Books made from human skin

Based on the short story by Clive Barker, the film Hellraiser contains a simple enough premise that has spawned countless, albeit tiresome sequels. What if one could open a gateway to Hell itself by solving a puzzle? The franchise features a puzzle box that, if solved, will open a gateway to a realm of infinite terror. This is implied to be Hell in the films, though in the short story, the box simply opens a gateway to a different dimension of experience. In the films, the box is made by a toymaker in the eighteenth century. The graphic novels establish a different, and more horrific premise. in the graphic novels, the boxes made by Lemarchand are made with human body parts – fat and bone.

 But is the premise of boxes made from the parts of human bodies that horrifying? In this article, researchers from Harvard discuss the creation of a book from human skin. In fact, the concept of using skin to make books is a very old one, this paper proposes. Interestingly enough, it is in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that we really witness the ‘vogue’ (for lack of a better word) for human skin bindings, despite the fact that the idea itself is an old one. 

And if we take the idea of making books from human skin, why can’t we make other things out of human body parts? :

The rafters of my body. bone,
Being still with you, the muscle, sinew, vein,
Which tile this house, will come again
– John Donne , A Valediction of My Name, In The Window


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'horror': Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’.

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