Once I found myself standing in a library staring uneasily at a book bound in human leather. Next to this “anthropodermic tome” stood a sign assuring the modern viewer that tannery used to be a perfectly acceptable and appropriate way to commemorate dead loved ones.
I was at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, a collection of medical oddities and anatomical abnormalities originally established in the 1860s to help educate medical students. Nowadays, it’s a museum where you can view a slice of Albert Einstein’s brain, a display case full of 139 human skulls, the liver shared by the most famous conjoined twins of the 1800s, a piece of John Wilkes Booth’s thorax, and the skeleton of a 7-1/2 foot tall man.
I’m deliberately not posting photos of the inside of the museum because they may be too disturbing for people unprepared to look at actual human remains. But if you’d like a peek inside the Mütter (and other similar places in the U.S. and Europe), go to the blog “James G. Mundie’s Cabinet of Curiousities,” which has an online photo gallery of medical museum items close up.
But suffice it to say that this is one of the “souvenirs” sold in the Mütter’s gift shop. It’s an adorable version of one of the…items in their collection.
More on the curious practice of making books bound in human epidermis here.