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A U N J N A f , H I N I I S J H C I A A H J d O S A D N I I I S S T Y C I W O I V N V A H J O J
S N O I J N S I U N O f , I ) S N W S . U g W I I U O W ' I T S M I ^ I O U f ,
u g ^ v t r g v t r z l N r l n u c s o , t / n o H
N I N b I ' I O d T f , H 3 V U
HOW TO SCRUTINIZE A BEAVER
CROMWELL MORTIMER’ S MUSKY CONTRIBUTIONS
TO THE ANAMTOMICAL SCIENCES OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
DISCUSSED: 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
RACHEL POLIQUIN
T

he great British collector,
naturalist, and physician
Sir Hans Sloane kept a
young female beaver in
his garden in the fashionable Bloomsbury
District at the center of London. She was a paunch-bellied
beast and only half grown, measuring thirty inches from
the tip of her nose to the end of her tail. She lived mainly
on bread, which she held with both paws, sitting on her
haunches like a squirrel. Occasionally she nibbled the wil-
low boughs that were brought for her, but she preferred
I. THE SUM TOTAL
OF THE BEAVER
27
the vines growing in Sloane’s garden and
gnawed several of them down to the roots.
She was never heard to make any noise,
except a few short grunts when chased or
angered. Most of all she loved to sum in
u IounLuIn hIIed wILI IIve ßounder, wIIcI
she ignored. Her excrement was jet black
and extraordinarily fetid. Her urine was turbid, white, and
pungent. Where the beaver hailed from, who sent her to
Sloane, and when she came to the garden are lost to time,
but she was decidedly dead three months after her arrival,
when Cromwell Mortimer, Sloane’s neighbor and good
friend, dissected her remains, in 1733. The beaver had suf-
Iered u bouL oI convuIsIve hLs. SIe recovered und wus weII
“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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