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“Dark Archives: a librarian’s investigation into the science and history of books bound in human skin” by Megan Rosenbloom

--Staff Picks

Medical librarian Megan Rosenbloom has a job that combines morbid fascination with often unsettling medical practices and the appreciation for the research and books that drive the field forward. And something that holds an uncomfortable place at this intersection is anthropodermic books, or books bound in human skin. Rosenbloom has dedicated a considerable amount of her life researching these books and developing a means to test alleged books to determine their validity. This book is a collection of personal antidotes about her travels looking for these items, historical teachings, ethical questions, book binding history, and the responsibilities of librarians as stewards for materials as well as history.

What could have come off as a sensationalized account of a librarian’s search for these disturbing artifacts instead is a nuanced exploration into how the bodies of the disenfranchised are often coopted by those in power. Rosenbloom not only highlights the historical context in which these books were created, she also goes into details about the people who’s bodies became these macabre coverings therefore giving their story more than just becoming these anthropodermic books. Rosenbloom herself is a member of The Order of the Good Death and a cofounder of their Death Salon, a community that encourages conversations, scholarship, and art about mortality and mourning. For more books on the subject of death and dying, check out the booklist by our librarian Stephanie; Death and Dying.