During The Nineteenth Century, Books Were Sometimes Bound Using Human Skin As A Form Of Punishment

Two of the most famous cases of dissection– William Burke and Charles Smith– were both hanged and dissected. Then, parts of their skin were removed and used for book-binding.

Not only was this practice meant to be humiliating, though. It also supposedly held metaphysical consequences.

At the time, many Christians believed that their bodies needed to remain whole and untampered in order to rise on judgment day.

So, removing a piece of skin to bind a novel or create a pocket notebook was viewed as one of the most heinous punishments of all– since it could have prevented you from entering Heaven.

Other circumstances surrounding anthropodermic bibliopegy involved the perpetuation of propaganda.

Most notably, rumors swirled that some French Revolutionaries had set up a tannery in Meudon. At this tannery, a wide range of leather boots, breeches, and book bindings were supposedly made solely from human skin.

It was also believed that a copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, dating back to 1793, was made using human skin.

This only helped feed into the legend that Revolutionaries were tanning the skin of enemies.

Finally, some of the most common uses of human skin-bound books were actually collector’s items. At the time, book collectors sought after everything rare and novel. And what is more niche than a novel bound in the hide of humans?

These collectors of such unique commodities also took pride in their collections– often considering themselves gentlemen and even medicine men.

In fact, much of the truly authenticated human skin-bound books actually originated in the libraries of surgeons and doctors.

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