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R A C H E L P OL IQ U I N

HOW T O S CRUTIN IZE A BEAV ER CROMWELL MORTIMER’S MUSKY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE ANAMTOMICAL SCIENCES OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY D I S C U S S E D : A Fountain of Live Flounders, Death by Dog, Secretions from the Anal Scent Glands Used in Puddings, An Inducement to Miscarry, Fabled Self-Castration, Isidore of Seville, The First Beaver Dissection at the Bibliothèque du Roi, The Great Fissure, To See Well What One Wishes to Represent

the vines growing in Sloane’s garden and

I. THE SUM TOTAL OF THE BEAVER

T

gnawed several of them down to the roots. She was never heard to make any noise,

he great British collector,

except a few short grunts when chased or

naturalist, and physician

angered. Most of all she loved to sum in

Sir Hans Sloane kept a she ignored. Her excrement was jet black

young female beaver in

and extraordinarily fetid. Her urine was turbid, white, and

his garden in the fashionable Bloomsbury

District at the center of London. She was a paunch-bellied

pungent. Where the beaver hailed from, who sent her to

beast and only half grown, measuring thirty inches from

Sloane, and when she came to the garden are lost to time,

the tip of her nose to the end of her tail. She lived mainly

but she was decidedly dead three months after her arrival,

on bread, which she held with both paws, sitting on her

when Cromwell Mortimer, Sloane’s neighbor and good

haunches like a squirrel. Occasionally she nibbled the wil-

friend, dissected her remains, in 1733. The beaver had suf-

low boughs that were brought for her, but she preferred

27 “Beaver with, in the upper part, a trompe l’oeil piece of paper, depicting various organs” Engraving from Claude Perrault’s Description anatomique, 1669. Image © The Trustees of the British Museum


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