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On bookshelves around the world, surrounded by ordinary books bound in paper and leather, rest other volumes of a distinctly strange and grisly sort: those bound in human skin. Would you know one if you held it in your hand?
In Dark Archives, Megan Rosenbloom seeks out the historic and scientific truths behind anthropodermic bibliopegy—the practice of binding books in this most intimate covering. Dozens of such books live on in the world’s most famous libraries and museums. Dark Archives exhumes their origins and brings to life the doctors, murderers, innocents, and indigents whose lives are sewn together in this disquieting collection. Along the way, Rosenbloom tells the story of how her team of scientists, curators, and librarians test rumored anthropodermic books, untangling the myths around their creation and reckoning with the ethics of their custodianship.
A librarian and journalist, Rosenbloom is a member of The Order of the Good Death and a cofounder of their Death Salon, a community that encourages conversations, scholarship, and art about mortality and mourning. In Dark Archives—captivating and macabre in all the right ways—she has crafted a narrative that is equal parts detective work, academic intrigue, history, and medical curiosity: a book as rare and thrilling as its subject.
"An international treasure hunt, fascinating medical history, high level PR nightmare, and heartrending account of the real people whose flesh was turned into curiosities by the medical professionals they trusted." —Caitlin Doughty, author of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions About Death
"Megan Rosenbloom is the perfect guide to a dark and sinister world populated by Victorian criminals, bodysnatchers, and dissectors—all of whom contributed to the gruesome art of binding books with human skin. A splendid read!" —Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art