The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 49, December 2, 2007, Article 29


[Has there ever been a numismatic book bound in this
unusual material?  -Editor]

"A 'spooky' image of a priest executed for treason over the
Gunpowder Plot has appeared on a 17th century book thought
to be bound in his skin, it is claimed.

"Auctioneers said the face of Father Henry Garnet could be
seen peering from the cover of the 'rare and macabre' book
about the Jesuit priest's death.

"The item will go under the hammer at Wilkinson's Auctioneers
in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, on Sunday.

"Garnet, was hanged in May 1606 for his involvement in the
Gunpowder Plot.

"Sid Wilkinson, from Wilkinson's Auctioneers, said: 'It's
a little bit spooky because the front of the book looks
like it has the face of a man on it, which is presumed to
be the victim's face.'

"The book, called A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole
Proceedings Against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet,
a Jesuit and his Confederates, was published in 1606 just
after his execution.

"Some scholars now believe he had been trying to prevent
the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament rather than
conspiring to kill the King."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

[Here is the auctioneer's lot description.  -Editor]

"A Rare & Macabre Early 17th Century Anthropodermic Bound
Book in carrying box. The book entitiled; 'A True and Perfect
Relation of The Whole Proceedings against the Late most barbarous
Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats'; Printed London
1606 by Robert Barker, printer to the King and believed to be
bound in human skin, possibly that of the aforementioned Jesuit
Priest; Father Henry Garnet. The box having a rectangular handle
to the centre with the corners having clusters of brass stud
flowers, and the front having an iron clasp and lockplate, 11
ins x 7 ins x 5 ins (28 cms x 19 cms x 13 cms)."

To read the original lot listing, see:
Full Story

[A Wikipedia entry provides more background on this practice.  -Editor]

Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books
in human skin. Though uncommon in modern times, the technique
dates back to at least the 17th century.  Surviving historical
examples of this technique include anatomy texts bound with
the skin of dissected cadavers, volumes created as a bequest
and bound with the skin of the testator, and copies of judicial
proceedings bound in the skin of the murderer convicted in
those proceedings.

The libraries of many Ivy League universities include one or
more samples of anthropodermic bibliopegy. The rare book
collection at the Langdell Law Library at Harvard University
holds a book, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae,
a treaty of Spanish law. A faint inscription on the last page
of the books states:

"The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my deare
friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on
the Fourth Day of August, 1632."

To learn more about anthropodermic bibliopegy see:
Full Story

[An Associated Press article in January 2006 discussed
human-skin bound books in the nation's libraries. -Editor]

"The best libraries then belonged to private collectors.
Some were doctors who had access to skin from amputated
parts and patients whose bodies were not claimed. They found
human leather to be relatively cheap, durable and waterproof,
Hartman said.

"In other cases, wealthy bibliophiles may have acquired the
skin from criminals who were executed, cadavers used in medical
schools and people who died in the poor house, said Sam Streit,
director of Brown's John Hay Library.

"The Boston Athenaeum, a private library, has an 1837 copy
of George Walton's memoirs bound in his own skin. Walton was
a highwayman -- a robber who specialized in ambushing travelers
-- and he left the volume to one of his victims, John Fenno.
Fenno's daughter gave it to the library.

"The Harvard Law School Library bought its copy of a 1605
practice manual for Spanish lawyers decades ago, for $42.50
from an antiquarian books dealer in New Orleans. It sat on a
shelf unnoticed until the early 1990s, when curator David
Ferris was going through the library catalogue and saw a note,
copied from inside the cover, saying it was bound in the skin
of a man named Jonas Wright."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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