Books Bound in Human Skin; Lampshade Myth?

By | February 27, 2009

Books Bound in Human Skin; Lampshade Myth?

On a daytrip to Providence during fly-out week, I stumbled across an unusual and startling artifact on display at Brown University’s John Hay Library – an anatomy book bound in human skin. While such specimens are unusual, they are not as rare as you might think. Many older libraries and rare book collectors, including several at Harvard and in the Boston area, have an almost-literal skeleton in the closet: anthropodermic bibliopegy, the technical term for books bound in human skin.

While it’s not clear how many extant books actually have been bound in human skin, many older libraries (such as the library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia which has four such books, including one with a visible tattoo) have such tomes in their collection, suggesting that anthropodermically bound books number somewhere in the hundreds. Many of these books were likely bound in the 18th or 19th centuries, though some may be centuries older, while a few may even be younger.

Human Skin Lampshade Myth?

To get to the bottom of this, I interviewed Ken Kipperman, a leading authority on Nazi use of human remains and Polish-American son of Jewish parents who fled the Holocaust. He is the subject of a 2004 documentary, Shadows of Silence, about his obsessive search for lost human remains from the Holocaust and his compulsive quest to uncover the truth about the notorious “human skin” lampshade shown in an army newsreel days after the liberation of Buchenwald. It turns out, Kipperman tells me, that the famous lampshade from the newsreel footage was not made out of human skin, though it was believed to be at the time, and no human skin lampshades have ever been verified, though he says it’s always possible that one or two were made in isolated incidents. …

Kipperman’s conclusions comport with those of a June 2004 issue of the online de-bunking column The Straight Dope, which determined, “While the Nazis kept many grisly mementos of their victims, including tattooed skin, the lampshade claim may be a myth.”The Straight Dope

via Books Bound in Human Skin; Lampshade Myth? – Opinion.

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