The Missing Tattoo of the Assassin

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Detail of the Mummified Skin of Vlado Chernozemski, from J. Herber’s Tatouage et Politique, 1944

 

Some mysterious books only propagate more mysteries. J. Herber’s Tatouage et Politique is a slim and obscure pamphlet, published in Caluire in 1944 – one of a number of pamphlets on the history of tattooing which the doctor published in his lifetime. As well as the title text, it also includes two other short texts, Épigraphie du tatouage – which focused on epigraphy tattoos – and Le tatouage dans l’oeuvre d’Anatole France, an early analysis of tattoos in a literary work. The pamphlet was published as part of the Albums du Crocodile series, under the direction of L’Association Génerale de L’Internat des Hospices Civils de Lyon, of which Herber’s fellow historian of tattooing, J. Lacassagne, was associated with.

The title piece is a brief, but important attempt to understand the political elements of tattooing, of which there had been at that point (and even since then) little focused scholarly work upon. The pamphlet would have a place in the history of tattoo scholarship on the merits of that article alone, but it is perhaps more notable for including a reproduction of what appears to be a portion of the preserved skin of Vlado Chernozemski, aka Vlado the Chauffeur, the famous assassin who shot and killed Alexander of Yugoslavia – one of the first assassinations to be filmed, which has etched the act into the filmic memory of the 20th century.

This tattoo, a skull and crossbones with the initials V.M.R.O. – the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – was originally the only clue French police had to determine his identity, which they were unable to do at the time of burial. However, this photograph of a patch of Vlado’s skin seems to suggest that he was not buried with his tattoo.

This is the only reproduction we’ve ever seen of the tattoo, though a tantalizing note states that it resides at the time of publication in the collection of Dr. Beroud, at the Musée de Criminalistique de Marseille – an institution which doesn’t seem to survive, at least under that name. A research project for some intrepid visitor to Marseille willing to make some inquiries and find the whereabouts of this missing tattoo. . .

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Tatouage et Politique by J. Herber

Herber, J. Tatouage et Politique. Caluire, Strasbourg, Rhône: M. Tournus fils, 1944. First edition. 8vo, 24 pp, saddle-stapled wraps printed in two colors. Illustrated with two full page reproductions and several small drawings in the text. Text in French.

Toning to margins of wraps and pages and some light handling creases, but a well-preserved, near fine example. An obscure imprint for the trade which likely had very limited distribution; OCLC locates only three holdings, all within France.  [24843] Inquire. 

 

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Detail of the Mummified Skin of Vlado Chernozemski, from J. Herber’s Tatouage et Politique, 1944

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