Harvard Removes Book Crafted With Human Skin From University Library – American Faith

Harvard University has announced it will remove a book made from human skin from its Houghton library.

In a press release, Harvard said the book Des Destinées de l’Ame, which has reportedly been in its library since the 1930s, will be removed from its shelves.

According to Ivy League university, the book’s first owner was French physician Dr. Ludovic Bouland, who crafted the book with skin from a deceased female patient in a hospital where he worked.

“Harvard Library has removed human skin from the binding of a copy of Arsène Houssaye’s book Des destinées de l’âme (1880s), held at Houghton Library. The volume’s first owner, French physician and bibliophile Dr. Ludovic Bouland (1839–1933), bound the book with skin he took without consent from the body of a deceased female patient in a hospital where he worked. The book has been in the collections of Harvard Library since 1934, initially placed on deposit by John B. Stetson, Jr. (1884–1952), an American diplomat, businessman, and Harvard alumnus (AB 1906), and later through donation by his widow Ruby F. Stetson to Houghton Library in 1954,” Harvard said.

“The removal of the human skin from Des destinées de l’âme follows a review by Houghton Library of the book’s stewardship, prompted by the recommendations of the Report of the Harvard University Steering Committee on Human Remains in University Museum Collections issued in fall 2022. After careful study, stakeholder engagement, and consideration, Harvard Library and the Harvard Museum Collections Returns Committee concluded that the human remains used in the book’s binding no longer belong in the Harvard Library collections, due to the ethically fraught nature of the book’s origins and subsequent history,” the university continued.

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