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(Harvard University)   Ask a Librarian: Does Harvard have any books bound in human skin?   (asklib.hcl.harvard.edu) divider line 39
    More: Interesting, Ask a Librarian, Harvard, skin, Harvard Crimson  
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3267 clicks; posted to Geek » on 02 Apr 2014 at 9:46 AM (30 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-04-01 11:14:19 PM  
unfortunately, they're all cheesy romance novels. and they smell funny. cool idea, tho.
 
2014-04-01 11:30:03 PM  
Edinburgh does. It was made from Burke, who killed vagrants to sell their fresh corpses to the university's anatomy school in the 19th century.

They take their law and order seriously in Scotland.
 
2014-04-01 11:54:36 PM  
Oook.
 
2014-04-01 11:56:34 PM  
I think you can find some in Pusey.
 
2014-04-02 12:34:44 AM  
When I went to college (less than a decade ago) most of the library books still had the old card holders, and cards, even though the new system was entirely magnetic and external bar code.

Some of the older ones bore the words, "To get what you want ask the librarian."

Totally worked as a pickup line with the one hot girl I knew who worked there.
 
2014-04-02 08:49:17 AM  
I have a friend that worked in the rare books section of Strozier library at Florida State when we were in college.
She told me they didn't have any human skin books either.
 
2014-04-02 09:01:12 AM  
I think they're right next to the Holocron vault.
 
2014-04-02 09:19:30 AM  
rcmurphy.files.wordpress.com
 
2014-04-02 09:20:24 AM  
yale probably does. it has one of the best rare book collections in the world.
 
2014-04-02 09:45:00 AM  
"Eczema and You: What You Need to Know"
 
2014-04-02 09:52:08 AM  
And wow, the answer was yes.
 
2014-04-02 09:53:16 AM  

FlashHarry: yale probably does. it has one of the best rare book collections in the world.


www.phon.ox.ac.uk
 
2014-04-02 09:53:56 AM  

gaslight: Edinburgh does. It was made from Burke, who killed vagrants to sell their fresh corpses to the university's anatomy school in the 19th century.

They take their law and order seriously in Scotland.


Wait, you can make money selling bodies?  One of the few times when my hobbies coincide with a business opportuinity and here I am dumping them in the woods down by the river.
 
2014-04-02 09:55:17 AM  
A copy of the Necrinomicon is at Miskatonic University.

For a forbidden book, it sure seemed to be everywhere in Lovecraft's stories....so having one at Harvard isn't much of a stretch.
 
2014-04-02 10:06:18 AM  
No human skins books in our rare book collection.  Phooey!
 
2014-04-02 10:08:07 AM  
It was pretty standard during the renaissance and not unheard of through the mid 1800s or so for people to have their skin turned into leather and bound onto books after they died.  Usually books they'd authored or contributed to.

Basically any library older than 100 years is going to have a few, especially university libraries where amateur academics donate things constantly.  I remember the Cal library had a few too.  It's not a big deal.

ristst: A copy of the Necrinomicon is at Miskatonic University.

For a forbidden book, it sure seemed to be everywhere in Lovecraft's stories....so having one at Harvard isn't much of a stretch.


It wasn't forbidden in the timeline of most of the stories, and in the Lovecraft-authored stories it wasn't actually, in itself, particularly magical.  It was a sort of instruction manual / textbook that most serious scholars of anthropology had read at one point or another and didn't take particularly seriously (partly because surviving editions were incomplete, partly because it was regarded as a hoax by most).

It was basically a book of background mythology that people would refer to mostly because they were surprised to find that parts of it were actual ancient mythology (or true, if you were unfortunate), kind of like how someone might say something like "holy shiat, the Eddas was right all along" if they stumbled across Loki chained under a snake.

It was only a forbidden magic book in the Evil Dead series and some of the more recent mythos stories (though there were implications that a more complete edition than the common one might be dangerous in the older ones).

// The More You Know(TM)
 
2014-04-02 10:08:14 AM  
Was subby just Googling for "books bound in human skin" when this was found?
 
2014-04-02 10:13:41 AM  

Cheron: Was subby just Googling for "books bound in human skin" when this was found?


It was on one of those DID YOU KNOW things recently.

Jim_Callahan: It was pretty standard during the renaissance and not unheard of through the mid 1800s or so for people to have their skin turned into leather and bound onto books after they died.  Usually books they'd authored or contributed to.

Basically any library older than 100 years is going to have a few, especially university libraries where amateur academics donate things constantly.  I remember the Cal library had a few too.  It's not a big deal.


I guess, I will have to do some more snooping then.
 
2014-04-02 10:17:44 AM  

Tigger: FlashHarry: yale probably does. it has one of the best rare book collections in the world.

[www.phon.ox.ac.uk image 700x800]


My Latin's kind of rusty, but...  "Don't Dead, Open Inside"?
 
2014-04-02 10:20:46 AM  

Last Man on Earth: Tigger: FlashHarry: yale probably does. it has one of the best rare book collections in the world.

[www.phon.ox.ac.uk image 700x800]

My Latin's kind of rusty, but...  "Don't Dead, Open Inside"?


You nailed it.
 
2014-04-02 10:37:41 AM  
Best part:

The book's 794th and final page includes an inscription in purple cursive: 'the bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma 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.'

Oh, that's nice.  Your good buddy got flayed alive by an African tribe, but hey, at least you got some of his skin, right?
 
2014-04-02 11:02:46 AM  

Cheron: Was subby just Googling for "books bound in human skin" when this was found?


My guess is subby is at Harvard in some capacity. We got this article in our daily emails this week.

/post-doc
 
2014-04-02 11:19:01 AM  

Jim_Callahan: It wasn't forbidden in the timeline of most of the stories, and in the Lovecraft-authored stories it wasn't actually, in itself, particularly magical. It was a sort of instruction manual / textbook that most serious scholars of anthropology had read at one point or another and didn't take particularly seriously (partly because surviving editions were incomplete, partly because it was regarded as a hoax by most).It was basically a book of background mythology that people would refer to mostly because they were surprised to find that parts of it were actual ancient mythology (or true, if you were unfortunate), kind of like how someone might say something like "holy shiat, the Eddas was right all along" if they stumbled across Loki chained under a snake.


Can you cite where HPL says that most serious scholars of anthropology had read it and dismissed it?

Not that I'm disagreeing with you, but I've read everything HPL wrote multiple times and I don't recall him saying it had been read by serious anthropologists, nor that it wasn't taken seriously.  He refers to it as a "forbidden tome" in many of his stories, and he stated repeatedly the consequences of reading it are dire.  In "The History of the Necrinomicon" he does state it was read in secret by philosophers of the age, but nothing about it being dismissed as fantasy.

From HPL's The History of the Necrinomicon:

"In A.D. 950 the Azif, which had gained a considerable tho' surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age, was secretly translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople under the title Necronomicon. For a century it impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts, when it was suppressed and burnt by the patriarch Michael."


In many of his stories he stated that a character had read parts of the book and they were never quite the same afterwards.  Many of his protagonists stated they wished they had never set their gaze upon it.  Governments and organized religion had definite edicts related to it.

"The book is rigidly suppressed by the authorities of most countries, and by all branches of organized ecclesiasticism. Reading leads to terrible consequences."

"...in the Lovecraft-authored stories it wasn't actually, in itself, particularly magical. It was a sort of instruction manual / textbook..."


Exactly.  From Wikipedia:   "...the work contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, and the means for summoning them."

But HPL does refer directly to the Necronomicon and a few other volumes as "terrible and forbidden books" in one of his essays, including:

- De Vermis Mysteriis by Ludvig Prinn
- Book of Eibon (author unknown)
- Unaussprechlichen Kulten - Friedrich von Junzt

Other authors have embellished HPL's theme considerably in subsequent publications...perhaps some of the statements about it being read/dismissed by serious anthropologists came from these works.

/love discussing this stuff...if I am incorrect don't hesitate to set me straight!
//like anyone ever hesitates to correct anyone else on Fark.....
 
2014-04-02 11:55:30 AM  
Using human skin for leather bindings is actually a fairly common practice. I seen several of them in my time in various libraries around the world. Lots of other things got the same treatment. It was quite common on a number of the more prestigious churches, cathedrals, and castles to have flesh covered doors for instance, especially in England for some reason.
 
2014-04-02 12:03:57 PM  

ristst: Can you cite where HPL says that most serious scholars of anthropology had read it and dismissed it?


It's less that he  said this as that pretty much all of his characters were familiar with it.  Characters with no academic background whatsoever were about as familiar with it as someone that didn't major in English is in the works of Shakespeare, and all the characters with an educated background (overwhelmingly anthropologists because... I dunno, reasons?  He probably couldn't have written a physicist believably, is the main one, I imagine) had read it and could reference specific names and customs.

Remember that at the time HPL was writing "forbidden book" didn't particularly mean something was hard to get, it was usually a reference to something that  had been suppressed, not something currently being suppressed.  Galileio's dialogue regarding heliocentrism, for instance, was a forbidden text, but in the late 1800s/early 1900s it wouldn't be hard to find.
 
2014-04-02 12:21:17 PM  
Because hey, who doesn't like to settle in for a good read with a nice chianti.
 
2014-04-02 12:44:03 PM  
The University of Alabama has a book bound in human skin. It's a German Bible.
 
2014-04-02 12:47:58 PM  
My grandpa had this cool lampshade he got in Germany...
 
2014-04-02 12:50:20 PM  

limeyfellow: Using human skin for leather bindings is actually a fairly common practice. I seen several of them in my time in various libraries around the world. Lots of other things got the same treatment. It was quite common on a number of the more prestigious churches, cathedrals, and castles to have flesh covered doors for instance, especially in England for some reason.


It's one thing to donate your skin so that you can pretend to be "involved," after death, with some place or institution that you're particularly fond of.

It's another to be FLAYED ALIVE and have your skin given to your buddy, for use adorning various household products and accessories.
 
2014-04-02 02:44:12 PM  

Phinn: limeyfellow: Using human skin for leather bindings is actually a fairly common practice. I seen several of them in my time in various libraries around the world. Lots of other things got the same treatment. It was quite common on a number of the more prestigious churches, cathedrals, and castles to have flesh covered doors for instance, especially in England for some reason.

It's one thing to donate your skin so that you can pretend to be "involved," after death, with some place or institution that you're particularly fond of.

It's another to be FLAYED ALIVE and have your skin given to your buddy, for use adorning various household products and accessories.


I was thinking of having my ashes compressed into a diamond to give my kids when I croak, but now I'm leaning toward "leather" bound photo albums.
 
2014-04-02 04:42:53 PM  
I got kicked out of our liberry for axing if tehy had any skin mags.
 
2014-04-02 04:43:36 PM  
Oh, and in before Tanning mom.
 
2014-04-02 05:03:03 PM  
IIRC, the University of Chicago has twelve.

Books bound in human skin are rare but not super-rare.

Most of them are autobiographies of criminals, or similar works by eccentric artists and others who left their skins for that purpose in their wills. A number of other objects in the collections of universities are bound with human skin, including lamps and purses. These are more likely to be the product of military trophy hunting and racism. The University of Chicago has a number of objects, such as a tabacco pouch made from the bodies of Indians killed back when the US was too busy expanding its territory in the West at the expense of hundreds of native peoples to be an Imperial power (as a Conservative historian claimed). Apparently it is only Imperialism if it is overseas.

Nazis and serial killers are other sources of human skin bindings, while some Eastern religions may also produce the occasional book bound in the skin of a saint or loony. Some tattoos have been preserved after the death of their original owners due to their great artistic merit or macabre collectors. This was a contributing factor to some of the Nazi artifacts--many of the Jews and other victims they slaughtered had interesting tats--and they were stealing their gold teeth, wigs, and prosthetic devices any way, so why waste their skins?
 
2014-04-02 05:28:35 PM  
Say the words right dammit!
 
2014-04-02 06:39:47 PM  

Ethertap: Phinn: limeyfellow: Using human skin for leather bindings is actually a fairly common practice. I seen several of them in my time in various libraries around the world. Lots of other things got the same treatment. It was quite common on a number of the more prestigious churches, cathedrals, and castles to have flesh covered doors for instance, especially in England for some reason.

It's one thing to donate your skin so that you can pretend to be "involved," after death, with some place or institution that you're particularly fond of.

It's another to be FLAYED ALIVE and have your skin given to your buddy, for use adorning various household products and accessories.

I was thinking of having my ashes compressed into a diamond to give my kids when I croak, but now I'm leaning toward "leather" bound photo albums.


Why not both?
 
2014-04-02 11:24:07 PM  
 
2014-04-03 02:30:54 AM  

Kangaroo_Ralph: The University of Alabama has a book bound in human skin. It's a German Bible.


whither_apophis: My grandpa had this cool lampshade he got in Germany...


Nobody who speaks German could be evil.
 
2014-04-03 07:13:38 AM  

Jim_Callahan: It was pretty standard during the renaissance


[citation needed].
 
2014-04-03 07:29:53 AM  

limeyfellow: It was quite common on a number of the more prestigious churches, cathedrals, and castles to have flesh covered doors for instance, especially in England for some reason.


No, it was fairly common to use leather, animal hides, on doors, not human skin.
 
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