Wait, Harvard Has At Least 3 Books Bound In Human Skin?

The history of cinema is filled with a lot of weird books. There’s the one from Evil Dead, the one with the creepy eye from Hocus Pocus, the one from Knights Of Badassdom. The list goes on and on, but apparently, none of that literary creepiness can compete with what lies inside the walls of the Harvard University Libraries. Among the fifteen million or so books are at least three that were bound in human skin.

The story was first published in the Harvard Crimson all the way back in 2006, but since most people don’t read the Harvard Crimson, it didn’t spread very far. Luckily, the fine folks over at Reddit, or at least one of them, stumbled upon the original article recently and decided to get it a few more eyeballs.

In short, librarians aren’t sure how many books bound in human skin they have in the collection, but thus far, they’ve uncovered three. The first is a yellowish Spanish law book that was constructed from the skin of a man who was “flayed alive”. Seriously, there’s a whole inscription about it on the last page. You can check out the text below…

“the bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.”

The other two books are a collection of French essays about the human spirit that was bound using the skin of a deceased female mental patient whose body was never claimed in the late 1800s and a translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, which contains a note that it was bound in an unidentified individual’s skin. The whole thing is obviously pretty macabre, but considering the practice wasn’t too uncommon back in the day, it’s not a shock that such a large library would contain at least a handful like this.

Look for someone, somewhere at some point to try to sell a script about these books to low budget horror super producer Jason Blum. It'll get rejected, but in all seriousness, I would watch a spin-off about that creepy spellbook in Hocus Pocus right now...

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Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.