Dark Archives: A Librarian's Investigation Into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin by Megan Rosenbloom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was everything I wanted it to be, and more.
I first heard about Dark Archives on the Morbid Anatomy podcast, and I knew immediately that I had to read it, but it wasn't due out until October (quite appropriate but SO FAR AWAY!) I started following the author, Megan Rosenbloom, on Twitter and discovered that the book was available on NetGalley. I requested it immediately and crossed my fingers.
Until I heard Megan speak on the podcast, I had NO IDEA that books bound in human skin was a thing. How had my macabre sensibilities missed this gem? However, this book is more than just Megan's quest to search out true anthropodermic bibliopegy (fancy words for "books made of human skin"), it's an education and procedural in antique books, it's' a study in medical ethics past and present, and a behind-the-scenes look at the exciting world of a medical librarian! You get to follow Megan around the globe as she hunts down various legendary tomes and testing them to see if they're the real deal. Some turn out to be made out of animal skins, but a handful turn out to be the real McCoy.
Amidst the "treasure" hunt, you receive a brief education on the history of medicine in western world, how far doctors have come from paying grave robbers for bodies to autopsy to now using bodies that have been donated. It's a gruesome truth that is riddled with controversy when you consider how medicine has advanced from the dark ages on the literal backs of the poor, the murdered, and minorities. Collectors and librarians juggle their want and need to conserve history whilst trying to respect the memory of those whose bodies were used to enrich someone's personal library.
Dark Archives is a fascinating read that brings together so many elements to create a well-rounded text that is as enjoyable as it is informative.
Many thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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