17 December 2013

Anthropodermic bibliopegy

This book was bound with human skin.
Human skin was removed from a corpse, tanned (or processed in another way) and then used to cover a book. Harvard’s Houghton Library has one from the 1880s (read more about it here), but the one in this image is much older. Dating from the early 17th century, this book seems to have been bound in the skin of the priest Father Henry Garnet, who was executed in 1606 for his role in the Gunpowder Plot - the attempt to ignite 36 barrels of gunpowder under the British Parliament.
From Erik Kwakkel, whose post also has links to other books bound with human skin.  See also my 2009 post on the subject - Human skin used for bookbinding - as well as the followup last year on shoes made from human skin.


  1. I remember reading an article about this years ago. I believe the preserving process used was "tawing", which is related to tanning but not as harsh.
    (scroll down to the bottom to read about tawing)

  2. Replies
    1. My pleasure, Stan. Thank you very much for your dedication to your fascinating and always-interesting blog. Happy holidays, safe travels, and all the best in 2014!

  3. Still not as creepy as the necropants, but not something I'd want on my bookshelf.

  4. That man died in extreme pain as if tortured or tormented... not nice

    1. Why do you say that? Are you making it up?

      This is what I found about Father Garnet's death:
      "He once again said his prayers, and was then thrown off the ladder. Before the executioner could cut him down alive, many in the crowd pulled on his legs, and as a result, Garnet did not suffer the remainder of his grim sentence."

      So he was spared the drawn and quartered part; re his hanging, the crowd pulling on his legs would have fractured his cervical vertebrae and cord rather quickly.


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