New York Times
Okay, in truth we can’t confirm whether or not Leatherface is a card-carrying library guy or not, but we have received word that Harvard University has indeed verified claims that one of its library books is actually bound in human flesh.
We reported this possibility in an earlier story but now have solid proof that the college does indeed possess a tome bound in skin. A Necronomicon? Well, maybe.
Actually, it’s nothing quite as interesting as a Book of the Dead, but instead it’s Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (On the Destiny of the Soul), which was confirmed to be an example of anthropodermic bibliopegy (bound by human flesh) after researchers disputed the claim about other titles which were concluded to be bound in sheepskin. Des destinées de l’ame was found to be the real deal.
Harvard’s Houghton Library received the book in 1934; it contains a manuscript note claiming the book was bound in human flesh from the back of a woman, reading: “A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.” Performing a peptide mass fingerprinting test to identify proteins, researchers came to the conclusion that the book was truly bound in human skin (or else that of a great ape or gibbon, which could not be ruled out, but chances of that are extremely slim).
According to Bill Lane, the director of the Harvard Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Resource Library, “The PMF from Des destinées de l’ame matched the human reference and clearly eliminated other common parchment sources such as sheep, cattle, and goat.” Um…yuck.
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