Book Bound With Human Skin of a Would-Be Assassin Bought at Car Boot Sale
You expect to find Granny’s trinkets, barely used “As Seen on TV” products and even less used fitness equipment at car boot sales but how about a book bound in human skin? And selling for just a couple of pounds at that!
That’s the find that Dorset historian and author Rodney Legg came home with. The tattooed skin binding came off the book at some point in time and was preserved in a small bottle of oil and that’s how it was bought by Legg.
“I saw it at the sale and bought it out of interest for a couple of pounds,” he said.
The skin is believed to have been removed from the back of a man who was executed after he attempted to shoot a British major during the 1839 Chinese Opium War. The only clue to help identify the man is an anchor tattoo on the skin which indicates that he may have been a sailor. Says Legg, “‘It seems that the man was killed and flayed after attempting to shoot Major Simpson dead, but when and where it happened is unclear.”
Why the pocket book was made is unknown but possession of the book has been traced to the Egerton family of West Stafford in Dorset.
A letter that came with the book indicates that Mrs. Caroline Egerton found the book while clearing the Stafford Rectory after the death of her father, Canon Reginald Southwell Smith, in 1895. She wrote, ‘I have only this morning discovered the long lost pocket book made out of the skin of the man who shot your father!’
95-year-old Major-General Sir David Boswell Egerton – 16th baronet in a line created in 1617 says he had no knowledge of the book and that he “can’t think why anyone should want such a relic.”