I first started collecting rare medical prints over thirty years ago. I was attracted by the fine detail and the fact that the artist would sit for hours beside a cadaver while it was being dissected. Although it was a slightly macabre thought I was impressed with their commitment to their work.
However it was probably learning about the Burke and Hare murders, while at school in Scotland, that first pricked my interest. They were a series of 16 killings committed over a period of about ten months in 1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were undertaken by William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses to Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures.
Edinburgh was a leading European centre of anatomical study in the early 19th century, in a time when the demand for cadavers led to a shortfall in legal supply. Scottish law required that corpses used for medical research should only come from those who had died in prison, suicide victims, or from foundlings and orphans. The shortage of corpses led to an increase in body snatching by what were known as “resurrection men”. Burke was hung for murder and the case brought attention to the need for more bodies for scientific research culminating in the passing of the Anatomy Act in 1832.
Between our Claremont and London Court Galleries we have over 200 anatomical and medical prints on show. They include William Cowper original prints from London 1698, Andrew Fyfe’s anatomical illustrations 1805 Edinburgh, and John Lizars anatomical plates from 1835, also Edinburgh. Also on display are a large collection from ‘The History of Medicine,’ depicting the pivotal moments in medical breakthroughs, published in New York 1957-1964. We are presently in the process of uploading many more onto our website.
If you are in the City of Perth then come and say hello to us in London Court. We have a lovely Gallery near the Hay Street entrance. Our original Gallery in Claremont is beside Zenith Music in Old Theatre Lane, off Bayview Terrace. I look forward to seeing you soon.