They say you cannot judge a book by its cover, but what if your summer read is bound in snakeskin? Most people would slither away from a book wrapped in cobra or python skin, especially with the summer’s big movie Snakes On A Plane expected to have patrons rattling with fear. But did you know that snakeskin books have been around since the 1800s? AbeBooks is hisss-tactic to present some of these one-of-a-kind treasures.

More about snakeskin books

A Field Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa

VFM Fitzsimmons

A Field Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa

A 1970 edition that has been bound in pale brown snakeskin. The bookseller, K Books, of York in the UK, commissioned master bookbinder Stephen Conway to specially bind a series of books in unusual covers including salmon and eel skin. Conway, based in Yorkshire, describes snakeskin as “easy to work with and rather thin.” $165.29

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Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny

A two-volume 1861 first edition bound in python by master bookbinder Hazel Dreis in the 1930s. Courtesy of The Antiquarian Shop in Scottsdale, Arizona, these books, an examination of original sin and genetic inheritance, tell the story of a snake/human hybrid and her struggle to be accepted. $2,100

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Death Valley

David Andrew Hufford

Death Valley

Courtesy of The Lawbook Exchange in Clark, New Jersey, this collection of turn-of-the-century Western Americana stories, published in 1902, has wooden covers with strips of tan snakeskin attached as if the snake is coiled around the book. The title has been branded onto the cover - a true one-off. $1,074.98

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Archive

William S. Burroughs, S. Clay Wilson

Archive

Courtesy of Ken Lopez, Bookseller, ABAA in Hadley, Massachusetts. In 1980, S. Clay Wilson created the cover art, endpapers and illustrations for Die Wilden Boys, the first German edition of Burroughs' The Wild Boys. This archive includes this edition, signed by Burroughs and Wilson; a trial edition, rejected by Wilson, who was displeased with the endpapers, signed by Wilson; and Wilson's own copy, bound in Niger goat and snakeskin, signed by Wilson and inscribed by Burroughs to Wilson. $17,500

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Heads and Tales

Malvina Cornell Hoffman

Heads and Tales

Courtesy of Peter Keisogloff Rare Books, Inc, in Brecksville, Ohio. Bound in full wide grain white and gray snake (perhaps Asian python) or other unidentified lizard or reptile skin with whitish underbelly at outer fore edges of covers. This book chronicles Malvina Hoffman's travels undertaken for the Field Museum (Hall of Man) during 1931-32 and was bound by Helen Wormser and given to Hoffman, possibly by the Field Museum or Wormser herself. The snake/reptile skin could have been purchased by Hoffman while on her Asian travels. In 1943, the book was given by Hoffman to Wormser with a signed inscription. $1,400

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