“It’s Not Human!”: Another Example of Anthropodermic Bibliopegy Discredited

Gerald Chaudron


In January 2016, the University of Memphis Libraries (UML) announced that the “human skin book” held in the Preservation and Special Collections Department for 30 years did not have an anthropodermic binding after all.1 The results of new scientific testing were a disappointment to some library staff because the book had become an object of fascination for many students and its fame had spread far beyond the campus. The story of how one book came to symbolize the archives and the library of the University of Memphis is an interesting one. However, there are also important questions about the way a relic is used and exploited to attract more patrons to libraries and archives, and the ethical considerations that accompany such use.

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