UNITED STATES NEWS

Harvard says it’s removed human skin from binding of 19th century book

Mar 30, 2024, 9:38 AM

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Harvard University said it has removed human skin from the binding of a 19th century book about the afterlife that has been in its collections since the 1930s. The decision came after a review found ethical concerns with the book’s origin and history.

The book, “Des Destinées de L’âme,” meaning “Destinies of the Soul,” was written by Arsène Houssaye, a French novelist and poet, in the early 1880s. The printed text was given to a physician, Ludovic Bouland, who ”bound the book with skin he took without consent from the body of a deceased female patient in a hospital where he worked,” Harvard said in a recent statement. The book has been at the university’s Houghton Library.

Bouland included a handwritten note inside the book. It said “a book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering,” associate university librarian Thomas Hyry said in a published question-and-answer segment online Wednesday. The note also detailed the process behind preparing the skin for binding.

Scientific analysis done in 2014 confirmed the binding was made of human skin, the university said.

In its statement, Harvard said the library noted several ways in which its stewardship practices failed to meet its ethical standards.

“Until relatively recently, the library has made the book available to anyone who asked for it, regardless of their reason for wishing to consult it,” Harvard said. “Library lore suggests that decades ago, students employed to page collections in Houghton’s stacks were hazed by being asked to retrieve the book without being told it included human remains.”

When the testing confirmed the book was bound by human skin, “the library published posts on the Houghton blog that utilized a sensationalistic, morbid, and humorous tone that fueled similar international media coverage,” the university said in its statement.

The removed skin is now in “secure storage at Harvard Library,” Anne-Marie Eze, Houghton Library associate librarian, said in the question-and-answer session.

The library said it will be conducting additional research into the book, Bouland and the anonymous female patient. It is also working with French authorities to determine a “final respectful disposition.”

Harvard said the skin removal was prompted by a library review following a Harvard University report on human remains in its museum collections, released in 2022.

“Harvard Library and the Harvard Museum Collections Returns Committee concluded that the human remains used in the book’s binding no longer belong in the Harvard Library collections, due to the ethically fraught nature of the book’s origins and subsequent history,” Harvard’s statement said.

United States News

Associated Press

A state trooper pleaded guilty to assaulting teens over a doorbell prank. He could face prison time

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A suspended Delaware state trooper is facing prison time after pleading guilty to criminal charges involving a brutal assault on a teenager who targeted the trooper’s house in a prank. Dempsey Walters, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree assault and deprivation of civil rights, both felonies, authorities said. He also pleaded […]

18 minutes ago

Associated Press

Sawfish rescued in Florida as biologists try to determine why the ancient fish are dying

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A large sawfish that showed signs of distress was rescued by wildlife officials in the Florida Keys, where more than three dozen of the ancient and endangered fish have died for unexplained reasons in recent months. The 11-foot (3.3-meter) smalltooth sawfish was seen swimming in circles near Cudjoe Key and […]

35 minutes ago

Associated Press

‘HELP’ sign on beach points rescuers to men stuck nine days on remote Pacific atoll

Three men stranded on an uninhabited Pacific island survived for more than a week and used palm fronds to spell out HELP on the beach – leading to rescue by Navy and Coast Guard aviators who spotted the sign from several thousand feet in the air. They had embarked March 31 in a 20-foot boat […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Crash of semitrailer into Texas public safety office was intentional, lawmaker says

BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — The driver of a stolen semitrailer intentionally rammed it into a Texas public safety office in a rural town west of Houston on Friday, injuring multiple people, according to a state lawmaker. Three people were airlifted with critical injuries and three others were transported in serious condition after the crash of […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Prosecutors: South Carolina prison supervisor took $219,000 in bribes; got 173 cellphones to inmates

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A supervisor who managed security at a South Carolina prison accepted more than $219,000 in bribes over three years and got 173 contraband cellphones for inmates, according to federal prosecutors. Christine Mary Livingston, 46, was indicted earlier this month on 15 charges including bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. Livingston […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Oil and gas companies must pay more to drill on public lands under new Biden administration rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oil and gas companies will have to pay more to drill on public lands and satisfy stronger requirements to clean up old or abandoned wells, according to a final rule issued Friday by the Biden administration. The Interior Department’s rule raises royalty rates for oil drilling by more than one-third, to 16.67%, […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Harvard says it’s removed human skin from binding of 19th century book