TIME Bizarre

This Harvard University Library Book Is Bound in Human Skin

Experts at Harvard have confirmed that the binding could not have come from any other animal

A book bound in human skin sits in one of Harvard University’s libraries, experts at the school said this week. Scientists tested the 19th-century book Des destineés de l’ame and concluded that they were “99.9% confident” that the binding comes from a person’s epidermis.

The library says that Dr. Ludovic Bouland bound the book in the mid-1880s after receiving it as a gift from the author, Arene Houssaye. He wrapped it using skin from the unclaimed body of a female mental patient who died of a stroke. He left a now-missing note in the book to shed some light on his decision, albeit : “A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.”

The tests of the binding ruled out other animal sources, including sheep, cattle, goats and primates closely related to humans like apes and gibbons.

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