Leather-bound with gold lettering and 1,600 pages long, this Bible was given to Elvis Presley from his uncle and aunt, for his first Christmas at his Graceland estate in Memphis, in 1957. This Bible was used by Elvis Presley until his death on 16 August 1977. Bearing his annotations, the Holy Book went for £59,000 at auction in England, on 8 Sept 2012 (via).
Halloween (2): Bound in human skin
This beautiful binding is made of, you guessed it, human skin. For the longest time I thought this practice (anthropdermic bibliopegy) was a myth, but it is not. It frequently occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even later. Human skin was removed from a corpse, tanned (or processed in another way) and then used to cover a book. Harvard’s Houghton Library has one from the 1880s (read more about it here), but the one in this image is much older. Dating from the early 17th century, this book seems to have been bound in the skin of the priest Father Henry Garnet, who was executed in 1606 for his role in the Gunpowder Plot - the attempt to ignite 36 barrels of gunpowder under the British Parliament. Ironically, the printed book Garnet’s skin was put around outlined the story and the evidence of the plot. In a twist wonderfully suitable for Halloween, the face of Garnet was thought to have appeared on the binding (faintly visible in the image), which is the only nonsense part of this bizarre and gross story. Happy Halloween!
More details. The story of binding a book in human skin is connected to criminals. During the 1830s a murderer was stripped off his skin (post-execution), which ended up as a binding for John Milton’s Poetical Works (read about it here). Another 19th-century criminal whose skin ended up as a book was John Horwood (read the gruesome details here). More about the practice in general in this National Geographic piece; more about the book above here, as well as in this Guardian news article.
By request from our follower @cosmictypewriter! William Morris.
The tale of King Florus and the Fair Jehane / [Translated by William Morris from the French of the 13th century.] Hammersmith : Kelmscott Press, 1893.
Green morocco binding with ten gold filigree medallions with jewel centers of small amethysts and sapphires, gold filigree clasps with moonstones.
Despite the uncertainty over Elizabeth’s status after Anne Boleyn’s execution, Henry VIII ensured that his daughter received a fine education. Together with her brother Edward, she learned to write in the Italic hand which had been developed during the early Renaissance period. An example of Elizabeth’s handwriting can be seen in this psalter. After her accession in 1558 she invariably signed her name ‘Elizabeth R’, suggesting that this poem must date from before that time.
The translation of these psalms from Latin into French is by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (1455-1536), a French humanist, whose psalter was first published in 1525 in Paris. Translations by Lefèvre d’Étaples were favoured by Anne Boleyn: she had a number of his texts copied into manuscripts. However, it is unlikely that this psalter was owned by Anne Boleyn, or indeed Elizabeth. Her poem and signature are likely to be an autograph in somebody else’s book, who then had the armillary sphere, one of Queen Elizabeth’s emblems, drawn to embellish the inscription.