“Moreover the circumstances of time and place were unfortunate; for the Booth wherein the Elephant was kept, took fire about Three a Clock in the morning, on Friday the 17th of June; upon this the City being alarm’d, multitudes were gathered about the place: And when the fire was extinguished everyone endeavoured to procure some part of the Elephant, few of then having seen him living, by reason of the great rates put upon the sight of him. To prevent his being taken away by the multitude, the Manager, Mr. Wilkins, procured a File of Musqueteers to guard him, till he should build a shed where he might securely disjoint him, in order to the making of a Skeleton: This he got finished at Seven a Clock at night, and about eight I heard of his design. Being desirous to Inform my self in the structure of the Elephant, I made search for him, and having foundhim I proffered my service to him; of which when he accepted,
I endeavoured to persuade him to discharge some Butchers which he had in a readiness to order the Elephant after their way, and to leave the whole management of the matter to me, and to such as I thought fit to employ, designing a general dissection, and that the Icons of each part should be taken in order by some Painters, with whom upon this occasion I could prevail: But my endeavours prov’d fruitless, because that about Ten a Clock that night, when we went to the shed, to find what condition the Elephant was in, he emitted very noisesome steams. These made the Manager fear (the shed being very near the Council-Chamber, and the Custom-House,) that the Ld. Lt. or Ld. Mayor would order it to be taken away as a nuysance, and that in all probability it should be lost, and that perhaps he himself should be punished for suffering it to be there; When I considered, that in case he did not dispose of him that Night, the next Day being Saturday, I should be able to accomplish but a small part of what I designed, and that it would be both chargeable and difficult to preserve him from the rabble till Monday, and that then the stink would be altogether intolerable, if it should increase in proportion to what it had done that day.
I consented to have the business done that night, and for expeditions sake, to make use of the Butchers as Assistants, but so as to be directed by my self in every thing: But their forwardness to cut and slash what came first in their way, and their unruliness withal did hinder me from making several Remarks which otherwise I would have made: Thus the Elephant was disjointed by Candlelight. Some parts were burnt, most of those that were not, were more, or less defac’d by being parboiled This may satisfied the R. S. how difficult it was to give a satisfactory Anatomical Account of the Elephant”
‘An anatomical account of the elephant accidentally burnt in Dublin : on Fryday, June 17. in the year 1681 : sent in a letter to Sir Will. Petty … together with a relation of new anatomical observations in the eyes of animals, communicated in another letter to the Honourable R. Boyle’