The Real Skinny: Harvard Books Not Bound in Human Flesh

Practicarum Book
Courtesy of Harvard Law School Blogs

Yep, that's definitely sheepskin.

UPDATED: April 8, 2014, at 7:45 p.m.

Eight years ago, on February 2, 2006, The Harvard Crimson published an unreasonably long, rather boring, but cleverly titled article, “The Skinny on Harvard’s Rare Book Collection.” The exposé revealed the identities of three rare books covered in human skin. Get it? Skinny. Skin-ny. HA. I almost chuckled a little.

Well, the truth is, at least one of these three books is not covered in human skin. They’re covered in skin, alright, just not human skin. Sheep skin. Yeah, some scientists performed some tests and discovered that one of these valuable volumes is bound not in the skin of our fellow man, but in the skin of our not-so-fellow sheep. At least they’re mammals, right? You were close, Samuel P. Jacobs '09.

Science: 1, Clever Headlines: 0.

However, it should be stated that this discovery doesn’t discount the fact that there may have been human-sheep chimera. You know, back in the day.

At the end of it all, there is definitely a moral to this story. Don’t judge a book by its cover—or what you think that cover is made of.

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This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 8, 2014

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of books previously believed to be covered in human skin that were proven instead to be bound in sheep skin. In fact, scientists have thus far only shown that one of the three books is covered in sheep skin.

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