Two Ourobouroi — and some somewhat gruesome books..Friday, July 19th, 2019
[ by Charles Cameron — this is one of those posts for those who take a quasi-perverse delight in the strangely, beautifully morbid — bibliophiles ahoy! ]
Here’s another Ouroboros, this one from Microsoft’s eBook Apocalypse shows the dark side of DRM:
Amazon, overcome by a fit of irony in 2009, memorably vanished copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindles.
That was a decade ago, and happily some human at some point in the process had the good sense to intervene. Still, it really is a moment worth contemplating.
And here for your consideration is a second ouroboros in which a painting is made on the material depicted in it..
A flaying of the skin, as depicted on an ornately decorated piece of flayed skin.
The martyrdom of Bartholomew the Apostle. Hungarian Anjou Legendary, ca. 1325-35. Morgan Library, MS M.360.21. pic.twitter.com/y3kglPO19z
— Yvonne Seale (@yvonneseale) July 15, 2019
It’s gruesome-beautiful, which is why I’ve placed it second — but it’s vidual immediacy speaks viscerally to us, once we know the material on which the imaged was placed..
The ouroboros is not so strong in this case, since the flayed skin on wh9ich the representation is made is of vellum, ie the skin of a lamb or young anim=mal, flayed (removed from the animal’s flesh) after the death of the animal — while the depiction of St Bartholomew shows him being flahed in flie.
The image in question is part of a quadripartite miniature, which I’ll display here by posting two images from the Morgan collection immediately above one another — in its proper context, it seems less gruesome, perhaps?
I’m not saying, mark you, that human fklesh isn’t on occasion used in the binding of books. Wikipedia has an entry under the title Anthropodermic bibliopegy, which if you untangle it from the Greek means “binding with human skin” — and offers for our view and judgment the following example from the Welcome collection of medical rarities:
That’s S. Pinaeus, De integritatis et corruptionis virginum. And while we’re on the subject of virgines (girls), there’s also this label:
This book has been bound with the skin of a woman”
— which is found in another book, this one in the Smithsonian collection.