The book in question is a 1933 first edition copy of "Champion Textbook of Embalming" by A.O. Spriggs. And it seems to well and truly freak out at least one of the staff:
"Oh no, no, no, it's not something we could ever put on the shelves," Evelyn McLane, programming associate, said. "I think the embalming book came in about a year ago, as a donation."
I'm temped to describe the programming associate as a lightweight, but that wouldn't be fair. First, I don't run a public library, so I avoid the political flak that public librarians do. We rarely if ever get complaints from our students, and when we do it's most often to deride us for not having a given book on the shelves. I don't think we've ever been asked to remove something already here. The medical textbooks are quite well-utilized.
Besides that, I had plenty of chances to check out the rare book room at the New York Academy of Medicine when I worked there. George Washington's teeth were a big draw; their most requested item, in fact. In a collection like that, the emblaming book might actually seem a little banal.
On the other hand, American culture seems more removed from death than ever. All the heavy lifting is taken care of by hospitals, morticians, and funeral homes, and they don't do so for free. It's no wonder that a book that describes in painstaking detail the care and feeding of human corpses creeps her out. She's hardly alone:
Library officials said donated books that can't find a home on circulation shelves sometimes become undiscovered treasures for others.
In the case of the embalming book, it was immediately clear it needed to go . someplace else far, far away from unsuspecting library patrons.
"We put the embalming book in the last one (sale), but it didn't sell," Ms. McLane said. "We paired it with Poe to see if someone would buy it."
Not a bad idea. The Poe book she mentions is a 1944 edition of "Tales of Edgar Allen Poe." All things considered, if you're into creepy stuff, this might be worth checking out.