Sunday, August 30, 2020

Dark Archives: A Librarian's Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin


Dark Archives is a scholarly and well written study of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bookbinding in human skin. Due out 20th Oct 2020 from Macmillan on their Farrar Strauss & Giroux imprint, it's 288 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook format. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

The subject matter is both dark, repellent, and somewhat shocking. This book does a good job of looking at the subject scientifically, almost clinically. There aren't any lurid photos and the only shocking statements included are quotes which were mostly debunked. The most lurid, extreme statements about books and artifacts turned out to almost always be bound in the skins of other animals (most often sheep, goat, and horse).

As a medical professional, my education included a number of courses of instruction in ethics which covered the Hippocratic oath, informed consent, patient confidentiality and body autonomy among other subjects. I can't, however, remember that we ever covered this subject (though I distinctly remember a lecture about the creation and use of teaching samples for physiology and anatomy instruction - that made for uncomfortable listening).  

The entire Anthropodermic Book Project, and the author Megan Rosenbloom provide an interesting scientific look at a bizarre footnote in medical biblio-history. This volume also includes extensive annotations, a bibliography, and index. Meticulously researched and written in layman accessible language.  Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

No comments:

Post a Comment