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Scientists confirm: Harvard book about the ‘destinies of the soul’ bound in human skin

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Experts have confirmed that a 19th-century book about the destiny of the soul in the afterlife “is without a doubt bound in human skin.”

The book was donated to Harvard’s Houghton Library by Dr. Ludovic Bouland in the 1930s, and contained a note from the Bouland in which he claimed that “a book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering.”

Arsène Houssaye had presented his friend Bouland a copy of Des destinées de l’ame (Destinies of the Soul), and according to his note, Bouland then used “this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman,” a mental patient who had died of “apoplexy,” to bind the book.

“It is interesting to see the different aspects that change this skin according to the method of preparation to which it is subjected,” Bouland wrote in his handwritten note. “Compare for example with the small volume I have in my library, Sever. Pinaeus de Virginitatis notis which is also bound in human skin but tanned with sumac.”

Grotesque as it sounds, the practice of binding books in human skin — or anthropodermic bibliopegy — was once more common. The confessions of executed criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, and some families bound the favorite books of recently deceased family members in their skin as a kind of memorial to them.

Harvard scientists tested Des destinées de l’ame using several different methods, including peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF). According to Bill Lane, the director of the Harvard Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Resource Laboratory, “[t]he PMF from Des destinées de l’ame matched the human reference, and clearly eliminated other common parchment sources, such as sheep, cattle and goat. However, although the PMF was consistent with human, other closely related primates, such as the great apes and gibbons, could not be eliminated because of the lack of necessary references.”

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Portions of the binding were then subjected to a Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LCMSMS), which determined the order of the amino acids within each peptide — an order that is unique to each species of primate.

The result, Lane said, was “[t]he analytical data, taken together with the provenance of Des destinées de l’ame, make it very unlikely that the source could be other than human.”

[“Man Looking Shocked At The Light Coming Out Of A Book” on Shutterstock]

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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Here are 4 winners and 9 losers from the first 2020 Democratic primary debate

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With ten candidates on stage Wednesday, the opening debate of the 2020 Democratic primary in Miami was a packed mess. And this was only the first course in a two-part event — 10 more candidates will debate on the following night.

A crowded field makes it difficult to stand out, and that means that even after a big night like a debate, the most likely result is that not much changes. But the debate was still significant, giving candidates the chance to exceed, meet, or fall below expectations for their performances.

Here's a list — necessarily subjective, of course — of the people who came out on the top when the dust was settled, and those who came out on the bottom.

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Here are 3 ways Julián Castro stood out in the first Democratic Debate

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There were many predictions going into the first Democratic debate on MSNBC, but no one predicted that Julián Castro would break out from the crowd.

Check out the top three ways Castro stood out from the crowd.

Immigration:

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the outright winner of the immigration section of the debate

It should "piss us all off," Castro said about the father and his little girl who were found face-down in the shores of the Rio Grande River this week. “It’s heartbreaking."

Castro is a second generation American who got into specifics on immigration policy, calling for an outright "Marshall Plan" style of action for Guatemala and Honduras. He joined with other Democrats calling for an end to President Donald Trump's family separation policy, but he then suggested ending the "metering" of legitimate asylum seekers.

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