Tag Archives | Libraries

The True Practice of Binding Books in Human Skin

book fleshEarlier posts have verified that Harvard University’s library contains books bound in human skin, but in case you missed it Rob Velella has summarized what you need to know about the somewhat bizarre practice, at Atlas Obscura:

There are a few urban legends that poke up here and there that certain libraries — usually dusty, private, or academic ones which are not easily accessible by the public — hold books bound in human skin. Few of these stories turn out to be true: the “human” skin is often proven to be lamb, sheep, or deer. But Harvard University’s Houghton Library was recently surprised — and somewhat taken aback — to find one of its books was absolutely an example of the practice known as anthropodermic bibliopegy.

The book in question (pictured here courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University), a French volume titled Des destinées de l’ameby Arsène Houssaye, is also relatively recent, dating only to the 1880s.

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Harvard Confirms It Has Book Bound In Human Flesh

book fleshA 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.

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The Harvard Library’s Collection Of Books Bound In Human Flesh

book of fleshLooking for a read that you can sink your teeth into? Roadtrippers on Harvard’s flesh books:

A few years ago, three separate books were discovered in Harvard University’s library that had particularly strange-looking leather covers. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that the smooth binding was actually human flesh… in one case, skin harvested from a man who was flayed alive.

The practice of using human flesh to bind books, referred to as anthropodermic bibliopegy, was actually popular during the 17th century.

Harvard’s creepy books deal with Roman poetry, French philosophy, and a treatise on medieval law, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias… that has a very interesting inscription inside, as the Harvard Crimson reports:

‘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 […] together with ample of his skin to bynd it.’

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Vatican Library Begins Digitizing Its Collection Of Ancient Manuscripts

codexBut will some documents be kept secret? The BBC reports:

The Vatican Library has begun digitising its priceless collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Church.

The first stage of the project will cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over the next four years. The cost – more than $20m – will be borne by Japan’s NTT Data technology company. Eventually, the library hopes to make available online all its 82,000 manuscripts.

The 3,000 documents to be scanned digitally over the next four years include copies of works of classical Greek and Latin literature and mediaeval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts.

The library, founded by a 15th Century Pope, also contains important works of mathematics and science, law and medicine from earliest times up to the present day.

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Will Librarians Revolt Over Amazon’s Kindle Lending Program?

Amazon Kindle FamilyA California librarian is urging librarians to complain to Amazon over issues with privacy and advertising in Amazon’s new Kindle ebook lending program for libraries. “In our greedy attempt to get content into our users’ hands, we have failed to uphold the highest principle of our profession, which is intellectual freedom,” she argues in a 10-minute video. (Read the transcript here):

Kindle has allowed Amazon to harvest all of this borrowing data, so it’s an instant violation of all of our privacy policies … [I]f they’re using a Kindle, Amazon’s keeping friggin’ everything. And we haven’t told people that, and we need to tell people that.

She argues Amazon’s retention of your reading history may violate, for example, California’s Reader Privacy Act, and she also complains that the check-out and renewal process include unacceptable promotional content about Amazon’s for-sale ebooks. Though she owns a Kindle and loves ebooks, she’s urging librarians to speak up.… Read the rest

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Banned Books Week 2011

Banned Books WeekIt’s Banned Books Week in America (Sept. 24-Oct. 1). Lest you think that America doesn’t ban books, the American Library Association has a long list of 11,000 challenged titles. At the head of the queue this year:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson 
    Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie 
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley 
    Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins 
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins 
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend 
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones 
    Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich 
    Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie 
    Reasons:  homosexuality and sexually explicit
  10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer 
    Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence

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New York Libraries: Come on in and Watch Some Porn

Photo: PFHLai (CC)

Photo: PFHLai (CC)

Sam Biddle writes on Gizmodo:

If you don’t mind getting your face punched in, New York’s public libraries might just be your new favorite place to watch people have sex with each other on the internet. Sure, you’re surrounded by other patrons, but it’s free!

You might think that watching people pound away at each other in the most graphic and jarring manner in public might run contrary to a library’s mission of promoting literature and the arts, while providing a safe and tranquil place to read, work, and study. And sure, in 1973 Miller v. California pulled porn out of the categorical forcefield of free speech. But, the NY Post reports, NYPL rep Angela Montefinise thinks everyone’s favorite part of the Bill of Rights includes PornHub: “In deference to the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, the New York Public Library cannot prevent adult patrons from accessing adult content that is legal.”

This is a sticky (sorry) situation!

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The Library After Dark: The Seedy World of Document Fetishism

Shhh!Cathy Alter writes in McSweeney’s:

Psychoanalysts sometimes speak of the epistemophilic instinct, an unbridled love of learning that grips scholars like fingernails in their backs. But when a reader at London’s Public Record Office literally ingested The Abortive Treaty of 1604 (after first ordering the Treaty of Union with Scotland as an appetizer), that was taking the passion for primary sources a little too far. And, according to Helen Wood, who recently received her Masters of Archive Administration and Records Management from the University of Liverpool, this sort of conduct takes place in archives all the time. Forget the tales of sexual politics in the faculty lounge — the kinkiest stuff occurs between the sheaves at your local library.

Wood’s dissertation, “The Fetish of the Document: An Exploration of Attitudes Towards Archives,” gives new meaning to Special Collections. Her essay centers around the participatory role the archivist has in creating and influencing fetishistic behavior — in themselves and in those who use, and sometimes abuse, archives.

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Books on Text Messaging Teens Were the Most Challenged Books of 2009

Interesting development, and always good to know that the classics which predate texting by decades still make the list. The good folks at the American Library Association note:
ttyl

Lauren Myracle’s best-selling young adult novel series ttyl, the first-ever novels written entirely in the style of instant messaging, tops the American Library Association’s (ALA) Top Ten list of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009:

1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6.

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A Million Library Books To Be Sent Down The Mines

Manchester Central Library

Manchester Central Library

By Deborah Linton for the Manchester Evening News:

One million books from Manchester’s Central Library – including valuable volumes dating back to the 15th century – are to be put into temporarily storage with many going deep underground in the Cheshire salt mines.

Works from the city’s reference library will be stored in the mines, hundreds of feet below ground, for the next three years while the landmark city centre site undergoes a massive refurbishment to save it from ruin.

Experts say the mine’s caverns – the size of 700 football pitches – provide the perfect environment for preserving the manuscripts, which include the works of eminent academics.

A phased shut down of the St Peter’s Square library will begin next month, with the site closing its doors in June. The Library Theatre, which will most likely relocate to the historic Theatre Royal, will close the following month with a celebratory show entitled Last Night at the Library…

[continues in the Manchester Evening News]

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