A few weeks ago we ran a story about Harvard University’s library containing books bound in human flesh. Scientists at Harvard have now confirmed the report for at least one volume, Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de lame, per The Independent:
Harvard scientists have confirmed a volume in one of its libraries is “without a doubt” bound in human skin after a series of tests conducted on the binding confirmed the origin of the material.
Scientists and conservators used several different methods to test the binding and are now “99.9 per cent” sure the material covering the book, Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame, is of human origin.
A team used a process known as peptide mass fingerprinting to examine microscopic samples of the covering and eliminate the chance that the 19th century book was made out of other binding materials such as sheep or goat skin.
The binding was then analysed further to determine the order of amino acids, the building blocks of each peptide, which are different in each species.
Bill Lane, the director of the Harvard Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Resource Laboratory, explained: “The PMF from Des destinées de l’ame matched the human reference, and clearly eliminated other common parchment sources, such as sheep, cattle and goat.
“However, although the PMF was consistent with human, other closely related primates, such as the great apes and gibbons, could not be eliminated because of the lack of necessary references.”
Mr Lane added: “The analytical data, taken together with the provenance of Des destinées de l’ame, make it very unlikely that the source could be other than human.”…
[continues at The Independent]