Since the thirteenth century, leather from the skin of humans as been made in Europe. It was thought to have begun in the 1700's due to a book entitled “ French Encyclopedie,” in which included a recipe for tanning human skin. Then it was a normal thing to be done. Some looked forward to be turned into leather. For example, John Ziska (1360–1424), chief of the Hussites, ordered that his “skin be tanned and made into a drum. 'The noise which my skin will make,' said he, 'will frighten away all our enemies and put them to flight.'” But leather made from humans was not a practice exclusive for Europe. The Ekoi people in Nigeria and Cameroon use “masks made from human skin during funeral ceremonies.” Even in the Americas it was made. I am sure you have seen or heard of the shrunken heads made by tribes in South America. The shrunken heads were basically leather, as they were boiled in tannins (the substance used to tan skin). Now you must be thinking “Those barbaric natives and Europeans!” But in the USA, we also fashioned human skin into leather. That said, the ones we used were dead slaves. In the times of slavery they would make the leather they made from the slaves into shoes. If you would like to read more on this here is a link to a first person account of human leather in 1888: http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/question/apr13/index.htm.
As I said, they used the slaves tanned skin for shoes, but the use of human leather is not limited to shoes. All the things we have now that are made from leather human skin has been used for. From belts, to wallets, to drums, to every kind of shoe; even a French politician named Saint-Just, executed a woman who turned down his advances and made her skin into a waistcoat, in which he wore til his death (most all those two were executed in France were turned into leather). With all those wearing humans, the use of leather was mostly used for books. It has been used to bind and cover books. And it is all kinds of books, even the bible. The book pictured below is bound in the skin of William Burke (an Irish serial killer who was hung in 1829).
All the while I was searching for information about this topic I came across the PETA website in which one comment about human leather caught my attention, “when you buy leather, there’s no way of knowing what – or whom – you’re buying.” But with that, I, personally, think it better and more humane to have leather made from humans, because most of it is donated and they are not killed for it unlike most of the leather we encounter. There has even been oil extracted from the human body sold. Here is a question for you, dear reader, would you wear or buy a product made of human leather or just from human?
Please feel free to comment on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.