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The people aren’t here anymore, but that doesn’t mean they can’t show off their tats.

 

The largest selection of preserved tattoos is from London’s Wellcome Collection.

The largest selection of preserved tattoos is from London's Wellcome Collection.

A tattoo on a piece of human skin showing a male bust and a flower stem. Wellcome Library, London

There are over 300 individual pieces of skin, collected in the late 19th century.

There are over 300 individual pieces of skin, collected in the late 19th century.

A nude female, a pot of flowers and some guy. Wellcome Library, London

They were preserved by slicing the tattoo off the body, scraping the connective tissue off the back, and then pinning the skin to dry.

They were preserved by slicing the tattoo off the body, scraping the connective tissue off the back, and then pinning the skin to dry.

A lady, possibly a girlfriend, surrounded by a garland of flowers. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

As it dried, the skin would shrink away from the pins, creating a scooped effect around the edges.

As it dried, the skin would shrink away from the pins, creating a scooped effect around the edges.

A Greek-style bust of an Emperor and some writing. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

Back then, tattoos were considered to be the mark of a criminal, or at least criminal tendencies or general badness.

Back then, tattoos were considered to be the mark of a criminal, or at least criminal tendencies or general badness.

A flower and some initials. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

Medical men tried to interpret the most common images and symbols they found.

Medical men tried to interpret the most common images and symbols they found.

France, 1850-1920. A table set with a knife, fork, wine, a bunch of roses and a hand grasping a dagger.Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

Stars, butterflies, flowers, whatever.

Stars, butterflies, flowers, whatever.

République française. France, 1850-1920. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

A lot of these.

A lot of these.

France, 1880-1920. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

The museum records aren’t great, and no one’s entirely certain that the one guy they acquired the tattoos from was using his real name.

The museum records aren't great, and no one's entirely certain that the one guy they acquired the tattoos from was using his real name.

A seated lady and a standing dude. Wellcome Library, London

Or where, specifically, he got them from.

Or where, specifically, he got them from.

A figure of a man with a large dagger surrounded by female angels with trumpets. France, 1830-1900.Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

Maybe they came from prisoners.

Maybe they came from prisoners.

Writing on a piece of human skin, ‘Enfant du Malheur’ (child of misery). Wellcome Library, London.

Maybe they came from soldiers in the French Foreign Legion.

Maybe they came from soldiers in the French Foreign Legion.

France, 1850-1920. Naval symbols including an anchor and the image of a soldier with the word Legion above it. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

Maybe someone had a hot girlfriend called Flora and wanted you to know about it.

Maybe someone had a hot girlfriend called Flora and wanted you to know about it.

A nude female called Flora. Wellcome Library, London.

Maybe this guy was a sailor who was just really into pictures of sailors.

Maybe this guy was a sailor who was just really into pictures of sailors.

France, 1880-1920. A sailor and two women wearing hats. Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

But we don’t know whose nipple this was.

But we don't know whose nipple this was.

A flower and a selection of people. Wellcome Library, London.

Or what happened on May 19, 1891.

Or what happened on May 19, 1891.

A heart with an arrow through it and the date of the 19th May 91. Wellcome Library, London.

Maybe he fell in love with this lady.

Maybe he fell in love with this lady.

A female face. Wellcome Library, London.

Or bought a fan and liked it a lot.

Or bought a fan and liked it a lot.

A fan. Late 19th century. Wellcome Library, London.

No idea.

No idea.

A small human figure. Late 19th century. Wellcome Library, London.

H/T to Simon Davis who wrote about human pelts and The Art of Preserving Tattooed Skin After Death.

 

SOURCE

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