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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Dark Archives

Dark Archives

A Librarian's Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin

Megan Rosenbloom

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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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 world’s 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.

Praise for Dark Archives

"Profoundly odd, wholly original, and utterly engrossing! If there were a Pulitzer for the category 'who knew?,' Ms. Rosenbloom’s Dark Archives would win it hands down." —Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

"Dark Archives is a gorgeous dive into the humanity and inhumanity of the people behind (and on) these strangely captivating books. Propelled by curiosity and bibliophilia, Rosenbloom travels far and wide and deep within, taking us to unimaginable places. This is a masterful work, enlightened and enlivened by Rosenbloom's scholarship and her involvement with the death positive movement. If there were a word for the perfect pairing of author and subject and the giddy joy that pairing brings to the reader, I'd be using it right now." —Mary Roach, author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

"An international treasure hunt, fascinating medical history, high level PR nightmare, and heartrending account of the real people whose flesh was turned into curiosities by the medical professionals they trusted." —Caitlin Doughty, author of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions About Death

"Megan Rosenbloom is the perfect guide to a dark and sinister world populated by Victorian criminals, bodysnatchers, and dissectors—all of whom contributed to the gruesome art of binding books with human skin." —Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to … More…

"Profoundly odd, wholly original, and utterly engrossing! If there were a Pulitzer for the category 'who knew?,' Ms. Rosenbloom’s Dark Archives would win it hands down." —Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

"Dark Archives is a gorgeous dive into the humanity and inhumanity of the people behind (and on) these strangely captivating books. Propelled by curiosity and bibliophilia, Rosenbloom travels far and wide and deep within, taking us to unimaginable places. This is a masterful work, enlightened and enlivened by Rosenbloom's scholarship and her involvement with the death positive movement. If there were a word for the perfect pairing of author and subject and the giddy joy that pairing brings to the reader, I'd be using it right now." —Mary Roach, author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

"An international treasure hunt, fascinating medical history, high level PR nightmare, and heartrending account of the real people whose flesh was turned into curiosities by the medical professionals they trusted." —Caitlin Doughty, author of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions About Death

"Megan Rosenbloom is the perfect guide to a dark and sinister world populated by Victorian criminals, bodysnatchers, and dissectors—all of whom contributed to the gruesome art of binding books with human skin." —Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

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Reviews from Goodreads

Megan Rosenbloom

Megan Rosenbloom is a librarian with a research interest in the history of medicine and rare books. Now Collections Strategies Librarian at UCLA Library in Los Angeles, she was previously a medical librarian and before that, a journalist. She is obituary editor of the Journal of the Medical Library Association and president of the Southern California Society for the History of Medicine. She is a member of the Anthropodermic Book Project, a multi-disciplinary team scientifically testing alleged human skin books around the world to verify their human origin. She is also the co-founder and director of the Death Salon, the event arm of the Order of the Good Death, and is a leader in the Death Positive movement.

image of Megan Rosenbloomo
Polly Barrowman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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