A second-floor shelf of University of Michigan’s Buhr book storage facility contains Michigan’s single most dangerous book.
It is one of only two known copies to exist in the state. If not for its historical importance, even the most fervent bibliophile might agree: the fewer copies in the world the better.
“Shadows from the Walls of Death” is dangerous not in the sense of a book containing radical ideas. Nor is it dangerous in the way a bomb-building manual might be. In fact, after the title page and preface, the following 86 pages, each one measuring about 22 by 30 inches, contain no printed words at all.
Michigan State University holds the other copy of “Shadows” in its Special Collections library division. The volume is sealed in a protective container, and each page is individually encapsulated.
Prospective “readers” of “Shadows” at the Buhr building must wear blue plastic protective gloves. During a visit to the Buhr some days ago, the book was wheeled out slowly on its individual cart. The marbled pattern on the cover showed through a protective thick-gauge plastic bag.
I held my breath as I gingerly eased open the cover, and while “reading” the pages I was careful to avoid any skin contact. “Shadows” is saturated with a deadly amount of arsenic.