When I was a little kid, the library in my village was located in one of the village’s oldest buildings: the Town Hall. The library was two rooms. One, brightly lit and carpeted, the other darker and with hardwood floors for the adults. The bright and friendly room was for the kids. The more serious one was for the adults. A large hallway separated the two. And no kids were allowed in the adult room. I was thrown out a few times. You needed a pass and an escort, I think.
I somehow managed to get allowed into the adult room. I can’t remember how. (Probably just by spending a lot of time at the library, returning books on time, answering quizzes about what I read and bothering the librarians. I was a persistent little fuck.) I do remember how intimidating the adult room was. All sorts of lurid covers. Names I’d never heard of writing about things I had no conception of in words I couldn’t pronounce. And, in the darkest, most distant corner, there was a section on The Occult.
I spent most of my time in that section. I read the dictionaries of superstition, the supposedly true ghost stories (adults called them “poltergeists” and the stories “phenomena”), psychic powers (“telekinetic/telepathic abilities”) and more Colin Wilson than any ten year old should. None of it was really what I was looking for. I didn’t want paperbacks. I wanted something like this: Harvard discovers three of its library books are bound in human flesh.
Harvard’s creepy books deal with Roman poetry, French philosophy, and a treatise on medieval Spanish law for which the previously mentioned flayed skin was supposedly used. The book, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias… has a very interesting inscription inside, as The Harvard Crimson reports.
The book’s 794th and final page includes an inscription in purple cursive: ‘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, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.’
Years later, the infamous “flayed skin book” had garnered so much attention on campus that Harvard went ahead and had the thing tested, concluding that it was likely a morbid 17th century joke. Despite the creepy inscription, their tests showed that the book’s cover was actually made out of a mixture of “cattle and pig collagen”. Hey, two genuine flesh-books out of three ain’t bad.
I’m not sure if any of these are really bound in human flesh. Just as I started writing this post, this came across my twitter timeline:
But I’m not really all that concerned about whether or not the story is factual. (What adults call “true.”) I’ve already spent a good portion of my childhood trying to move objects with my mind and read people’s thoughts. I doubt anything I read online can compare with the disappointment I felt after failing to conjure Satan in the back yard or see him through a keyhole. (I mean, I could see why God wouldn’t answer prayers but Satan? Satan is supposed to be in the market for souls. One never expects good to show up but evil should always be there for the interested youngster.) And they took my old library and moved it into a strip mall next to a pharmacy. Put the whole thing under florescent lights and behind plate-glass windows. So, I don’t really expect anything interesting to be true or, if it is true, to be true for very long.
All that I really want to know about these human bound books, is: Does anyone still do this and what do I have to do to have it done to me? I’d like to be useful after I die. Useful to people, that is. Feeding worms has always struck me as basically humiliating. I’d prefer my corpse to look like this: