Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Narrative of the Life of James Allen

Published in 1837, there is hardly a more curious treasure in the Athenæum Library than a little volume, bound in what seems a grayish leather, curious not only in itself, for it is the deathbed confession of a highwayman (robbing late travelers on the highways), but more curious by reason of its binding---in the skin of its author. Known as anthropodermic bibliopegy (the practice of binding books in human skin), was not unknown at the time.

Peter Low, had come to Boston from London, where his father and grandfather were in the book business. Here he was engaged in bookbinding, for the Old Corner Book Store and other clients. The skin used for binding Walton's book came from Massachusetts General Hospital on the very day of his death. Walton was a Jamaica mulatto, and the skin, taken from his back, had been treated to look like a gray deer skin. Peter Low had not realized at first the precise nature of the material placed in his hands. By the time his day's work was done, however , he was in great distress of mind and, and nightmares filled the night that followed.

Because of its age, the book is in the public domain and is freely available on the Internet: http://www.bostonathenaeum.org/node/192

Upon special request, the book is viewable at Boston Athenæum Library.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_of_the_Life_of_James_Allen