Today’s new word is Anthropodermic bibliopegy, which is the practice of bookbinding using human skin. How, you may ask, did that ever become a word (or two, to be accurate) – and, more specifically, how did it become my word for today?
It was just one of those subjects that come up in conversation at the shop. A customer came in, we stopped for a moment to talk as we hadn’t seen him for a while, and we started to talk about metal detecting, then funeral practices, then human remains in auction, then The Hatchet Inn at Bristol, which supposedly has the skin of an executed convict on one of its walls, and finally to Corder, the murderer of Maria Marten. There’s a book in the museum of Bury St Edmunds which is bound in his skin. I saw it when I was on a hiking holiday when I was 16. It’s not very impressive but the thought is still disturbing.
After that I just had to look up more on the subject. I knew there were other books bound in skin, and the preserved skin of a supposed Viking raider on a church door in East Anglia. I can’t remember the name of the church but will look it up in a minute.
The point of all this ghoulishness is to prove that even as late as 1828 we were still binding books in human skin. Even worse, Corder’s skeleton hung in a museum until 2004, (which I didn’t know until I read the Wiki article) until it was removed and cremated. Have we really moved on so little in all our history?
As for the daneskins, there are several churches that claim such things, and none of them, under the scrutiny of modern science, hold up. They are all animal skins, probably applied as coverings when the doors were made. Imagination does the rest . . .