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Harvard Law School Identifies Binding of Book as Sheepskin

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A book owned by Harvard Law School has long since been rumored to have been bound in human skin. But, alas, the book was actually bound in sheepskin, according to The Harvard Law School Library Blog.

There is an inscription on the final page of the book that states the following:

“The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.”

The book has been studied for years because of the inscription, but all of the results were inconclusive.

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The parchment binding of the book was analyzed by Daniel Kirby, a conservation scientist at the Straus Center of the Harvard University Art Museum. The book in question is Juan Gutierrez’ Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae.

To determine the makeup of the book, Kirby used the method known as peptide mass fingerprinting. He analyzed nine samples of the book covers, glue and binding. Using this process, the samples are differentiated from parchment sources such as goat, cattle, deer and human skin. The glue on the book was deemed to be from a mix of pig collage and cattle.

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