Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books in human skin. Though extremely uncommon in modern times, the technique dates back to at least the 17th century. The practice is inextricably connected with the practice of tanning human skin, often done in certain circumstances after a corpse has been dissected.
Surviving historical examples of this technique include anatomy texts bound with the skin of dissected cadavers, volumes created as a bequest and bound with the skin of the testator (known as "autoanthropodermic bibliopegy"), and copies of judicial proceedings bound in the skin of the murderer convicted in those proceedings, such as in the case of John Horwood in 1821 and the Red Barn Murder in 1828.
The libraries of many Ivy League universities include one or more samples of anthropodermic bibliopegy. The rare book collection at the Harvard Law School Library holds a book allegedly bound in human skin, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae, a treatise on Spanish law, though testing on the binding has proven inconclusive. A faint inscription on the last page of the book states:
Some early copies of Dale Carnegie's Lincoln the Unknown were covered with jackets containing a patch of skin from an African American man, onto which the title had been embossed. A portion of the binding in the copy that is part of the collection of Temple University's Charles L. Blockson Collection was "taken from the skin of a Negro at a Baltimore Hospital and tanned by the Jewell Belting Company".
Several anatomical volumes, including at least one belonging to and apparently prepared by the renowned anatomist Joseph Leidy (September 9, 1823 – April 30, 1891) are in the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. As of August 2012, these volumes and samples of human-skin leather were on public display.
There is also a tradition of certain volumes of erotica being bound in human skin. Examples reported include a copy of the Marquis de Sade's Justine et Juliette bound in tanned skin from female breasts. Other examples are known, with the feature of the intact human nipple on one or more of the boards of the book.
Popular culture 
The binding of books in human skin is also a common element within horror films and works of fiction:
- In H.P. Lovecraft's horror story The Hound, the narrator and his friend St John, who are graverobbers, have a collection of macabre artefacts. Amongst them, "A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumoured Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge." 
- P. C. Hodgell's Kencyr series features "the Book Bound in Pale Leather", which appears to be bound in living human skin.
- Peter Greenaway's 1996 film The Pillow Book contains a sequence in which the body of a writer is exhumed and his skin painstakingly tanned, written upon, and bound into a book.
- In the Evil Dead series of films and comic books originally created by Sam Raimi, a fictional Sumerian book called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis is bound in human skin and inked with human blood.
- The video game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem centers around a book called the Tome of Eternal Darkness which is bound in human flesh.
- Chuck Palahniuk's novel Lullaby features a book bound in human skin called The Grimoire.
- Mayhem's 1994 album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas references books bound in human skin in the title track.
- In the episode "Like a Virgin" of the TV series Supernatural, the book containing the spell to release the Mother of All is printed on human skin.
- In the Disney movie Hocus Pocus, the eldest Sanderson sister's (played by Bette Midler) fictional spellbook is bound in a patchwork of human skin with an enchanted, moving human eye embedded in the cover.
- The Wavuma are believed to be an African tribe from the region currently known as Zimbabwe.
- Johnson, M.L. (January 7, 2006). "Some of nation's best libraries have books bound in human skin". Associated Press. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- San Francisco Chronicle
- Temple University Libraries and Charles L. Blockson, Catalogue of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection: A Unit of the Temple University Libraries, Temple University Press, 1990, p. 16. ISBN 0877227497
- "Poems bound up in a human skin". Canberra Times. 8 August 2011.
- H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon & Other Macabre Tales. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1965, p. 153
Further reading 
- R.W. Hackwood, "Human Skin Tanned", Notes and Queries, 3rd series, X (Oct 27, 1866), 341.
- F. A. Carrington, "Human Skin Tanned, etc.", Notes and Queries, 2nd series, II (Oct 11, 1856), 299.
- Alfred Wallis, "Book Bound in Human Skin", Notes and Queries, 7th series, VIII (March 30, 1889), 246.
- H. Tapley-Soper, 'Books Bound in Human Skin", Notes and Queries, CLI (July 24, 1926), 68-9 and CLXXXVII (Dec 30, 1944), 306. Tapley-Soper was librarian of the Exeter City Library.
- John Pavin Philips, "Human Skin Tanned, etc", Notes and Queries, 2nd series, II (Sept 27, 1856), 251-2.
- Paul McPharlin, "Curious Book Bindings", Notes and Queries, CLIII (1927), 6.
- C. Roy Hudleston, "Books Bound in Human Skin", Notes and Queries, CLXXXVII (Nov 18, 1944), 241.
- A.H. W Fynmore, "Books Boun in Human Skin", Notes and Queries, CLXXXVII (Dec 2, 1944), 259.
- [anon] "Curl Up on a Good Book", The Dolphin, Fall, 1940, Pt 1 (no 4), p. 92.
- Henry Stephens, "Human Skin Tanned, etc", Notes and Queries, 2nd series, II (Sept 27, 1856), 252.
- Walter Hart Blumenthal, "Books Bound in Human Skin", The American Book Collector, II (1932), 123-4.
- "G", "Human Skin Tanned", Notes and Queries, 3rd series, VIII (Dec 2, 1865), 463.
- "T.G.S.", "Human Skin Tanned, etc", Notes and Queries, 2nd series, II (Sept 27, 1856), 252.
- "F.S." of Churchdown, "Human Skin Tanned, etc", Notes and Queries, 2nd series, II (Sept 27, 1856), 250-1.
- 'Spooky' face on skin-bound book BBC News, 27 November 2007
- Books Bound in Human Skin; Lampshade Myth?
- Book covered with human skin resurfaces at Bailey Library, The Online Rocket, Slippery Rock University, 22 January 2010
- Holbein's Dance of Death bound in human skin as catalogued by Leonard Smithers