Yesterday’s journey into the macabre (via Thackeray) was so lousy with skulls and black cats and seasonal pageantry that I thought, Hell, let’s do it again.
The public domain is teeming with hoary, scary fare for Halloween. Time was, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting something spooky.
I present to you, then, a few morbid selections from George Wither’s A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne: Quickened with Metrical Illustrations, both Moral and Divine; and disposed into Lotteries, that Instruction and Good Counsel, may be furthered by an Honest and Pleasant Recreation, from 1635. Wither wrote verses to accompany these allegorical plates, which were originally by Crispin van Passe from earlier in the seventeenth century. The allegories depicted here aren’t always easy to parse, but I think we can safely assume that they instruct humankind in the evasion of sin. If you sin, after all, your hand may wind up mounted to a stick, or you may become like the caged cat, beset by the mice you once terrorized.
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