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James Sowerby, 1756–1822, British

A Barbastelle Bat

Additional Title(s):

Vespertilio barbastelle

Graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 7 1/8 × 6 1/2 inches (18.1 × 16.5 cm)

Inscribed in graphite, lower right: "no front teeth in the | upper jaw"; on verso in graphite, upper left: "Vespertilio barbastelle"; upper right: "by favor of Mr Peete | from the Powder Mill | Dartford Sept 24th 1798"; center left: "Habitat [...]"; lower left; "113"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
animal art | bat (animal) | Western Barbastelle
View by request in the Study Room
IIIF Manifest:

Presumably related to the note by the Rev. William Bingley (1774-1823) in his entry on Barbastelle bats in 'Memoirs of British Quadrupeds' (1809): “Very few Barbastelle Bats have been noticed in England…Around the year 1802, there was one found, amongst some Horse-shoe bats, in the gun-powder mills at Dartford. This was sent to Mr. Sowerby of Lambeth, who kept it alive some time; and its stuffed skin now forms an interesting article in his museum.” The inscription on Sowerby’s drawing corroborates Bingley’s assertion that the bat was found in Dartford, but it suggests he received it on September 24, 1798, not as late as 1802; this is significant if only because Bingley contends that the first barbastelle in England was found in 1800. From Sowerby’s inscription on the verso of this sheet we also know it was sent to him by William Peete (1771-1848), a Fellow of the Linnean Society who had lived in Dartford since 1795. Despite Bingley’s knowledge of Sowerby’s bat, he struggled to find a suitable illustration of a barbastelle for his 'Memoirs'. The majority of the illustrations were engraved from drawings by Samuel Howitt but the plate of a barbastelle is unattributed, bears no relation to this drawing, and was the occasion of considerable regret to the author: “Notwithstanding all the care that has been taken, the author is sorry to remark, that there are yet left three or four plates, particularly those of the Great and Barbastelle Bats, which are not quite so correct as he could have wished them to be.”

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