The practice of binding books in human skin, also known as anthropodermic bibliopegy, is not just the stuff of dark legends and horror fiction. It was a real technique which, although frowned upon and considered ghastly by today’s standards, was officially practiced since the 17th century. The technique gained considerable popularity during the French Revolution and among the upper classes in the 19th century. The technique was used to bind such texts as anatomy books, last will and testaments, and judicial proceedings. Of course, there have been many legends concerning this practice, almost all of which have cast it in an evil light. But anthropodermic bibliopegy has a distinct history of being utilized for regular, and even mundane, texts. Below I have arranged ten confirmed examples of anthropodermic bibliopegy, arranged in order of when the versions bound in skin were published. Some of entries do not have a confirmed or recorded date of publishing, so I have had to take occasional liberties in making the list as chronological as possible.
Quay Brothers (Stephen + Timothy Quay, identical twins, b. 1947 Pennsylvania): On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets exhibition from Aug. 12, 2012 thru Jan. 07, 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC