Being the proud custodians of a calling-card case fashioned from the skin of the notorious murderer William Burke, we receive many intrigued enquiries from visitors. Such as: What precisely is a calling-card? How it is different from a modern business card? And why, precisely, would one think it a good idea to carry them around in such a gruesome device as that? Well, dear reader, we can answer most of these questions...
In the early 1800s, Edinburgh's intellectuals faced a dilemma. The enlightened doctors of the Medical School required a regular supply of human cadavers on which to conduct their research. Their students also needed bodies to study in order to learn anatomy.
Unfortunately, the Law only allowed the bodies of executed criminals to be used for medical research, and a Judge would usually only add this to a criminal's sentence for particularly heinous crimes. Demand for fresh cadavers soon outstripped the number that even the harsh legal establishment of the time could supply.