Sealskin used in book bindings from Clairvaux Abbey

The medieval Clairvaux Abbey houses one of the richest libraries in the Western world. The presence of hairs on seventeen XIIth century bindings preserved in the French cities of Troyes and Montpellier intrigued researchers. These bindings were all made of sealskin although the abbey is far from the sea in the Champagne region of France. This practice is thought to have been popular with Cistercian monks for a while.