Inspired by news and a great photograph of a big barred owl that has recently taken up residence in south Salem, I assembled a little group of owls on my bedroom mantle. Several of these guys come from the two connected shops on Front Street in Salem, Roost and the Beehive, which I stop by with increasing regularity. I love printed and figural representations of birds and animals and am rather enthusiastic about displaying them in our home: elephants are always around —to the point of near-tackiness and maybe beyond—and I’ve gone through bear, deer, swan, snail, and rabbit phases with little restraint. I’m thinking about foxes for the future. I had a brief bout with owls this fall and thought I was done, but apparently not. A passing glance at that great owl on McKinley Road drove me to retrieve my “owl box” in the basement and to my favorite medieval bestiary, the “Salisbury” Bestiary from circa 1250, for the images below. To illustrate the increasingly realistic (and scientific) perception of the owl, I’ve also included images from Konrad Gessner’s Histories of the Animals (1551-58), one of my favorite teaching texts because of its beautiful woodcut illustrations and its nascent empiricism, and John Gould’s more recent Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papua Islands (1875).
An Assemblage of Owls
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