Harvard removes binding of human skin from book in its library

Harvard removes binding of human skin from book in its library


Harvard removes binding of human skin from book in its library

Mar 27 2024

The decision to find a “respectful final disposition” for human remains used for a 19th-century book comes amid growing scrutiny of their presence in museum collections.

Of the roughly 20 million books in Harvard University’s libraries, one has long exerted a unique dark fascination, not for its contents, but for the material it was reputedly bound in: human skin.

For years, the volume — a 19th-century French treatise on the human soul — was brought out for show and tell, and sometimes, according to library lore, used to haze new employees. In 2014, the university drew jokey news coverage around the world with the announcement that it had used new technology to confirm that the binding was in fact human skin.

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