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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Book of Human Flesh

James Allen, a highway man of Massachusetts in the 19th century, spent his last days in the Massachusetts State Prison.  His last wish was to have his life documented and gave his deathbed confession to the warden.  This confession was titled the Narrative of the Life of James Allen, alias Jonas Pierce, alias James H. York, alias Burley Grove, the Highwayman, Being His Death-Bed Confession to the Warden of the Massachusetts State Prison.  As Allen requested, the book was bound in his flesh and given to his last victim who had escaped Allen's attack. The original copy can now be found at the Boston Athenæum. A scanned copy can also be found here at the Boston Athenæum Digital Collections.

Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books in human skin.  While anthropodermic bibliopegy is uncommon today it was not so uncommon in 16th and 17th century Europe.   During this time skin from executed criminals, dissected cadavers, or willing donators was used to bind books, especially during the French Revolution when “materials” were plentiful.

 Some other books bound in human flesh include:

The University of Cincinnati’s Archives and Rare Books Library houses a book of poems by Phillis Wheatley bound in human skin.

Harvard’s library is said to have several human flesh bound titles.

The University of Memphis’ book by Louis Richeome, a Catholic controversialist, is said to be bound in the skin of a Protestant.

Unfortunately, MLC does not have any books bound in human flesh, but we do have some other creepy titles that will get you in the mood for Halloween.

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