Beginning dramatically with the opening of Haydn’s grave in October 1820, CRANIOKLEPTY: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius takes us on an extraordinary history of a peculiar kind of obsession. The desire to own the skulls of the famous, for study, for sale, for public (and private) display, seems to be instinctual and irresistible in some people. The rise of phrenology at the beginning of the 19th century only fed that fascination with the belief that genius leaves its mark on the very shape of the head. Fully illustrated with some surprising images, this is a fascinating and authoritative history of ideas carried along on the guilty pleasures of real-after-life gothic tales.
“Weaving the story’s details among other equally bizarre episodes of renowned craniums gone missing, Dickey fairly considers what motivated graveyard pilferers….Those with a taste for the macabre who may have read Brian Burrell’s Postcards from the Brain Museum (2005) and Russell Shorto’s Descartes’ Bones (2008) will enjoy Dickey’s eccentric tales.” — Booklist