The Mysterious Irish Woman Whose Skin Was Used To Bind Books

Xavier in Stories

Story that will make your skin crawl. The mysterious Irish woman whose skin was used to bind books 150 years ago.

As if flesh bound books don't sound too macabre enough, how about dying in a hospital far from home, not knowing that the skin from your corpse will soon be used to bind three books?

Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

That's what was speculated to have happened to Mary Lynch, a 28-year-old poor Irish widow who died at a hospital in the US after succumbing to food poisoning. She was first hospitalised in the hospital for tuberculosis but it was the food bought by her  mother outside was what really killed her. The pork and bologna that was meant to comfort her from the bland hospital food turned out to be infested with “pork worm” or Trichinella spiralis, a kind of parasitic roundworm. She died six months after contracting the disease, weighing merely 27kg to support her 5'2 frame. That's about everything we know from Mary Lynch.

Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Working at the same hospital Mary Lynch died in was 23-year-old Dr John Stockton Hough, the one in charge of Mary Lynch's autopsy. He made reports based on her autopsy, citing down the severity of her condition. Before they buried Lynch, Dr. Hough sliced a piece of skin from her thigh.

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Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

The young doctor later prepared the prepared Marie Lynch's thigh skin which will then be used to bind three books—Speculations on the Mode and Appearances of Impregnation in the Human Female, Le Nouvelles Decouvertes sur Toutes les Parties Principales de L’Homme et de la Femme, and Recueil des Secrets de Louyse Bourgeois. All three publications were related to women's health.

Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

It's still unclear whether Lynch gave any consent to all of this, seeing as there is absolutely no documentation found yet that confirms she did.

All the books flesh bound from Marie Lynch's thigh can still be found at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s more famous exhibit, the Mütter Museum—though, you may only have access to them on special tours.

Watch this interesting video on flesh bound books. Read more about it here.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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