Until recently, I was under the safe, but false assumption that books bound in human flesh only existed in some of the most chilling fiction by authors like H.P. Lovecraft and movies like Hocus Pocus. Unfortunately I was wrong. The use of human flesh for the binding of books, or other written works, has been a practice since the 15th century. Although it is quite rare. According to BuzzFeed, one of the larger collections of these anthropodermic books lives in the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Historical Medical Library.
Three of the five medical books are bound with the flesh of one woman, a poor Irish Immigrant named Mary Lynch, who died of food poisoning while in the hospital for tuberculosis. Dr. John Stockton Hough, who performed the autopsy after Lynch died, was the one who took flesh from her thighs and tanned it in the hospital basement. After the books were bound with Lynch’s flesh, Hough even left a note in one saying so. Weird.
No one really knows exactly how many of human flesh-bound books are out there, so think twice about picking up some of those really old volumes from the library. You never who might be holding them together.
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