Was human skin used as parchment or vellum before 1500?

I already have a good picture of the use of human skin as book-cover material in France and Europe from 1500 to 1900, i.e., not that rare.

But apparently to do that, human skin, like other forms of fine leather had to be reinforced or mounted on stiffer backing, because of its thinness and flexibility.


Thus the material itself is obviously better suited to the inner pages of codices (handmade books prior to printing), and I am suspicious that it may have been used in place of animal skins for both parchment/vellum books and also scrolls.

The idea of using human skin for various purposes is obviously very old, and so I think there must be some evidence of its use as book-page material somewhere in the pre-printing era.

thanks in advance,

According to your own cite, “Human-skin books are rare.”

This looks like a question with a (possible) factual answer, so I’m moving it to General Question from Great Debates.

Well, obviously not that rare, since they seem to be not unpopular in recent periods (post-printing).

There was also little moral or social restraint in using human skin to bind books.
Apparently last wishes often included using a person’s skin to frock their diaries or life-stories.

My concern isn’t covers however, but plainly this activity was engaged in since 1500 and went unregulated for centuries.
But to be in practice throughout that period, would imply that it went on before then.
Handmade codices (books) were made as far back as the 2nd century.

The issue is, was human skin also used for pages of books, and not just decorative covers?
This should be easy enough to check, using DNA or other forensic science, but it may not be cheap.
So my question is, has this been investigated or found before, in the period prior to moveable type?

Wasn’t parchment made primarily with the skin of lamb fetuses, hence I assume a very thin skin?

If so, wouldn’t be human skin (or for that matter the skin of any large adult mammal) to thick to be used to make parchment?

ETA : now remembering it’s vellum that was made with lamb fetus skin.

Where did you get the “foetus” part?
I’ve never heard that before… any documentation?

From wikipedia’s page about vellum :

Would it be of significantly different quality if it were taken from a lamb immediately slaughtered upon live birth, than from a stillborn or unborn lamb?

Man, those things are so cute, who could thwap one just to make a sheet of paper for a grocery list?

Depends how young before birth you take it, at least if they’re anything like humans. Human preemies have skin that’s so thin it’s transparent before about 30 weeks. (38 weeks is “full term”; average gestation is 40 weeks.)