Written by Sherry
Tuesday, 04 December 2007 06:51
Bizarre, grotesque, and heroic are the words that come to mind about this item. Via Catholic New Service:
A book bound in the skin of an executed Jesuit priest was sold at an auction in England to an unnamed private collector for 5,400 pounds (more than US$11,000).
The macabre, 17th-century book tells the story of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot and is covered in the hide of Father Henry Garnet.
Fr. Garnet served as superior of the hunted Jesuits in England for 20 years between 1586 and 1606. He was a remarkable leader in troubled times. During his time in office, the Jesuits in England grew from 1 to 40 and no one was captured in his London lodging (although there were many close calls)
The priest, at the time the head of the Jesuits in England, was executed May 3, 1606, outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London for his alleged role in a Catholic plot to detonate 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the British Parliament, an act that would have killed the Protestant King James I and other government leaders.
The book, "A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings Against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and His Confederates," contains accounts of speeches and evidence from the trials. It measures about 6 inches by 4 inches and comes in a wooden box.
Sid Wilkinson, the auctioneer, said: "The front cover is rather spooky because where the skin has mottled or crinkled there looks to be a bearded face.
"It is a curious thing, and we believe it to be taken from the skin of Henry Garnet," he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Nov. 28.
He added that it was common for the skins of executed criminals to be used to cover books about their lives, a process called anthropodermic binding.
Another glimpse of strange world of recusant England. Poor Fr. Garnet died at the hands of an executioner, protesting his innocence of any involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. It is because of uncertainty about this that he has never been declared a martyr for the faith.