Let’s Not Read It Out Loud

05 Jun

The Houghton Library is Harvard’s repository for rare books, and they have an important announcement to make.

“Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs and cannibals alike: tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”

-Houghton Library Blog, June 4th 2014


Wait, are we sure this isn’t the Miskatonic University blog?

Also, I challenge anyone to read that quote and not hear Professor Farnsworth’s voice.

The high-weirdness of this story is only beginning. Published in the 1880’s, the skin used for the book was taken from a woman who died of apoplexy in a French mental hospital. The book’s title, Des Destinees de L’ame, translates to, The Destiny of the Soul, and contains meditations on the soul and life after death. It was given as a gift by the author to a friend.

“No, really, you shouldn’t have.”

-Imagined Response of Friend

The author was quite the connoisseur of books, particularly of the fleshy kind, as he had at least one other in his collection to compare it with.

“This book is bound in human skin parchment on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman. It is interesting to see the different aspects that change this skin according to the method of preparation to which it is subjected. Compare for example with the small volume I have in my library, Sever. Pinaeus de Virginitatis notis which is also bound in human skin but tanned with sumac.”

-Houghton Library Blog, May 24th 2013

Tanned with sumac, that is so 1870’s.

Let’s recap, shall we? A prominent New England university has a book in their special collections library that is bound in the flesh of an asylum patient and contains writings about souls and the other world.

And some people think Library Science is boring.

Unfortunately the text of the book is not available for online reading. Actually, that’s probably for the best, all things considered. However you can view a high resolution image of the cover. You can even zoom in! Nice and close. You can scroll across the surface of the book’s smooth, elegant flesh. Looking at every pore…

All you have to do is Click Here.

Don’t forget your SAN check.

Image from



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7 responses to “Let’s Not Read It Out Loud

  1. Charles Akins

    June 6, 2014 at 1:47 AM

    I thought this post was really good so I added a link to it on my Best Reads of the Week series. I hope you don’t mind.

    • Fractalbat

      June 6, 2014 at 7:17 AM

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. mikemonaco

    June 6, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    The library I work for has at least one book that is probably bound in human skin too. In this case it is a Koran, bound in what is thought to be the skin of an anti-colonial rebel who’d been executed. So most likely a very grizzly trophy of some colonial officer (IIRC the guy who looked into was pretty sure it was an are under German rule…the Germans were about as bad as Belgians as colonial powers in Africa, which is to say as bad as or worse than WWII era Germans in Europe but not talked about. For example they’d flog people across their abdomens and groins until they were disemboweled for minor infractions, and exterminated whole populations, but maybe on a smaller scale than the Holocaust).
    Anyway if a book bound in human skin could still carry some _really bad psychic residue_ it would have to be that one — some dude executed unjustly and probably torturously, then has his skin used to bind a holy book in what can radily be interpreted as intentional blasphemy…. 😦

    • Fractalbat

      June 6, 2014 at 7:23 AM

      That’s a grim story. Especially given the book they picked to bind it in.

      Thanks for the comments. I love your icon!

      • mikemonaco

        June 6, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        Thanks! The icon is a roper mini I made out of epoxy putty.

      • mikemonaco

        June 6, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        I like your icon too…That damn dragon from Adventure!

  3. Fractalbat

    June 6, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Yup, nailed it!


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