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Harvard Book Bound in Human Skin? Yes, Test Results Confirm

By    |   Friday, 06 Jun 2014 01:34 PM

Experts at Harvard University announced this week that a 19-century book in one of its libraries was bound with human skin, making for a real human-interest story.

After a series of tests on the Houghton Library's copy of French author Arsene Houssaye's "Des destinees de l'ame" (which translates to "The Destiny of the Soul"), scientists concluded with 99.9 percent confidence that the binding material was human skin, The Atlantic reported.



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Houssaye, who died in 1896, gave the text to Dr. Ludovic Bouland, a medical doctor and book lover, in the 1880s. It was described by the library as "a meditation on the soul and life after death." Bouland then bound the book "with skin from the unclaimed body of a female mental patient who had died of a stroke," according to the library.

Bouland even explained his reason with a note.

"A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering," he wrote.

The idea of books bounds by human skin isn't as uncommon as it seems, according to Harvard librarian Heather Cole.

"There are many accounts of similar occurrences in the 19th century, in which the bodies of executed criminals were donated to science, and the skins given to tanners and bookbinders," she explained on the Houghton Library Blog. It's also possible that "an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book."

"The [test result] from 'Des destinées de l'ame' matched the human reference, and clearly eliminated other common parchment sources, such as sheep, cattle, and goat," Bill Lane, the director of the Harvard laboratory, told MSN News.

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Experts at Harvard University announced this week that a 19-century book in one of its libraries was bound with human skin, making for a real human-interest story.
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2014-34-06
Friday, 06 Jun 2014 01:34 PM
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