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    19 Old-Ass Tattoos On Preserved Human Skin

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

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

    Wellcome Library, London

    A tattoo on a piece of human skin showing a male bust and a flower stem.

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

    Wellcome Library, London

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

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

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

    A lady, possibly a girlfriend, surrounded by a garland of flowers.

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

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

    A Greek-style bust of an Emperor and some writing.

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

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

    A flower and some initials.

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

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

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

    Stars, butterflies, flowers, whatever.

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

    République française. France, 1850-1920.

    A lot of these.

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

    France, 1880-1920.

    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.

    Wellcome Library, London

    A seated lady and a standing dude.

    Or where, specifically, he got them from.

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

    A figure of a man with a large dagger surrounded by female angels with trumpets. France, 1830-1900.

    Maybe they came from prisoners.

    Wellcome Library, London.

    Writing on a piece of human skin, 'Enfant du Malheur' (child of misery).

    Maybe they came from soldiers in the French Foreign Legion.

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

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

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

    Wellcome Library, London.

    A nude female called Flora.

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

    Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

    France, 1880-1920. A sailor and two women wearing hats.

    But we don't know whose nipple this was.

    Wellcome Library, London.

    A flower and a selection of people.

    Or what happened on May 19, 1891.

    Wellcome Library, London.

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

    Maybe he fell in love with this lady.

    Wellcome Library, London.

    A female face.

    Or bought a fan and liked it a lot.

    Wellcome Library, London.

    A fan. Late 19th century.

    No idea.

    Wellcome Library, London.

    A small human figure. Late 19th century.

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

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