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Publisher's Summary

On bookshelves around the world, surrounded by ordinary books bound in paper and leather, rest other volumes of a distinctly strange and grisly sort: those bound in human skin. Would you know one if you held it in your hand?  

In Dark Archives, Megan Rosenbloom seeks out the historic and scientific truths behind anthropodermic bibliopegy - the practice of binding books in this most intimate covering. Dozens of such books live on in the worlds most famous libraries and museums. Dark Archives exhumes their origins and brings to life the doctors, murderers, innocents, and indigents whose lives are sewn together in this disquieting collection. Along the way, Rosenbloom tells the story of how her team of scientists, curators, and librarians test rumored anthropodermic books, untangling the myths around their creation and reckoning with the ethics of their custodianship.  

A librarian and journalist, Rosenbloom 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. In Dark Archives - captivating and macabre in all the right ways - she has crafted a narrative that is equal parts detective work, academic intrigue, history, and medical curiosity: a book as rare and thrilling as its subject.

©2020 Megan Rosenbloom (P)2020 Recorded Books

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  • Abbey Pflegl
  • 2021-11-21

Fascinating

What most would consider a macabre subject, I truly enjoyed the journey with the author through finding out more about these interesting and dark books.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-11-05

Armchair Psychology with Nothing Gained

The narrator, Justis, has an amazing voice! Her cadence was soothing but kept the story feeling personal. She made it feel like a conversation between friends.

Except, I am not a very good friend of this book...

Maybe if I didn't have a heavy interest in morbid history this book would've been more insightful. Unfortunately, all I really learned is that the French don't like sharing. There wasn't a real deep insight or introspection behind the idea of why human skin books create such interest and controversy. The deep religious, cultural and emotional undertones of how the human body is used after death was only brushed against--outside of one incredibly pompous interview with a fellow librarian (the one who likened skin books to sexual assault). As for the practice itself... I learned the proper names for bookbinding, so there's that.

All in all, I don't regret the read but I won't recommend it.

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  • Catherine McMahon
  • 2021-07-14

Slow read

I found this book pretty boring. I felt like the topic could have been covered in one chapter.

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  • Paula
  • 2021-05-24

An intelligent and empathetic look at both books and death

Despite the sensationalism of the title, this book is extraordinarily well researched, and is written very thoughtfully and empathetically. It is a book that immediately piqued my interest, since I not only am drawn to macabre subjects, but I also work in the library field. It touches on issues of censorship, research ethics, conservatism, dehumanization, consent, and death positivity. As long as you’re not super squeamish, I would recommend this book to any adult.