Wellcome Library's new exhibit, "Skin" going on now until September 26th.
The Wellcome Library folks are suspicious that the Crispus Attucks book is really made of skin, but Crispus is not the only human to be immortalized as a book. In 1821, John Horwood was executed for the murder of Eliza Balsum. In the 19th century, it was common for the remains of executed criminals to become fodder for anatomy classes. Horwood awaited such a fate with a gruesome twist - his skin became the cover of the ledger book that contained details of his execution. His doctor did a splendid job. If you look closely, you can see a skull and crossbones delicately embossed in each corner. Those Victorians could be so clever!
Remember my Touch
Some might think using skin as a book is a tad too nasty to contemplate, but others have felt that nothing says remember me like a book made from human remains. Such was the thinking of French novelist, Eugene Sue's mistress. She stipulated in her will that her skin should be bound around one of her lover's works. The book, Sue's Vignettes: les Mysteres de Paris sold at Foyle's in London for 29$. I guess that's the going rate for skin books.
Famed outlaw, Big Nose George Parrott fancied himself as "tough as old boots." His moniker seemed to hold true until he was captured and lynched by an angry mob of local citizens. George's death left a curious Doctor named Thomas Maghee to ponder: was George really as tough as old boots? Well, there was only one way to find out. He used George's skin to make himself some snazzy new shoes.
Let that be yet another Raucous History lesson - when you are coming up with a catchy slogan for yourself, you really must be careful that someone doesn't take you literally.
Sources and Further Reading:
Murphy, Edwin. After the Funeral: The Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses, Barnes & Noble Books, 1998.
Carbon County Museum
The Wellcome Library
John Horwood and his macabre book legacy