzat 1926
politica; or, A
collected out of
by Dr. D.
first - J. Tyrrell
105 Chair - P.
/ De Crauzat 1926 ; Dussert &
106 Femmes - P.
/ De Crauzat 1926
107 De Human
Fabrica - A.
Dr. P. D.
Notice of the online catalog of the
/ / De Crauzat 1926 ; Blumenthal 1969,
109 / - Anonymous XIXth
/ T / Carrington 1856, p. 299
110 Poems on
Moral - P.
/ Gordon 2016, p. 122
111 / - Anonymous XIXth
T / Hurren 2016, p. 244
Table 1: Summary of the unpublished census of books bound in human skin (Kerner
2017). The source of attribution of anthropodermic bibliopegy has been quoted as
follows: T = Testimony reported by historians or by journalists at the moment of the
alleged facts, PA = Physicochemical Analysis (followed by the nature of the testing),
MO = Microscopic Observations, HN = Handwritten note on the book.
When known, the identity of the researcher who led the analysis or of the person who
made the testimony is mentioned.
Figure 1: Chart summarizing the ratio of topics per century.
Figure 2: 'De integritatis & Corruptionis virginum notis' by S. Pineau (Photo by
Wellcome Library, London)
Figure 3: 'Huguenot Idolatry' by Richeome (Photo by P. N. Harrisson, 2015)
Figure 4: Bookbiding made of Rambert's skin (Photo by Pierre Bergé & Associés,
Figure 5: Zones of the binding that are inadequate for sampling (Photo by the author)