LOOK: Harvard Removed A Book Bound By REAL Human Skin!

Harvard removed the cover of a book bound in human skin!

This year, the University of Harvard made a significant move by removing the bound human skin of the book “Des Destinées de l’Ame,” or the “Destinies of the Soul.” This book, authored by Arsène Houssaye (1814–1896) and published by C. Lévi in Paris, holds a unique place in history. However, the original owner of the book, Dr. Ludovic Bouland (1839–1933), was the one who bound it with real human skin, adding a macabre twist to its story.

Photo from thehistoryblog.com

The Harvard Library acquired the book in 1934, but it was only discovered in 2014 that it was bound using the real human skin of a female.


Photo from thehistoryblog.com

The author, Houssaye, gifted the book to Dr. Bouland, during the early 1880s. After receiving, Dr. Bouland decided on the cover and even added a note inside the book stating that “a book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.” In addition, he even included a detailed process about how human skin can be treated in order for it to be used for binding purposes stating:

“This book is bound in human skin parchment on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman. It is interesting to see the different aspects that change this skin according to the method of preparation to which it is subjected. Compare for example with the small volume I have in my library, Sever. Pinaeus de Virginitatis notis which is also bound in human skin but tanned with sumac.”

The identity of the owner of the skin is unknown but according to further research, Dr. Bouland used the back skin of an unclaimed deceased body of a woman from a French psychiatric hospital who died of apoplexy.

Recognizing the ethical concerns surrounding the book’s binding and its history, the Harvard Library and the Harvard Museum Collections Returns Committee have taken a decisive step. They have decided to remove the book and have posted a statement on their website outlining their intent to properly dispose of the remains in consultation with the University and France. This action underscores Harvard’s commitment to rectify past mistakes and uphold ethical standards.

“Harvard Library acknowledges past failures in its stewardship of the book that further objectified and compromised the dignity of the human being whose remains were used for its binding. We apologize to those adversely affected by these actions.”, they added.

And if you’re wondering whether or not you can borrow the book, then you’re not in luck as it has been decided that the volume will no longer be available for the public permanently! Although, you can study and research about the disbound texts on the Harvard Library online tool.

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Lenie Lañojan
Lenie Lañojan

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  1. What broader implications does the removal of the book bound by human skin have for the ethical considerations surrounding the collection and display of artifacts in academic institutions? Regard Telkom University


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