Composite books are objects that unite several books, usually because readers anticipated they would consult them at the same time. Textbooks used by students, both those in medieval and early-modern times, may hold four of five bound-together individual books. The fat volume seen here is a rarity because it presents no less than thirty individual books fitted in a single binding. They are German almanacs from the 17th century, held together by a plain paper wrapper which is stretched to the limit. Almanacs had a short half-life because the information they presented - rising and setting of sun and moon, hours of full tides, eclipses, church festivals - was time sensitive. You would normally throw the cheap productions out when their time had come. Not these, though. For some reason the reader who owned them decided to unite them into one hefty volume - creating a book that was nearly impossible to handle.
"Termed anthropodermic bibliopegy, the binding of books in human skin has occurred at least since the 16th century. The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book."
2 colour screenprint, limited edition of 10
Concertina book, 1m long with eight panels
only two copies left!
by Drew Walker
Rough footage of the printmaking house in The Ancient Papermaking Village in Yufang, Zhejiang, China. This village is one hour (by bus) from Hangzhou and specializes in Xuan Paper. This footage represents the in-house printing process that the village uses to reproduce their own editions of classic Chinese texts.
Accessible in the library’s Elihu Reading Room, the book, entitled “Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias…,” looks old but otherwise ordinary.
Delicate, stiff, and with wrinkled edges, the skin’s coloring is a subdued yellow, with sporadic brown and black splotches like an old banana. The skin is not covered in hair or marked by tattoos—except for a “Harvard Law Library” branding on its spine. Nothing about it shouts “human flesh” to the untrained eye.
The book’s 794th and final page includes an inscription in purple cursive: “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.”
Harvard’s creepy books deal with Roman poetry, French philosophy, and a treatise on medieval Spanish law for which the previously mentioned flayed skin was used. The book, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias… has a very interesting inscription inside, as The Harvard Crimson reports.
The book’s 794th and final page includes an inscription in purple cursive: ‘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.’
Sewing sampler, wax tablet codex (used from Antiquity to Late Middle Ages), and Nag Hammadi codex (VI).
The binding of a Coptic illuminated manuscript containing the Gospels, Egypt, 7th or 8th century.