October 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell

cover-LE copy.jpgNow here's a terrific Halloween read: The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell: A Memoir by Marc Hartzman (Curious Publications, 2015) is a romp through three hundred years of history as told by the decapitated head of England's former "Lord Protector." Cromwell, having died of natural causes in 1658, was exhumed by Charles II three years later in order to avenge his father's beheading. Cromwell's head was posthumously chopped off and impaled on a spike atop Westminster Hall, where it stayed for more than 25 years. As the story goes, the leathery skull finally fell one day, which initiated a series of "afterlife" adventures for Cromwell's brainless and embalmed noggin. It--the head, that is--jauntily narrates encounters with Spiritualists, phrenologists, and showmen. The result is delightfully wicked.    

Collectors can get in on the mischief too. The publisher, New York's Curious Publications, teamed up with Porridge Papers and Signature Bindery of Lincoln, Nebraska, to create a signed, limited edition of fifty copies in a sewn and stamped faux leather binding. The decorative endpapers reproduce a nineteenth-century letter about the transferral of Cromwell's head from one owner to another, and the textured dust jacket features a whimsical illustration by Brooklyn artist Vi Luong.

"Signature Bindery was excited at the opportunity to bind the limited edition run of Marc Hartzman's new book," said owner Kevin Oliver. "With our trademark attention to detail, we created a binding both beautiful in design and perfect in function. The binding celebrates both the author and the artist, and from the moment the book is opened, it takes the reader into the fantastic tale that Mr. Hartzman wove."

The limited edition is priced at $80. A letterpress-printed poster of Luong's illustration on handmade paper is also available for $75.

Image: Limited edition, Courtesy of Marc Hartzman.