Introduction by Juris Lidaka
A much-talked about creature
Bats . . . creatures of the night . . . Dracula . . . “I vahnt to drink your blooood!” (Where is Bela Lugosi when you want him?)
Modern myth has it that vampire bats can change into the human living dead. And the myth is powerful, even though we were all taught that bats eat mosquitos (and thus can be great friends of ours ), as well as other bugs and fruit.
"Are bats birds?"
Bartholomew believes bats are indeed birds and provides three kinds of information about them.
Isidore himself remarks on the unusual appearance of their wings, which struck him as very important.
Sometimes it is fun to compare medieval and modern descriptions -- see for example Batworld or Wikipedia . Here are some questions to keep in mind:
Connections past and present
Almost as if by serendipity, there is an interesting connection between bats, Bartholomew, and books.
1. Bartholomew the Englishman wrote his encyclopedia early in the thirteenth century (probably the 1230s).
2. Late in the fourteenth century (on Feb. 6, 1398/9), John Trevisa finished translating Bartholomew's encyclopedia for his employer, Thomas Lord Berkeley.
3. Almost 200 years later in 1582, Stephen Batman (no batcave, no batmobile, and unfortunately, no sidekick Robin) revised and expanded Trevisa's edition. A very religious protestant who lived during the English Reformation, Batman had already written some pious works, such as
Later, when the initial emotional zeal had moderated with time and thought, many people realized that "old" did not necessarily mean "bad." Just as new things could be bad, so old things could be good. As those responsible for dissolving the monasteries went about their business, some began collecting the old books, and Stephen Batman was among them. In one book, he wrote a fascinating comment on the attitudes of his immediate predecessors:
There are no bats mentioned there, but the idea is plain: A person who burns his house because a bat or spider is inside destroys not just the pest but also the whole house. Similarly, those who rashly burn or destroy old books to get rid of minor errors in them destroy greater knowledge - there are better ways of keeping knowledge while removing misconceptions.
4. Finally, take a look to your left at the image of the monks and the devil on this very webpage. They come from a book in Corpus Christi College's Parker Library - the library of books that belonged to Archbishop Matthew Parker. Stephen Batman served under Parker during the Suppression of the Monasteries. Hence, you are looking at images that might very well have been rescued by Stephen Batman himself.