Even though I don’t jump on the Halloween train here in Salem, I do decorate my house for the season. I can’t help it; I am an habitual holiday decorator. And I generally invite people over for Halloween night, not because I want to celebrate, but because I want them to hand out the bags of candy for the hours that it takes to appease the hordes of trick-or-treaters here in Salem while I hang out in the back. So I like the house to look festive. My fall decorating theme of the past few years—lots of owls everywhere—has become far too common so this year it’s all about bats. Unlike most people, I don’t find bats even remotely scary or icky. To me, they look cute and interesting and unique—a mammal that flies! So I’m enjoying the various bats around the house; I may even keep them around until Christmas.
My decorating approach is both historically crafty and acquisitive; I look for historic images that I might be able do reproduce somehow—cards, garlands, decoupage–and I shop. Since Etsy has been around I’ve done less and less crafting and more and more buying! There are lots of digitized historic images of bats available, from the medieval bestiaries, early modern natural histories and nineteenth-century encyclopedias. Here are some of my favorites, in chronological order.
Pierpont Morgan Library MSS 0081 (circa 1185) and 175 (circa 1500): two hanging bats and a hybrid man (king?)-bat:
Seemingly very modern, but actually from the seventeenth century, is the Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera’s Studies of Two Ears and a Bat from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its motto: Fulget Semper Virtus (Virtue Shines Forever).
But it’s in the next century that we get the best bats: the bats of the Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-88. Buffon’s pioneering and lavishly-illustrated (by French illustrator Jacques de Seve) 36-volume Natural History: General and Particular (1749-88) contains illustrations of all sorts of bats, from long-eared to vampire (first named by Buffon), and as it was a reprinted frequently over the next century-and-a-half it is a treasure trove for hunters of antique animal images. Here are some of my favorite Buffon bats from the 1753-54 volumes of the Natural History, via the University of Strasbourg:
A variety of bats from the 1799 edition of Buffon’s Natural History:
The Etsy seller antiqueprintstore has digitized images of bats from an 1831 edition of Buffon for sale; their postcard-sized prints can be used in a variety of ways. I post them up on my parlor mirrors, along with the usual seasonal paraphernalia.
Tuesday Addendum: I wanted to add this great 1919 Salem postcard, generously forwarded to me by the Salem native, author, collector, and researcher extraordinaire Nelson Dionne. I love it!
October 17th, 2011 at 7:48 am
October 17th, 2011 at 8:02 am
I agree, enough with the owls. I think bats are pretty amazing as well. Very effective Halloween decorations without being commercial. Well done.
October 18th, 2011 at 7:11 am
Thanks Anyes—I just found your little brown (http://www.etsy.com/listing/79702836/the-bat-print-of-original-illustration) bat on Etsy–he is wonderfully angry!
October 17th, 2011 at 9:52 am
Very interesting, although I do hate bats as much as I hate rats, so I won’t be going for that theme for my Halloween decorating!
October 17th, 2011 at 7:40 pm
Now I’ve been in Scotland AND England for Halloweens before, Bernadette, but never in Ireland. Is Halloween a big deal?
October 17th, 2011 at 10:28 am
Wow, on the wall of my summer study is a pic of a ceramic bat that i shot in Prague, it was hung high above their entranceway in a wee alley,it has a mans face and is scary.. i will find the original shot and send it to you. i think you might like it tho it is a bit spooky. c
October 17th, 2011 at 7:41 pm
Please do, Cecilia! I would love to see it! Thanks.
October 17th, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Lovely, Donna! I hope you’ll post photos of your house on Halloween, fully decorated. Bats are very cool – not as warmly received in our house though as either owls or crows. As a child, we used to get bats in our house on occasion, and I just can’t shake the heebie jeebie feeling of finding one curled up beneath my pillow!! YIKES!
October 17th, 2011 at 7:43 pm
We had bats in our house too. But they never, never came down and curled up on my bed! If they did, perhaps I wouldn’t be so enamored….
October 18th, 2011 at 7:38 am
Halloween Greetings; I have a small number of “postmarked in Salem” holiday greetings cards in my collection. They are extremely rare, as dealers do not put them in the community they were used in, but in general “holiday” cards. They are worth loking for as they give us an idea as to what our Salem ancestors actually used in their daily life, and what local stores sold. Enjoy !
October 18th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Those ARE wonderful, wonderful bats.
I’d seen a few of them, (and used one on my own blog), but the others are a great discovery.