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Title: The Dance of Death
       Exhibited in Elegant Engravings on Wood with a Dissertation
              on the Several Representations of that Subject but More
              Particularly on Those Ascribed to Macaber and Hans Holbein

Author: Francis Douce

Illustrator: Hans Holbein

Release Date: January 31, 2012 [EBook #38724]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Chris Curnow and the Online Distributed
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The Dance of Death





Macaber and Hans Holbein




Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
Regumque turres. HORAT. lib. i. od. 4.





C. Whittingham, Tooks Court, Chancery Lane.



[Pg v]



The very ample discussion which the extremely popular subject of the Dance of Death has already undergone might seem to preclude the necessity of attempting to bestow on it any further elucidation; nor would the present Essay have ever made its appearance, but for certain reasons which are necessary to be stated.

The beautiful designs which have been, perhaps too implicitly, regarded as the invention of the justly celebrated painter, Hans Holbein, are chiefly known in this country by the inaccurate etchings of most of them by Wenceslaus Hollar, the copper-plates of which having formerly become the property of Mr. Edwards, of Pall Mall, were published by him, accompanied by a very hasty and imperfect dissertation; which, with fewer faults, and considerable enlargement, is here again submitted to public attention. It is appended to a set of fac-similes of the above-mentioned elegant designs, and which, at a very liberal expense that has been incurred by the proprietor and publisher of this volume, have[Pg vi] been executed with consummate skill and fidelity by Messrs. Bonner and Byfield, two of our best artists in the line of wood engraving. They may very justly be regarded as scarcely distinguishable from their fine originals.

The remarks in the course of this Essay on a supposed German poet, under the name of Macaber, and the discussion relating to Holbein’s connection with the Dance of Death, may perhaps be found interesting to the critical reader only; but every admirer of ancient art will not fail to be gratified by an intimate acquaintance with one of its finest specimens in the copy which is here so faithfully exhibited.

In the latest and best edition of some new designs for a Dance of Death, by Salomon Van Rusting, published by John George Meintel at Nuremberg, 1736, 8vo. there is an elaborate preface by him, with a greater portion of verbosity than information. He has placed undue confidence in his predecessor, Paul Christian Hilscher, whose work, printed at Dresden in 1705, had probably misled the truly learned Fabricius in what he has said concerning Macaber in his valuable work, the “Bibliotheca mediæ et infimæ ætatis.” Meintel confesses his inability to point out the origin or the inventor of the subject. The last and completest work on the Dance, or Dances of Death, is that of the ingenious M. Peignot, so well and deservedly known by his numerous and useful books on bibliography. To this gentleman the present Essay has been occasionally indebted.[Pg vii] He will, probably, at some future opportunity, remove the whimsical misnomer in his engraving of Death and the Ideot.

The usual title, “The Dance of Death,” which accompanies most of the printed works, is not altogether appropriate. It may indeed belong to the old Macaber painting and other similar works where Death is represented in a sort of dancing and grotesque attitude in the act of leading a single character; but where the subject consists of several figures, yet still with occasional exception, they are rather to be regarded as elegant emblems of human mortality in the premature intrusion of an unwelcome and inexorable visitor.

It must not be supposed that the republication of this singular work is intended to excite the lugubrious sensations of sanctified devotees, or of terrified sinners; for, awful and impressive as must ever be the contemplation of our mortality in the mind of the philosopher and practiser of true religion, the mere sight of a skeleton cannot, as to them, excite any alarming sensation whatever. It is chiefly addressed to the ardent admirers of ancient art and pictorial invention; but nevertheless with a hope that it may excite a portion of that general attention to the labours of past ages, which reflects so much credit on the times in which we live.

The widely scattered materials relating to the subject of the Dance of Death, and the difficulty of reconciling much discordant information, must apologize for a few repetitions in the course of[Pg viii] this Essay, the regular progress of which has been too often interrupted by the manner in which matter of importance is so obscurely and defectively recorded; instances of which are, the omission of the name of the painter in the otherwise important dedication to the first edition of the engravings on wood of the Dance of Death that was published at Lyons; the uncertainty as to locality in some complimentary lines to Holbein by his friend Borbonius, and the want of more particulars in the account by Nieuhoff of Holbein’s painting at Whitehall.

The designs for the Dance of Death, published at Lyons in 1538, and hitherto regarded as the invention of Holbein, are, in the course of this Dissertation, referred to under the appellation of the Lyons wood-cuts; and with respect to the term Macaber, which has been so mistakenly used as the name of a real author, it has been nevertheless preserved on the same principle that the word Gothic has been so generally adopted for the purpose of designating the pointed style of architecture in the middle ages.

F. D.



[Pg ix]


Chapter I.
Personification of Death, and other modes of representing it among the Ancients.—Same subject during the Middle Ages.—Erroneous notions respecting Death.—Monumental absurdities.—Allegorical pageant of the Dance of Death represented in early times by living persons in churches and cemeteries.—Some of these dances described.—Not unknown to the Ancients.—Introduction of the infernal, or dance of Macaber 1
Chapter II.
Places where the Dance of Death was sculptured or depicted.—Usually accompanied by verses describing the several characters.—Other metrical compositions on the Dance 17
Chapter III.
Macaber not a German or any other poet, but a nonentity.—Corruption and confusion respecting this word.—Etymological errors concerning it.—How connected with the Dance.—Trois mors et trois vifs.—Orgagna’s painting in the Campo Santo at Pisa.—Its connection with the trois mors et trois vifs, as well as with the Macaber Dance.—Saint Macarius the real Macaber.—Paintings of this dance in various places.—At Minden; Church-yard of the Innocents at Paris; Dijon; Basle; Klingenthal; Lubeck; Leipsic; Anneberg; Dresden; Erfurth; Nuremberg; Berne; Lucerne; Amiens; Rouen; Fescamp; Blois; Strasburg; Berlin; Vienna; Holland; Italy; Spain 28
 [Pg x]
Chapter IV.
Macaber Dance in England.—St. Paul’s.—Salisbury.—Wortley-hall.—Hexham.—Croydon.—Tower of London.—Lines in Pierce Plowman’s Vision supposed to refer to it 51
Chapter V.
List of editions of the Macaber Dance.—Printed Horæ that contain it.—Manuscript Horæ.—Other Manuscripts in which it occurs.—Various articles with letter-press, not being single prints, but connected with it 55
Chapter VI.
Hans Holbein’s connection with the Dance of Death.—A dance of peasants at Basle.—Lyons edition of the Dance of Death, 1538.—Doubts as to any prior edition.—Dedication to the edition of 1538.—Mr. Ottley’s opinion of it examined.—Artists supposed to have been connected with this work.—Holbein’s name in none of the old editions.—Reperdius 78
Chapter VII.
Holbein’s Bible cuts.—Examination of the claim of Hans Lutzenberger as to the design or execution of the Lyons engravings of the Dance of Death.—Other works by him 94
Chapter VIII.
List of several editions of the Lyons work on the Dance of Death with the mark of Lutzenberger.—Copies of them on wood.—Copies on copper by anonymous artists.—By Wenceslaus Hollar.—Other anonymous artists.—Nieuhoff Picard.—Rusting.—Mechel.—Crozat’s drawings.—Deuchar.—Imitations of some of the subjects 103
Chapter IX.
Further examination of Holbein’s title.—Borbonius.—Biographical notice of Holbein.—Painting of a Dance of Death at Whitehall by him 138
 [Pg xi]
Chapter X.
Other Dances of Death 146
Chapter XI.
Dances of Death, with such text only as describes the subjects 160
Chapter XII.
Books in which the subject is occasionally introduced 168
Chapter XIII.
Books of emblems and fables.—Frontispieces and title-pages in some degree connected with the Dance of Death 179
Chapter XIV.
Single prints connected with the Dance of Death 188
Chapter XV.
Initial or capital Letters with the Dance of Death 213
Chapter XVI.
Paintings.—Drawings.—Miscellaneous 221
Chapter XVII.
Trois vifs et trois morts.—Negro figure of Death.—Danse aux Aveugles 228
Chapter XVIII.
Errors of various writers who have introduced the subject of the Dance of Death 233



[Pg xii]


Page 7, line 25, for Boistuan read Boistuau.
  7, ... 26, for Prodigeuses read Prodigieuses.
  28, ... 14, read in Holland, &c.
  32, ... 23, for Lamorensi read Zamorensi.
  81, ... 4, for fex read sex.
  88, ... 10, after difficulty add ?
  89, ... 21, after works add ”
  180, ... 23, for Typotia read Typotii.
  197, ... 8, for Stradamus read Stradanus.



[Pg 1]

Dance of Death.



Personification of Death, and other modes of representing it among the Ancients.—Same subject during the Middle Ages.—Erroneous notions respecting Death.—Monumental absurdities.—Allegorical pageant of the Dance of Death represented in early times by living persons in churches and cemeteries.—Some of these dances described.—Not unknown to the Ancients.—Introduction of the infernal, or dance of Macaber.


The manner in which the poets and artists of antiquity have symbolized or personified Death, has excited considerable discussion; and the various opinions of Lessing, Herder, Klotz, and other controversialists have only tended to demonstrate that the ancients adopted many different modes to accomplish this purpose. Some writers have maintained that they exclusively represented Death as a mere skeleton; whilst others have contended that this figure, so frequently to be found upon gems and sepulchral monuments, was never intended to[Pg 2] personify the extinction of human life, but only as a simple and abstract representation. They insist that the ancients adopted a more elegant and allegorical method for this purpose; that they represented human mortality by various symbols of destruction, as birds devouring lizards and serpents, or pecking fruits and flowers; by goats browsing on vines; cocks fighting, or even by a Medusa’s or Gorgon’s head. The Romans seem to have adopted Homer’s[1] definition of Death as the eldest brother of Sleep; and, accordingly, on several of their monumental and other sculptures we find two winged genii as the representatives of the above personages, and sometimes a genius bearing a sepulchral vase on his shoulder, and with a torch reversed in one of his hands. It is very well known that the ancients often symbolized the human soul by the figure of a butterfly, an idea that is extremely obvious and appropriate, as well as elegant. In a very interesting sepulchral monument, engraved in p. 7 of Spon’s Miscellanea Eruditæ Antiquitatis, a prostrate corpse is seen, and over it a butterfly that has just escaped from the mouth of the deceased, or as Homer expresses it, “from the teeth’s inclosure.”[2] The above excellent antiquary has added the following very curious sepulchral inscription that was found in Spain, HÆREDIBVS MEIS MANDO ETIAM CINERE VTMEO VOLITET EBRIVS PAPILIO OSSA IPSA TEGANT MEA, &c. Rejecting this heathen symbol altogether, the painters and engravers of the middle ages have substituted a small human figure escaping from the mouths of dying persons, as it were, breathing out their souls.

We have, however, the authority of Herodotus, that in the banquets of the Egyptians a person was [Pg 3]introduced who carried round the table at which the guests were seated the figure of a dead body, placed on a coffin, exclaiming at the same time, “Behold this image of what yourselves will be; eat and drink therefore, and be happy.”[3] Montfaucon has referred to an ancient manuscript to prove that this sentiment was conveyed in a Lacedæmonian proverb,[4] and it occurs also in the beautiful poem of Coppa, ascribed to Virgil, in which he is supposed to invite Mæcenas to a rural banquet. It concludes with these lines:—

Pone merum et talos; pereat qui crastina curat,
Mors aurem vellens, vivite ait, venio.

The phrase of pulling the ear is admonitory, that organ being regarded by the ancients as the seat of memory. It was customary also, and for the same reason, to take an oath by laying hold of the ear. It is impossible on this occasion to forget the passage in Isaiah xxii. 13, afterwards used by Saint Paul, on the beautiful parable in Luke xii. Plutarch also, in his banquet of the wise men, has remarked that the Egyptians exhibited a skeleton at their feasts to remind the parties of the brevity of human life; the same custom, as adopted by the Romans, is exemplified in Petronius’s description of the feast of Trimalchio, where a jointed puppet, as a skeleton, is brought in by a boy, and this practice is also noticed by Silius Italicus:

... Ægyptia tellus
Claudit odorato post funus stantia Saxo
Corpora, et a mensis exsanguem haud separat umbram.[5]

Some have imagined that these skeletons were intended to represent the larvæ and lemures, the good and evil shadows of the dead, that occasionally made their appearance on earth. The larvæ, or lares, were of a [Pg 4]beneficent nature, friendly to man; in other words, the good demon of Socrates. The lemures, spirits of mischief and wickedness. The larva in Petronius was designed to admonish only, not to terrify; and this is proved from Seneca: “Nemo tam puer est ut Cerberum timeat et tenebras, et larvarum habitum nudis ossibus cohærentium.”[6] There is, however, some confusion even among the ancients themselves, as to the respective qualities of the larvæ and lemures. Apuleius, in his noble and interesting defence against those who accused him of practising magic, tells them, “Tertium mendacium vestrum fuit, macilentam vel omnino evisceratam formam diri cadaveris fabricatam prorsus horribilem et larvalem;” and afterwards, when producing the image of his peculiar Deity, which he usually carried about him, he exclaims, “En vobis quem scelestus ille sceletum nominabat! Hiccine est sceletus? Hæccine est larva? Hoccine est quod appellitabatis Dæmonium.”[7] It is among Christian writers and artists that the personification of Death as a skeleton is intended to convey terrific ideas, conformably to the system that Death is the punishment for original sin.

The circumstances that lead to Death, and not our actual dissolution, are alone of a terrific nature; for Death is, in fact, the end and cure of all the previous sufferings and horrors with which it is so frequently accompanied. In the dark ages of monkish bigotry and superstition, the deluded people, seduced into a belief that the fear of Death was acceptable to the great and beneficent author of their existence, appear to have derived one of their principal gratifications in contemplating this necessary termination of humanity, yet amidst ideas and impressions of the most horrible and disgusting nature: hence the frequent allusions to it, in all possible ways, among their preachers, and the[Pg 5] personification of it in their books of religious offices, as well as in the paintings and sculptures of their ecclesiastical and other edifices. They seemed to have entirely banished from their recollection the consolatory doctrines of the Gospel, which contribute so essentially to dissipate the terrors of Death, and which enable the more enlightened Christian to abide that event with the most perfect tranquillity of mind. There are, indeed, some exceptions to this remark, for we may still trace the imbecility of former ages on too many of our sepulchral monuments, which are occasionally tricked out with the silly appendages of Death’s heads, bones, and other useless remains of mortality, equally repulsive to the imagination and to the elegance of art.

If it be necessary on any occasion to personify Death, this were surely better accomplished by means of some graceful and impressive figure of the Angel of Death, for whom we have the authority of Scripture; and such might become an established representative. The skulls and bones of modern, and the entire skeletons of former times, especially during the middle ages, had, probably, derived their origin from the vast quantities of sanctified human relics that were continually before the eyes, or otherwise in the recollection of the early Christians. But the favourite and principal emblem of mortality among our ancestors appears to have been the moral and allegorical pageant familiarly known by the appellation of the Dance of Death, which it has, in part, derived from the grotesque, and often ludicrous attitudes of the figures that composed it, and especially from the active and sarcastical mockery of the ruthless tyrant upon its victims, which may be, in a great measure, attributed to the whims and notions of the artists who were employed to represent the subject.

It is very well known to have been the practice in very early times to profane the temples of the Deity with indecorous dancing, and ludicrous processions,[Pg 6] either within or near them, in imitation, probably, of similar proceedings in Pagan times. Strabo mentions a custom of this nature among the Celtiberians,[8] and it obtained also among several of the northern nations before their conversion to Christianity. A Roman council, under Pope Eugenius II. in the 9th century, has thus noticed it: “Ut sacerdotes admoneant viros ac mulieres, qui festis diebus ad ecclesiam occurrunt, ne ballando et turpia verba decantando choros teneant, ac ducunt, similitudinem Paganorum peragendo.” Canciani mentions an ancient bequest of money for a dance in honour of the Virgin.[9]

These riotous and irreverent tripudists and caperers appear to have possessed themselves of the church-yards to exhibit their dancing fooleries, till this profanation of consecrated ground was punished, as monkish histories inform us, with divine vengeance. The well-known Nuremberg Chronicle[10] has recorded, that in the time of the Emperor Henry the Second, whilst a priest was saying mass on Christmas Eve, in the church of Saint Magnus, in the diocese of Magdeburg, a company of eighteen men and ten women amused themselves with dancing and singing in the church-yard, to the hindrance of the priest in his duty. Notwithstanding his admonition, they refused to desist, and even derided the words he addressed to them. The priest being greatly provoked at their conduct, prayed to God and Saint Magnus that they might remain dancing and singing for a whole year without intermission, and so it happened; neither dew nor rain falling upon them. Hunger and fatigue were set at defiance, nor were their shoes or garments in the least worn away. At the end of the year they were released from their situation by Herebert, the archbishop of the diocese in which the event took place, and obtained forgiveness before the[Pg 7] altar of the church; but not before the daughter of a priest and two others had perished; the rest, after sleeping for the space of three whole nights, died soon afterwards. Ubert, one of the party, left this story behind him, which is elsewhere recorded, with some variation and additional matter. The dance is called St. Vitus’s, and the girl is made the daughter of a churchwarden, who having taken her by the arm, it came off, but she continued dancing. By the continual motion of the dancers they buried themselves in the earth to their waists. Many princes and others went to behold this strange spectacle, till the bishops of Cologne and Hildesheim, and some other devout priests, by their prayers, obtained the deliverance of the culprits; four of the party, however, died immediately, some slept three days and three nights, some three years, and others had trembling in their limbs during the whole of their lives. The Nuremberg Chronicle, crowded as it is with wood-cut embellishments by the hand of Wolgemut, the master of Albert Durer, has not omitted to exhibit the representations of the above unhappy persons, equally correct, no doubt, as the story itself, though the same warranty cannot be offered for a similar representation, in Gottfried’s Chronicle and that copious repertory of monstrosities, Boistuau and Belleforest’s Histoires Prodigieuses. The Nuremberg Chronicle[11] has yet another relation on this subject of some persons who continued dancing and singing on a bridge whilst the eucharist was passing over it. The bridge gave way in the middle, and from one end of it 200 persons were precipitated into the river Moselle, the other end remaining so as to permit the priest and his host to pass uninjured.

In that extremely curious work, the Manuel de Pêché, usually ascribed to Bishop Grosthead, the pious author,[Pg 8] after much declamation against the vices of the times, has this passage:—

Karoles ne lutes ne deit nul fere,
En seint eglise ki me voil crere;
Kas en cimetere karoler,
Utrage est grant u lutter.[12]

He then relates the story in the Nuremberg Chronicle, for which he quotes the book of Saint Clement. Grosthead’s work was translated about the year 1300 into English verse by Robert Mannyng, commonly called Robert de Brunne, a Gilbertine canon. His translation often differs from his original, with much amplification and occasional illustrations by himself. As the account of the Nuremberg story varies so materially, and as the scene is laid in England, it has been thought worth inserting.

Karolles wrastelynges or somour games,
Whosoever haunteth any swyche shames,
Yn cherche other yn cherche yerd,
Of sacrilage he may be aferd;
Or entyrludes or syngynge,
Or tabure bete or other pypynge;
All swyche thyng forboden es,
Whyle the prest stondeth at messe;
But for to leve in cherche for to daunce,
Y shall you telle a full grete chaunce,
And y trow the most that fel,
Ys sothe as y you telle.
And fyl thys chaunce yn thys londe,
Yn Ingland as y undyrstonde,
Yn a kynges tyme that hyght Edward,
Fyl this chaunce that was so hard.
Hyt was upon crystemesse nyzt
That twelve folys a karolle dyzt,
Yn Wodehed, as hyt were yn cuntek,[13]
They come to a toune men calle Cowek:[14]
The cherche of the toune that they to come,
[Pg 9]Ys of Seynt Magne that suffred martyrdome,
Of Seynt Bukcestre hyt ys also,
Seynt Magnes suster, that they come to;
Here names of all thus fonde y wryte,
And as y wote now shal ye wyte
Here lodesman[15] that made hem glew,[16]
Thus ys wryte he hyzte[17] Gerlew;
Twey maydens were yn here coveyne,
Mayden Merswynde[18] and Wybessyne;
All these came thedyr for that enchesone, } doghtyr
Of the prestes of the toune.
The prest hyzt Robert as y can ame,
Azone hyzt hys sone by name,
Hys doghter that there men wulde have,
Thus ys wryte that she hyzt Ave.
Echone consented to o wyl,
Who shuld go Ave out to tyl,
They graunted echone out to sende,
Bothe Wybessyne and Merswynde:
These women zede and tolled[19] her oute,
Wyth hem to karolle the cherche aboute,
Benne ordeyned here karollyng,
Gerlew endyted what they shuld syng.
Thys ys the karolle that they sunge,
As telleth the Latyn tunge,
Equitabat Bevo per sylvam frondosam,
Ducebat secum Merwyndam formosam,
Quid stamus cur non imus.
By the levede[20] wode rode Bevolyne,
Wyth hym he ledde feyre Merwyne,
Why stonde we why go we noght:
Thys ys the karolle that Grysly wroght,
Thys songe sung they yn chercheyerd,
Of foly were they nothyng aferd.

The party continued dancing and carolling all the matins time, and till the mass began; when the priest, hearing the noise, came out to the church porch, and desired them to leave off dancing, and come into the church to hear the service; but they paid him no regard whatever, and continued their dance. The priest, now extremely[Pg 10] incensed, prayed to God in favour of St. Magnes, the patron of the church:

That swych a venjeaunce were on hem sent,
Are they out of that stede[21] were went,
That myzt ever ryzt so wende,
Unto that tyme twelvemonth ende.
Yn the Latyne that y fonde thore,
He seyth not twelvemonth but evermore.

The priest had no sooner finished his prayer, than the hands of the dancers were so locked together that none could separate them for a twelvemonth:

The preste yede[22] yn whan thys was done,
And comaunded hys sone Azone,
That shuld go swythe after Ave,
Oute of that karolle algate to have;
But al to late that wurde was sayde,
For on hem alle was the venjeaunce leyd.
Azonde wende weyl for to spede
Unto the karolle asswythe he yede;
Hys syster by the arme he hente,
And the arme fro the body wente;
Men wundred alle that there wore,
And merveyle nowe ye here more;
For seythen he had the arme yn hand,
The body yode furth karoland,
And nother body ne the arme
Bled never blode colde ne warme;
But was as drye with al the haunche,
As of a stok were ryve a braunche.

Azone carries his sister’s arm to the priest his father, and tells him the consequences of his rash curse. The priest, after much lamentation, buries the arm. The next morning it rises out of the grave; he buries it again, and again it rises. He buries it a third time, when it is cast out of the grave with considerable violence. He then carries it into the church that all might behold it. In the meantime the party continued dancing[Pg 11] and singing, without taking any food or sleeping, “only a lepy wynke;” nor were they in the least affected by the weather. Their hair and nails ceased to grow, and their garments were neither soiled nor discoloured; but

Sunge that songge that the wo wrozt,
“Why stond we, why go we nozt.”

To see this curious and woful sight, the emperor travels from Rome, and orders his carpenters and other artificers to inclose them in a building; but this could not be done, for what was set up one day fell down on the next, and no covering could be made to protect the sinners till the time of mercy that Christ had appointed arrived; when, at the expiration of the twelvemonth, and in the very same hour in which the priest had pronounced his curse upon them, they were separated, and “in the twynklyng of an eye” ran into the church and fell down in a swoon on the pavement, where they lay three days before they were restored. On their recovery they tell the priest that he will not long survive:

For to thy long home sone shalt thou wende,
All they ryse that yche tyde,
But Ave she lay dede besyde.

Her father dies soon afterwards. The emperor causes Ave’s arm to be put into a vessel and suspended in the church as an example to the spectators. The rest of the party, although separated, travelled about, but always dancing; and as they had been inseparable before, they were now not permitted to remain together. Four of them went hopping to Rome, their clothes undergoing no change, and their hair and nails not continuing to grow:

Bruning the Bysshope of Seynt Tolous,
Wrote thys tale so merveylous;
Setthe was hys name of more renoun,
Men called him the Pope Leon;
Thys at the courte of Rome they wyte,
[Pg 12]And yn the kronykeles hyt ys write;
Yn many stedys[23] beyounde the see,
More than ys yn thys cuntre:
Tharfor men seye an weyl ys trowed,
The nere the cherche the further fro God.
So fare men here by thys tale,
Some holde it but a trotevale,[24]
Yn other stedys hyt ys ful dere,
And for grete merveyle they wyl hyt here.

In the French copies the story is said to have been taken from the itinerary of St. Clement. The name of the girl who lost her arm is Marcent, and her brother’s John.[25]

Previously to entering upon the immediate subject of this Essay, it may be permitted to observe, that a sort of Death’s dance was not unknown to the ancients. It was the revelry of departed souls in Elysium, as may be collected from the end of the fourth ode of Anacreon. Among the Romans this practice is exemplified in the following lines of Tibullus.

Sed me, quod facilis tenero sum semper Amori,
Ipsa Venus campos ducit in Elysios.
Hic choreæ cantusque vigent ...[26]

And Virgil has likewise alluded to it:

Pars pedibus plaudunt choreas et carmina dicunt.[27]

In the year 1810 several fragments of sculptured [Pg 13]sarcophagi were accidentally discovered near Cuma, on one of which were represented three dancing skeletons,[28] indicating, as it is ingeniously supposed, that the passage from death to another state of existence has nothing in it that is sorrowful, or capable of exciting fear. They seem to throw some light on the above lines from Virgil and Tibullus.

At a meeting of the Archæological Society at Rome, in December, 1831, M. Kestner exhibited a Roman lamp on which were three dancing skeletons, and such are said to occur in one of the paintings at Pompeii.

In the Grand Duke of Tuscany’s museum at Florence there is an ancient gem, that, from its singularity and connexion with the present subject, is well deserving of notice. It represents an old man, probably a shepherd, clothed in a hairy garment. He sits upon a stone, his right foot resting on a globe, and is piping on a double flute, whilst a skeleton dances grotesquely before him. It might be a matter of some difficulty to explain the recondite meaning of this singular subject.[29]

Notwithstanding the interdiction in several councils against the practice of dancing in churches and church-yards, it was found impossible to abolish it altogether; and it therefore became necessary that something of a similar, but more decorous, nature should be substituted, which, whilst it afforded recreation and amusement, might, at the same time, convey with it a moral and religious sensation. It is, therefore, extremely probable, that, in furtherance of this intention, the clergy contrived and introduced the Dance or Pageant of Death, or, as it was sometimes called, the Dance of Macaber, for reasons that will hereafter appear. Mr. Warton states, “that in many churches of France there was an[Pg 14] ancient show, or mimickry, in which all ranks of life were personated by the ecclesiastics, who danced together, and disappeared one after another.”[30] Again, speaking of Lydgate’s poem on this subject, he says, “these verses, founded on a sort of spiritual masquerade antiently celebrated in churches, &c.”[31] M. Barante, in his History of the Dukes of Burgundy, adverting to the entertainments that took place at Paris when Philip le Bon visited that city in 1424, observes, “that these were not solely made for the nobility, the common people being likewise amused from the month of August to the following season of Lent with the Dance of Death in the church yard of the Innocents, the English being particularly gratified with this exhibition, which included all ranks and conditions of men, Death being, morally, the principal character.”[32] Another French historian, M. de Villeneuve Bargemont, informs us that the Duke of Bedford celebrated his victory at Verneuil by a festival in the centre of the French capital. The rest of what this writer has recorded on the subject before us will be best given in his own words, “Nous voulons parler de cette fameuse procession qu’on vit defiler dans les rues de Paris, sous le nom de danse Macabrée ou infernale, epouvantable divertissement, auquel présidoit un squelette ceint du diadême royal, tenant un sceptre dans ses mains décharnées et assis sur un trône resplendissant d’or et de pierreries. Ce spectacle repoussant, mêlange odieux de deuil et de joie, inconnu jusqu’alors, et qui ne s’est jamais renouvellé, n’eut guere pour témoins que des soldats étrangers, ou quelques malheureux échappés à tous les fléaux réunis, et qui avoient vu descendre tous leurs parens, tous leurs amis, dans ces[Pg 15] sepulchres qu’on dépouilloit alors de leurs ossemens.”[33] A third French writer has also treated the Dance of Death as a spectacle exhibited in like manner to the people of Paris.[34] M. Peignot, to whom the reader is obliged for these historical notices in his ingenious researches on the present subject, very plausibly conceives that their authors have entirely mistaken the sense of an old chronicle or journal under Charles VI. and VII. which he quotes in the following words.—“Item. L’an 1424 fut faite la Danse Maratre (pour Macabre) aux Innocens, et fut comencée environ le moys d’Aoust et achevée au karesme suivant. En l’an 1429 le cordelier Richard preschant aux Innocens estoit monté sur ung hault eschaffaut qui estoit près de toise et demie de hault, le dos tourné vers les charniers encontre la charounerie, à l’endroit de la danse Macabre.” He observes, that the Dance of Death at the Innocents, having been commenced in August and finished at the ensuing Lent, could not possibly be represented by living persons, but was only a painting, the large dimensions of which required six months to complete it; and that a single Death must, in the other case, have danced with every individual belonging to the scene.[35] He might have added, that such a proceeding would have been totally at variance with the florid, but most inaccurate, description by M. Bargemont. The reader will, therefore, most probably feel inclined to adopt the opinion of M. Peignot, that the Dance of Death was not performed by living persons between 1424 and 1429.

But although M. Peignot may have triumphantly demonstrated that this subject was not exhibited by living persons at the above place and period, it by no[Pg 16] means follows that it was not so represented at some other time, and on some other spot. Accordingly, in the archives of the cathedral of Besançon, there is preserved an article respecting a delivery made to one of the officers of Saint John the Evangelist of four measures of wine, to be given to those persons who performed the Dance of Death after mass was concluded. This is the article itself, “Sexcallus [seneschallus] solvat D. Joanni Caleti matriculario S. Joannis quatuor simasias vini per dictum matricularium exhibitas illis qui choream Machabeorum fecerunt 10 Julii, 1453, nuper lapsa hora misse in ecclesia S. Joannis Evangeliste propter capitulum provinciale fratrum Minorum.”[36] This document then will set the matter completely at rest.

At what time the personified exhibition of this pageant commenced, or when it was discontinued cannot now be correctly ascertained. If, from a moral spectacle, it became a licentious ceremony, as is by no means improbable, in imitation of electing a boy-bishop, of the feast of fools, or other similar absurdities, its termination may be looked for in the authority of some ecclesiastical council at present not easily to be traced.



[Pg 17]


Places where the Dance of Death was sculptured or depicted.—Usually accompanied by verses describing the several characters.—Other Metrical Compositions on the Dance.


The subject immediately before us was very often represented, not only on the walls, but in the windows of many churches, in the cloisters of monasteries, and even on bridges, especially in Germany and Switzerland. It was sometimes painted on church screens, and occasionally sculptured on them, as well as upon the fronts of domestic dwellings. It occurs in many of the manuscript and illuminated service books of the middle ages, and frequent allusions to it are found in other manuscripts, but very rarely in a perfect state, as to the number of subjects.

Most of the representations of the Dance of Death were accompanied by descriptive or moral verses in different languages. Those which were added to the paintings of this subject in Germany appear to have differed very materially, and it is not now possible to ascertain which among them is the oldest. Those in the Basle painting are inserted in the editions published and engraved by Mathew Merian, but they had already occurred in the Decennalia humanæ peregrinationis of Gaspar Landismann in 1584. Some Latin verses were published by Melchior Goldasti at the end of his edition of the Speculum omnium statuum, a celebrated moral work by Roderic, Bishop of Zamora, 1613, 4to. He most probably copied them from one of the early editions of[Pg 18] the Danse Macabre, but without any comment whatever, the above title page professing that they are added on account of the similarity of the subject.

A Provençal poet, called Marcabres or Marcabrus, has been placed among the versifiers, but none of his works bear the least similitude to the subject; and, moreover, the language itself is an objection. The English metrical translation will be noticed hereafter. Whether any of the paintings were accompanied by descriptive verses that might be considered as anterior to those ascribed to the supposed Macaber, cannot now be ascertained.

There are likewise some Latin verses in imitation of those above-mentioned, which, as well as the author of them, do not seem to have been noticed by any biographical or poetical writer. They occur at the end of a Latin play, intitled Susanna, Antverp. apud Michaelem Hillenium, MDXXXIII. As the volume is extremely rare, and the verses intimately connected with the present subject, it has been thought worth while to reprint them. After an elegy on the vanity and shortness of human life, and a Sapphic ode on the remembrance of Death, they follow under this title, “Plausus luctificæ mortis ad modum dialogi extemporaliter ab Eusebio Candido lusus. Ad quem quique mortales invitantur omnes, cujuscujus sint conditionis: quibusque singulis Mors ipsa respondet.”

Luctificæ mortis plausum bene cernite cuncti.
Dum res læta, mori et viventes discite, namque
Omnes ex æquo tandem huc properare necessum.

Hic inducitur adolescens quærens, et mors vel philosophus respondens.

Vita quid est hominis? Fumus super aream missus.
Vita quid est hominis? Via mortis, dura laborum
Colluvies, vita est hominis via longa doloris
Perpetui. Vita quid est hominis? cruciatus et error,
[Pg 19]Vita quid est hominis? vestitus gramine multo,
Floribus et variis campus, quem parva pruina
Expoliat, sic vitam hominum mors impia tollit.
Quamlibet illa alacris, vegeta, aut opulenta ne felix,
Icta cadit modica crede ægritudine mortis.
Et quamvis superes auro vel murice Crœsum,
Longævum aut annis vivendo Nestora vincas,
Omnia mors æquat, vitæ meta ultima mors est.

Quid fers? Induperator ego, et moderamina rerum
Gesto manu, domuit mors impia sceptra potentum.

Rex Rhomanus.
Quid fers? en ego Rhomulidum rex. Mors manet omnes.

En ego Pontificum primus, signansque resignans.
Et cœlos oraque locos. Mors te manet ergo.

Cardineo fulgens ego honore, et Episcopus ecce
Mors manet ecce omnes, Phrygeus quos pileus ornat.

Insula splendidior vestit mea, tempora latum
Possideo imperium, multi mea jura tremiscunt.
Me dicant fraudis docti, producere lites.
Experti, aucupium docti nummorum, et averni
Causidici, rixatores, rabulæque forenses.
Hos ego respicio, nihil attendens animarum,
Ecclesiæ mihi commissæ populive salutem
Sed satis est duros loculo infarcisse labores
Agricolûm, et magnis placuisse heroibus orbis.
Non tamen effugies mortis mala spicula duræ.

Ecclesiæ Prælatus.
Ecclesiæ prælatus ego multis venerandus
Muneribus sacris, proventibus officiorum.
Comptior est vestis, popina frequentior æde
Sacra, et psalmorum cantus mihi rarior ipso
Talorum crepitu, Veneris quoque voce sonora.
Morte cades, annos speras ubi vivere plures.

En ego melotam gesto. Mors sæva propinquat.

En parochus quoque pastor ego, mihi dulce falernum
[Pg 20]Notius æde sacra: scortum mihi charius ipsa
Est animæ cura populi. Mors te manet ergo.

En abbas venio, Veneris quoque ventris amicus.
Cœnobii rara est mihi cura, frequentior aula
Magnorum heroum. Chorea saltabis eadem.

En prior, ornatus longa et splendente cuculla,
Falce cades mortis. Mors aufert nomina honoris.

Pater Vestalium.
Nympharum pater ecce ego sum ventrosior, offis
Pinguibus emacerans corpus. Mors te manet ipsa.

Vestalis Nympha.
En monialis ego, Vestæ servire parata.
Non te Vesta potest mortis subducere castris.

Legatus venio culparum vincla resolvemus
Omnia pro auro, abiens cœlum vendo, infera claudo
Et quicquid patres sanxerunt, munere solvo
Juribus à mortis non te legatio solvet.

Dominus Doctor.
Quid fers? Ecce sophus, divina humanaque jura
Calleo, et à populo doctor Rabbique salutor,
Te manet expectans mors ultima linea rerum.

En ego sum medicus, vitam producere gnarus,
Venis lustratis morborum nomina dico,
Non poteris duræ mortis vitare sagittas.

En ego stellarum motus et sydera novi,
Et fati genus omne scio prædicere cœli.
Non potis es mortis duræ præscire sagittas.

En me Rhoma potens multis suffarsit onustum
Muneribus sacris, proventibus, officiisque
Non potes his mortis fugiens evadere tela.

Causarum patronus ego, producere doctus
[Pg 21]Lites, et loculos lingua vacuare loquaci
Non te lingua loquax mortis subducet ab ictu.

Justitiæ judex quia sum, sub plebe salutor.
Vertice me nudo populus veneratur adorans.
Auri sacra fames pervertere sæpe coëgit
Justitiam. Mors te manet æquans omnia falce.

Prætor ego populi, me prætor nemo quid audet.
Accensor causis, per me stant omnia, namque
Et dono et adimo vitam, cum rebus honorem.
Munere conspecto, quod iniquum est jure triumphat
Emitto corvos, censura damno columbas.
Hinc metuendus ero superis ereboque profundo.
Te manet expectans Erebus Plutoque cruentus.

Polleo consiliis, Consul dicorque salutor.
Munere conspecto, quid iniquum est consulo rectum
Quod rectum est flecto, nihil est quod nesciat auri
Sacra fames, hinc ditor et undique fio opulentus
Sed eris æternum miser et mors impia tollet.

Causidicus ego sum, causas narrare peritus,
Accior in causas, sed spes ubi fulserit auri
Ad fraudes docta solers utor bene lingua.
Muto, commuto, jura inflecto atque reflecto.
Et nihil est quod non astu pervincere possim.
Mors æqua expectat properans te fulmine diro.
Nec poteris astu mortis prævertere tela.

Ecce Scabinus ego, scabo bursas, prorogo causas.
Senatorque vocor, vulgus me poplite curvo,
Muneribusque datis veneratur, fronte retecta.
Nil mortem meditor loculos quando impleo nummis
Et dito hæredes nummis, vi, fraude receptis,
Justitiam nummis, pro sanguine, munere, vendo.
Quod rectum est curvo, quod curvum est munere rectum
Efficio, per me prorsus stant omnia jura.
Non poteris duræ mortis transire sagittas.

En ego pervigili cura externoque labore.
[Pg 22]Excolui juvenum ingenia, et præcepta Minervæ
Tradens consenui, cathedræque piget sine fructu.
Quid dabitur fructus, tanti quæ dona laboris?
Omnia mors æquans, vitæ ultima meta laboris.

Miles Auratus.
Miles ego auratus, fulgenti murice et auro
Splendidus in populo. Mors te manet omnia perdens.

Miles Armatus.
Miles ego armatus, qui bella ferocia gessi.
Nullius occursum expavi, quam durus et audax.
Ergo immunis ero. Mors te intrepida ipsa necabit.

En ego mercator dives, maria omnia lustro
Et terras, ut res crescant. Mors te metet ipsa.

En ego fuckardus, loculos gesto æris onustos,
Omnia per mundum coëmens, vendo atque revendo.
Heroës me solicitant, atque æra requirunt.
Haud est me lato quisquam modo ditior orbe.
Mortis ego jura et frameas nihil ergo tremisco
Morte cades, mors te rebus spoliabit opimis.

Quæstor ego, loculos suffersi arcasque capaces
Est mihi prænitidis fundata pecunia villis.
Hac dives redimam duræ discrimina mortis
Te mors præripiet nullo exorabilis auro.

En ego nauclerus spaciosa per æquora vectus,
Non timui maris aut venti discrimina mille.
Cymba tamen mortis capiet te quæque vorantis.

Agricola en ego sum, præduro sæpe labore,
Et vigili exhaustus cura, sudore perenni,
Victum prætenuem quærens, sine fraude doloque
Omnia pertentans, miseram ut traducere possim
Vitam, nec mundo me est infelicior alter.
Mors tamen eduri fiet tibi meta laboris.

Heroum interpres venio, fraudisque peritus,
[Pg 23]Bellorum strepitus compono, et bella reduco,
Meque petunt reges, populus miratur adorans.
Nulla abiget fraudi linguéve peritia mortem.

Princeps Belli.
Fulmen ego belli, reges et regna subegi,
Victor ego ex omni præduro quamlibet ecce
Marte fui, vitæ hinc timeo discrimina nulla.
Te mors confodiet cauda Trigonis aquosi,
Atque eris exanimis moriens uno ictu homo bulla.

Sum rerum felix, fœcunda est prolis et uxor,
Plena domus, lætum pecus, et cellaria plena
Nil igitur metuo. Quid ais? Mors te impia tollet.

Iro ego pauperior, Codroque tenuior omni,
Despicior cunctis, nemo est qui sublevet heu heu.
Hinc parcet veniens mors: nam nihil auferet à me,
Non sic evades, ditem cum paupere tollit.

Ut loculi intument auro, vi, fraude, doloque,
Fœnore nunc quæstum facio, furtoque rapinaque,
Ut proles ditem, passim dicarque beatus,
Per fas perque nefas corradens omnia quæro.
Mors veniens furtim prædabitur, omnia tollens.

Sum juvenis, forma spectabilis, indole gaudens
Maturusque ævi, nullus præstantior alter,
Moribus egregiis populo laudatus ab omni.
Pallida, difformis mors auferet omnia raptim.

Ecce puellarum pulcherrima, mortis iniquæ
Spicula nil meditor, juvenilibus et fruor annis,
Meque proci expectant compti, facieque venusti.
Stulta, quid in vana spe jactas? Mors metet omnes
Difformes, pulchrosque simul cum paupere dices.

Nuncius ecce ego sum, qui nuncia perfero pernix
Sed retrospectans post terga, papæ audio quidnam?
Me tuba terrificans mortis vocat. Heu moriendum est.

[Pg 24]Peroratio.
Mortales igitur memores modo vivite læti
Instar venturi furis, discrimine nullo
Cunctos rapturi passim ditesque inopesque.
Stultus et insipiens vita qui sperat in ista,
Instar quæ fumi perit et cito desinit esse.
Fac igitur tota virtuti incumbito mente,
Quæ nescit mortem, sed scandit ad ardua cœli.
Quo nos à fatis ducat rex Juppiter, Amen.

Plaudite nunc, animum cuncti retinete faventes.


Antwerpiæ apud Michaelem Hillenium M.D.XXXIIII. Mense Maio.

A very early allusion to the Dance of Death occurs in a Latin poem, that seems to have been composed in the twelfth century by our celebrated countryman Walter de Mapes, as it is found among other pieces that carry with them strong marks of his authorship. It is intitled “Lamentacio et deploracio pro Morte et consilium de vivente Deo.”[37] In its construction there is a striking resemblance to the common metrical stanzas that accompany the Macaber Dance. Many characters, commencing with that of the Pope, are introduced, all of whom bewail the uncontrolable influence of Death. This is a specimen of the work, extracted from two manuscripts:

Cum mortem meditor nescit mihi causa doloris,
Nam cunctis horis mors venit ecce cito.
Pauperis et regis communis lex moriendi,
Dat causam flendi si bene scripta leges.
Gustato pomo missus transit sine morte
Heu missa sorte labitur omnis homo.
Vado mori Papa qui jussu regna subegi     Vado mori, Rex sum, quod honor, quod gloria regum,
Mors mihi regna tulit eccine vado mori.     Est via mors hominis regia vado mori.

[Pg 25]Then follow similar stanzas, for presul, miles, monachus, legista, jurista, doctor, logicus, medicus, cantor, sapiens, dives, cultor, burgensis, nauta, pincerna, pauper.

In Sanchez’s collection of Spanish poetry before the year 1400,[38] mention is made of a Rabbi Santo as a good poet, who lived about 1360. He was a Jew, and surgeon to Don Pedro. His real name seems to have been Mose, but he calls himself Don Santo Judio de Carrion. This person is said to have written a moral poem, called “Danza General.” It commences thus:

Dise la Muerte.
“Yo so la muerte cierta a todas criaturas,
Que son y seran en el mundo durante:
Demando y digo O ame! porque curas
De vida tan breve en punto passante?” &c.

He then introduces a preacher, who announces Death to all persons, and advises them to be prepared by good works to enter his Dance, which is calculated for all degrees of mankind.

“Primaramente llama a su danza a dos doncellas,
A esta mi danza trax de presente,
Estas dos donzellas que vades fermosas:
Ellas vinieron de muy malamente
A oir mes canciones que son dolorosas,
Mas non les valdran flores nin rosas,
Nin las composturas que poner salian:
De mi, si pudiesen parterra querrian,
Mas non proveda ser, que son mis esposas.”

It may, however, be doubted whether the Jew Santo was the author of this Dance of Death, as it is by no means improbable that it may have been a subsequent work added to the manuscript referred to by Sanchez.

[Pg 26]In 1675, Maitre Jacques Jacques, a canon of the cathedral of Ambrun, published a singular work, intitled “Le faut mourir et les excuses inutiles que l’on apporte à cette nécessité. Le tout en vers burlesques.” Rouen, 1675, 12mo. It is written much in the style of Scarron and some other similar poets of the time. It commences with a humorous description given by Death of his proceedings with various persons in every part of the globe, which is followed by several dialogues between Death and the following characters: 1. The Pope. 2. A young lady betrothed. 3. A galley slave. 4. Guillot, who has lost his wife. 5. Don Diego Dalmazere, a Spanish hidalgo. 6. A king. 7. The young widow of a citizen. 8. A citizen. 9. A decrepit rich man. 10. A canon. 11. A blind man. 12. A poor peasant. 13. Tourmenté, a poor soldier in the hospital. 14. A criminal in prison. 15. A nun. 16. A physician. 17. An apothecary. 18. A lame beggar. 19. A rich usurer. 20. A merchant. 21. A rich merchant. As the book is uncommon, the following specimen is given from the scene between Death and the young betrothed girl:

La Mort.
A vous la belle demoiselle,
Je vous apporte une nouvelle,
Qui certes vous surprendra fort.
C’est qu’il faut penser à la mort,
Tout vistement pliés bagage,
Car il faut faire ce voyage.

La Demoiselle.
Qu’entends-je? Tout mon sens se perd,
Helas! vous me prener sans verd;
C’est tout à fait hors de raison
Mourir dedans une saison
Que je ne dois songer qu’à rire,
Je suis contrainte de vous dire,
Que très injuste est vostre choix,
[Pg 27]Parce que mourir je ne dois,
N’estant qu’en ma quinzième année,
Voyez quelque vielle échinée,
Qui n’ait en bouche point de dent;
Vous l’obligerez grandement
De l’envoyer à l’autre monde,
Puis qu’ici toujours elle gronde;
Vous la prendrez tout à propos,
Et laissez moi dans le repos,
Moi qui suis toute poupinette,
Dans l’embonpoint et joliette,
Qui n’aime qu’à me réjouir,
De grâce laissez moi jouir, &c.



[Pg 28]


Macaber not a German or any other poet, but a nonentity.—Corruption and confusion respecting this word.—Etymological errors concerning it.—How connected with the Dance.—Trois mors et trois vifs.—Orgagna’s painting in the Campo Santo at Pisa.—Its connection with the trois mors et trois vifs, as well as with the Macaber dance.—Saint Macarius the real Macaber.—Paintings of this dance in various places.—At Minden; Church-yard of the Innocents at Paris; Dijon; Basle; Klingenthal; Lubeck; Leipsic; Anneberg; Dresden; Erfurth; Nuremberg; Berne; Lucerne; Amiens; Rouen; Fescamp; Blois; Strasburg; Berlin; Vienna; Holland; Italy; Spain.


The next subject for investigation is the origin of the name of Macaber, as connected with the Dance of Death, either with respect to the verses that have usually accompanied it, or to the paintings or representations of the Dance itself; and first of the verses.

It may, without much hazard, be maintained that, notwithstanding these have been ascribed to a German poet called Macaber, there never was a German, or any poet whatever bearing such a name. The first mention of him appears to have been in a French edition of the Danse Macabre, with the following title, “Chorea ab eximio Macabro versibus Alemannicis edito, et à Petro Desrey emendata. Parisiis per Magistrum Guidonem Mercatorem pro Godefrido de Marnef. 1490, folio.” This title, from its ambiguity, is deserving of little [Pg 29]consideration as a matter of authority; for if a comma be placed after the word Macabro, the title is equally applicable to the author of the verses and to the painter or inventor of the Dance. As the subject had been represented in several places in Germany, and of course accompanied with German descriptions, it is possible that Desrey might have translated and altered some or one of these, and, mistaking the real meaning of the word, have converted it into the name of an author. It may be asked in what German biography is such a person to be found? how it has happened that this famous Macaber is so little known, or whether the name really has a Teutonic aspect? It was the above title in Desrey’s work that misled the truly learned Fabricius inadvertently to introduce into his valuable work the article for Macaber as a German poet, and in a work to which it could not properly belong.[39]

M. Peignot has very justly observed that the Danse Macabre had been very long known in France and elsewhere, not as a literary work, but as a painting; and he further remarks that although the verses are German in the Basil painting, executed about 1440, similar verses in French were placed under the dance at the Innocents at Paris in 1424.[40]

At the beginning of the text in the early French edition of the Danse Macabre, we have only the words “la danse Macabre sappelle,” but no specific mention is made of the author of the verses. John Lydgate, in his translation of them from the French, and which was most probably adopted in many places in England where the painting occurred, speaks of “the Frenche Machabrees daunce,” and “the daunce of Machabree.” At the end, “Machabree the Doctoure,” is abruptly and unconnectedly introduced at the bottom of the page. It is not in the French printed copy, from the text of[Pg 30] which Lydgate certainly varies in several respects. It remains, therefore, to ascertain whether these words belong to Lydgate, or to whom else; not that it is a matter of much importance.

The earliest authority that has been traced for the name of “Danse Macabre,” belongs to the painting at the Innocents, and occurs in the MS. diary of Charles VII. under the year 1424. It is also strangely called “Chorea Machabæorum,” in 1453, as appears from the before cited document at St. John’s church at Besançon. Even the name of one Maccabrees, a Provençal poet of the 14th century, has been injudiciously connected with the subject, though his works are of a very different nature.

Previously to attempting to account for the origin of the obscure and much controverted word Macaber, as applicable to the dance itself, it may be necessary to advert to the opinions on that subject that have already appeared. It has been disguised under the several names of Macabre,[41] Maccabees,[42] Maratre,[43] and even Macrobius.[44] Sometimes it has been regarded as an epithet. The learned and excellent M. Van Praet, the guardian of the royal library at Paris, has conjectured that Macabre is derived from the Arabic Magbarah, magbourah, or magabir, all signifying a church-yard. M. Peignot seems to think that M. Van Praet intended to apply the word to the Dance itself,[45] but it is impossible that the intelligent librarian was not aware that personified sculpture, as well as the moral nature of the subject, cannot belong to the Mahometan religion. Another etymology extremely well calculated to disturb the gravity of the present subject, is that of M. Villaret, the French historian, when adverting to the[Pg 31] spectacle of the Danse Macabre, supposed to have been given by the English in the church-yard of the Innocents at Paris. Relying on this circumstance, he unceremoniously decides that the name of the dance was likewise English; and that Macabrée is compounded of the words, to make and to break. The same silly etymology is referred to as in some historical dictionary concerning the city of Paris by Mons. Compan in his Dictionaire de Danse, article Macaber; and another which is equally improbable has been hazarded by the accomplished Marquis de Paulmy, who, noticing some editions of the Danse Macabre in his fine library, now in the arsenal at Paris, very seriously states that Macaber is derived from two Greek words, which denote its meaning to be an infernal dance;[46] but if the Greek language were to be consulted on the occasion, the signification would turn out to be very different.

It must not be left unnoticed that M. De Bure, in his account of the edition of the Danse Macabre, printed by Marchant, 1486, has stated that the verses have been attributed to Michel Marot; but the book is dated before Marot was born.[47]

Again,—As to the connexion between the word Macaber with the Dance itself.

In the course of the thirteenth century there appeared a French metrical work under the name of “Li trois Mors et li trois Vis,” i. e. Les trois Morts et les trois Vifs. In the noble library of the Duke de la Valliere, there were three apparently coeval manuscripts of it, differing, however, from each other, but furnishing the names of two authors, Baudouin de Condé and Nicolas de Marginal.[48] These poems relate that three noble youths when hunting in a forest were intercepted by the[Pg 32] like number of hideous spectres or images of Death, from whom they received a terrific lecture on the vanity of human grandeur. A very early, and perhaps the earliest, allusion to this vision, seems to occur in a painting by Andrew Orgagna in the Campo Santo at Pisa; and although it varies a little from the description in the above-mentioned poems, the story is evidently the same. The painter has introduced three young men on horseback with coronets on their caps, and who are attended by several domestics whilst pursuing the amusement of hawking. They arrive at the cell of Saint Macarius an Egyptian Anachorite, who with one hand presents to them a label with this inscription, as well as it can be made out, “Se nostra mente fia ben morta tenendo risa qui la vista affitta la vana gloria ci sara sconfitta la superbia e sara da morte;” and with the other points to three open coffins, in which are a skeleton and two dead bodies, one of them a king.

A similar vision, but not immediately connected with the present subject, and hitherto unnoticed, occurs at the end of the Latin verses ascribed to Macaber, in Goldasti’s edition of the Speculum omnium statuum à Roderico Zamorensi. Three persons appear to a hermit, whose name is not mentioned, in his sleep. The first is described as a man in a regal habit; the second as a civilian, and the third as a beautiful female decorated with gold and jewels. Whilst these persons are vainly boasting of their respective conditions, they are encountered by three horrible spectres in the shape of dead human bodies covered with worms, who very severely reprove them for their arrogance. This is evidently another version of the “Trois mors et trois vifs” in the text, but whether it be older or otherwise cannot easily be ascertained. It is composed in alternate rhymes, in the manner, and probably by the author of Philibert or Fulbert’s vision of the dispute between the soul and the body, a work ascribed to S. Bernard,[Pg 33] and sometimes to Walter de Mapes. There are translations of it both in French and English.




For the mention of S. Macarius as the hermit in this painting by Orgagna, we are indebted to Vasari in his life of that artist; and he had, no doubt, possessed himself of some traditionary information on the subject of it. He further informs us, that the person on horseback who is stopping his nostrils, is intended for Andrea Uguzzione della fagivola. Above is a black and hideous figure of Death mowing down with his scythe all ranks and conditions of men. Vasari adds that Orgagna had crowded his picture with a great many inscriptions, most of which were obliterated by time. From one of them which he has preserved in his work, as addressed to some aged cripples, it should appear that, as in the Macaber Dance, Death apostrophizes the several characters.[49] Baldinucci, in his account of Orgagna, mentions this painting and the story of the Three Kings and Saint Macarius.[50] Morona, likewise, in his Pisa illustrata, adopts the name of Macarius when describing the same subject. The figures in the picture are all portraits, and their names may be seen, but with some variation as to description, both in Vasari and Morona.[51]

Now the story of Les trois mors et les trois vifs, was prefixed to the painting of the Macaber Dance in the church-yard of the Innocents at Paris, and had also been sculptured over the portal of the church, by order of the Duke de Berry in 1408.[52] It is found in numerous manuscript copies of Horæ and other service books prefixed to the burial office. All the printed[Pg 34] editions of the Macaber Dance contain it, but with some variation, the figure of Saint Macarius in his cell not being always introduced. It occurs in many of the printed service books, and in some of our own for the use of Salisbury. The earliest wood engraving of it is in the black book of the “15 signa Judicii,” where two of the young men are running away to avoid the three deaths, or skeletons, one of whom is rising from a grave. It is copied in Bibliotheca Spenceriana, vol. i. p. xxx.

From the preceding statement then there is every reason to infer that the name of Macaber, so frequently, and without authority, applied to an unknown German poet, really belongs to the Saint, and that his name has undergone a slight and obvious corruption. The word Macabre is found only in French authorities, and the Saint’s name, which, in the modern orthography of that language, is Macaire, would, in many ancient manuscripts, be written Macabre instead of Macaure, the letter b being substituted for that of u from the caprice, ignorance, or carelessness of the transcribers.

As no German copy of the verses describing the painting can, with any degree of certainty, be regarded as the original, we must substitute the Latin text, which may, perhaps, have an equal claim to originality. The author, at the beginning, has an address to the spectators, in which he tells them that the painting is called the Dance of Macaber. There is an end, therefore, of the name of Macaber, as the author of the verses, leaving it only as applicable to the painting, and almost, if not altogether confirmatory of the preceding conjecture. The French version, from which Lydgate made his translation, nearly agrees with the Latin. Lydgate, however, in the above address, has thought fit to use the word translator instead of author, but this is of no moment, any more than the words Machabrée the Doctour, which, not being in the French text, are most[Pg 35] likely an interpolation. He likewise calls the work the daunce; and it may, once for all, be remarked, that scarcely any two versions of it will be found to correspond in all respects, every new editor assuming fresh liberties, according to the usual practice in former times.

The ancient paintings of the Macaber Dance next demand our attention. Of these, the oldest on record was that of Minden in Westphalia, with the date 1383, and mentioned by Fabricius in his Biblioth. med. et infimæ ætatis, tom. v. p. 2. It is to be wished that this statement had been accompanied with some authority; but the whole of the article is extremely careless and inaccurate.

The earliest, of which the date has been satisfactorily defined, was that in the church-yard of the Innocents at Paris, and which has been already mentioned as having been painted in 1434.

In the cloister of the church of the Sainte Chapelle at Dijon the Macaber Dance was painted by an artist whose name was Masonçelle. It had disappeared and was forgotten a long time ago, but its existence was discovered in the archives of the department by Mons. Boudot, an ardent investigator of the manners and customs of the middle ages. The date ascribed to this painting is 1436. The above church was destroyed in the revolution, previously to which another Macaber Dance existed in the church of Notre Dame in the above city. This was not a painting on the walls, but a piece of white embroidery on a black piece of stuff about two feet in height and very long. It was placed over the stalls in the choir on grand funeral ceremonies, and was also carried off with the other church moveables, in the abovementioned revolution.[53] Similar exhibitions, no doubt, prevailed in other places.

The next Macaber Dance, in point of date, was the[Pg 36] celebrated one at Basle, which has employed the pens and multiplied the errors of many writers and travellers. It was placed under cover in a sort of shed in the church-yard of the Dominican convent. It has been remarked by one very competent to know the fact, that nearly all the convents of the Dominicans had a Dance of Death.[54] As these friars were preachers by profession, the subject must have been exceedingly useful in supplying texts and matter for their sermons. The present Dance is said to have been painted at the instance of the prelates who assisted at the Grand Council of Basle, that lasted from 1431 to 1443; and in allusion, as supposed, to a plague that happened during its continuance. Plagues have also been assigned as the causes of other Dances of Death; but there is no foundation whatever for such an opinion, as is demonstrable from what has been already stated; and it has been also successfully combated by M. Peignot, who is nevertheless a little at variance with himself, when he afterwards introduces a conjecture that the painter of the first Dance imitated the violent motions and contortions of those affected by the plague in the dancing attitudes of the figures of Death.[55] The name of the original painter of this Basle work is unknown, and will probably ever remain so, for no dependance can be had on some vague conjectures, that without the smallest appearance of accuracy have been hazarded concerning it. It is on record that the old painting having become greatly injured by the ravages of time, John Hugh Klauber, an eminent painter at Basle, was employed to repair it in the year 1568, as appears from a Latin inscription placed on it at the time. This painter is said to have covered the decayed fresco with oil, and to have succeeded so well that no difference between his[Pg 37] work and the original could be perceived. He was instructed to add the portrait of the celebrated Oecolampadius in the act of preaching, in commemoration of his interference in the Reformation, that had not very long before taken place. He likewise introduced at the end of the painting, portraits of himself, his wife Barbara Hallerin, and their little son Hans Birich Klauber. The following inscription, placed on the painting on this occasion, is preserved in Hentzner’s Itinerary, and elsewhere.

A. O. C.
Sebastiano Doppenstenio, Casparo Clugio Coss.
Bonaventura à Bruno, Jacobo Rudio Tribb. Pl.
Hunc mortales chorum fabulæ, temporis injuria vitiatum
Lucas Gebhart, Iodoc. Pfister. Georgius Sporlinus
Hujus loci Ædiles.
Integritati suæ restituendum curavere
Ut qui vocalis picturæ divina monita securius audiunt
Mutæ saltem poëseos miserab. spectaculo
Ad seriam philosophiam excitentur.

In the year 1616 a further reparation took place, and some alterations in the design are said to have been then made. The above inscription, with an addition only of the names of the then existing magistrates of the city, was continued. A short time before, Mathew Merian the elder, a celebrated topographical draftsman, had fortunately copied the older painting, of which he is supposed to have first published engravings in 1621, with all the inscriptions under the respective characters that were then remaining, but these could not possibly be the same in many respects that existed before the Reformation, and which are entirely lost. A proof of this may be gathered from the lines of the Pope’s answer to Death, whom he is thus made to apostrophize: “Shall it be said that I, a God upon earth, a successor of St. Peter, a powerful prince, and a learned doctor, shall[Pg 38] endure thy insolent summons, or that, in obedience to thy decree, I should be compelled to ascertain whether the keys which I now possess will open for me the gates of Paradise?” None of the inscriptions relating to the Pope in other ancient paintings before the Reformation approach in the least to language of this kind.

Merian speaks of a tradition that in the original painting the portrait of Pope Felix V. was introduced, as well as those of the Emperor Sigismund and Duke Albert II. all of whom were present at the council; but admitting this to have been the fact, their respective features would scarcely remain after the subsequent alterations and repairs that took place.

That intelligent traveller, Mons. Blainville, saw this painting in January, 1707. He states that as it had been much injured by the weather, and many of the figures effaced, the government caused it to be retouched by a painter, whom they imagined to be capable of repairing the ravages it had sustained, but that his execution was so miserable that they had much better have let it alone than to have had it so wretchedly bungled. He wholly rejects any retouching by Holbein. He particularizes two of the most remarkable subjects, namely, the fat jolly cook, whom Death seizes by the hand, carrying on his shoulder a spit with a capon ready larded, which he looks upon with a wishful eye, as if he regretted being obliged to set out before it was quite roasted. The other figure is that of the blind beggar led by his dog, whom Death snaps up with one hand, and with the other cuts the string by which the dog was tied to his master’s arm.[56]

The very absurd ascription of the Basle painting to the pencil of Hans Holbein, who was born near a century afterwards, has been adopted by several tourists, who have copied the errors of their predecessors, without[Pg 39] taking the pains to make the necessary enquiries, or possessing the means of obtaining correct information. The name of Holbein, therefore, as combined with this painting, must be wholly laid aside, for there is no evidence that he was even employed to retouch it, as some have inadvertently stated; it was altogether a work unworthy of his talents, nor does it, even in its latest state, exhibit the smallest indication of his style of painting. This matter will be resumed hereafter, but in the mean time it may be necessary to correct the mistake of that truly learned and meritorious writer, John George Keysler, who, in his instructive and entertaining travels, has inadvertently stated that the Basle painting was executed by Hans Bock or Bok, a celebrated artist of that city;[57] but it is well known that this person was not born till the year 1584.

The Basle painting is no longer in existence; for on the 2d of August, 1806, and for reasons that have not been precisely ascertained, an infuriated mob, in which were several women, who carried lanterns to light the expedition, tumultuously burst the inclosure which contained the painting, tore it piecemeal from the walls, and in a very short space of time completely succeeded in its total demolition, a few fragments only being still preserved in the collection of Counsellor Vischer at his castle of Wildensheim, near Basle. This account of its destruction is recorded in Millin’s Magazin Encyclopédique among the nouvelles littéraires for that year; but the Etrenne Helvétique for the above year has given a different account of the matter; it states that the painting having been once more renovated in the year 1703, fell afterwards into great decay, being entirely peeled from the wall—that this circumstance had, in some degree, arisen from the occupation of the cloister by a ropemaker—that the wall having been found to[Pg 40] stand much in the way of some new buildings erected near the spot, the magistrates ventured, but not without much hesitation, to remove the cloister with its painting altogether in the year 1805—and that this occasioned some disturbance in the city among the common people, but more particularly with those who had resided in its neighbourhood, and conceived a renewed attachment to the painting.

Of this Dance of Death very few specific copies have been made. M. Heinecken[58] has stated that it was engraved in 1544, by Jobst Denneker of Augsburg; but he has confounded it with a work by this artist on the other Dance of Death ascribed to Holbein, and which will be duly noticed hereafter. The work which contained the earliest engravings of the Basle painting, can on this occasion be noticed only from a modern reprint of it under the following title: “Der Todten-Tantz wie derselbe in der weitberuhmten Stadt Basel als ein Spiegel menslicher beschaffenheit gantz kuntlich mit lebendigen farben gemahlet, nicht ohne nutzliche vernunderung zu schen ist. Basel, bey Joh. Conrad und Joh. Jacob von Mechel, 1769, 12mo.” that is, “The Dance of Death, painted most skilfully, and in lively colours, in the very famous town of Basel, as a mirror of human life, and not to be looked on without useful admiration.”

The first page has some pious verses on the painting in the church-yard of the Predicants, of which the present work contains only ten subjects, namely, the cardinal, the abbess, the young woman, the piper, the jew, the heathen man, the heathen woman, the cook, the painter, and the painter’s wife. On the abbess there is the mark D. R. probably that of the engraver, two cuts by whom are mentioned in Bartsch’s work.[59] On the cut[Pg 41] of the young woman there is the mark G S with the graving knife. They are coarsely executed, and with occasional variations of the figures in Merian’s plates. The rest of the cuts, thirty-two in number, chiefly belong to the set usually called Holbein’s. All the cuts in this miscellaneous volume have German verses at the top and bottom of each page with the subjects. If Jansen, who usually pillages some one else, can be trusted or understood, there was a prior edition of this book in 1606, with cuts having the last-mentioned mark, but which edition he calls the Dance of Death at Berne;[60] a title, considering the mixture of subjects, as faulty as that of the present book, of which, or of some part of it, there must have been a still earlier edition than the above-mentioned one of 1606, as on the last cut but one of this volume there is the date 1576, and the letters G S with the knife. It is most probable that this artist completed the series of the Basle Dance, and that some of the blocks having fallen into the hands of the above printers, they made up and published the present mixed copy. Jost Amman is said to have engraved 49 plates of the Dance of Death in 1587. These are probably from the Basle painting.[61]

The completest copies of this painting that are now perhaps extant, are to be found in a well-known set of engravings in copper, by Matthew Merian, the elder, the master of Hollar. There are great doubts as to their first appearance in 1621, as mentioned by Fuessli and Heinecken, but editions are known to exist with the respective dates of 1649, 1696, 1698, 1725, 1744, 1756, and 1789. Some of these are in German, and the rest are accompanied with a French translation by P. Viene. They are all particularly described by Peignot.[62] Merian states in his preface that he had copied[Pg 42] the paintings several years before, and given his plates to other persons to be published, adding that he had since redeemed and retouched them. He says this Dance was repaired in 1568 by Hans Hugo Klauber, a citizen of Basle, a fact also recorded on the cut of the painter himself, his wife, Barbara Hallerin, and his son, Hans Birich, by the before-mentioned artist, G. S., and that it contained the portraits of Pope Felix V., the Emperor Sigismund, and Albert, King of the Romans, all of whom assisted at the Council of Basle in the middle of the 15th century, when the painting was probably executed.

A greatly altered and modernised edition of Merian’s work was published in 1788, 8vo. with the following title, “La Danse des Morts pour servir de miroir à la nature humaine, avec le costume dessiné à la moderne, et des vers à chaques figures. Au Locle, chez S. Girardet libraire.” This is on an engraved frontispiece, copied from that in Merian. The letter-press is extracted from the French translation of Merian, and the plates, which are neatly etched, agree as to general design with his; but the dresses of many of the characters are rather ludicrously modernised. Some moral pieces are added to this edition, and particularly an old and popular treatise, composed in 1593, intitled “L’Art de bien vivre et de bien mourir.”

A Dance of Death is recorded with the following title “Todtentantz durch alle Stande der Menschen,” Leipsig, durch David de Necker, formschneider. 1572, 4to.[63] Whether this be a copy of the Basle or the Berne painting, must be decided on inspection, or it may possibly be a later edition of the copy of the wood-cuts of Lyons, that will be mentioned hereafter.

In the little Basle, on the opposite side of the Rhine, there was a nunnery called Klingenthal, erected towards[Pg 43] the end of the 13th century. In an old cloister, belonging to it there are the remains of a Dance of Death painted on its walls, and said to have been much ruder in execution than that in the Dominican cemetery at Basle. On this painting there was the date 1312. In the year 1766 one Emanuel Ruchel, a baker by trade, but an enthusiastic admirer of the fine arts, made a copy in water colours of all that remained of this ancient painting, and which is preserved in the public library at Basle.[64]

The numerous mistakes that have been made by those writers who have mentioned the Basle painting have been already adverted to by M. Peignot, and are not, in this place, worthy of repetition.[65] That which requires most particular notice, and has been so frequently repeated, is the making Hans Holbein the painter of it, who was not born till a considerable time after its execution, and even for whose supposed retouching of a work, almost beneath his notice in point of art, there is not the slightest authority.

In the small organ chapel, or, according to some, in the porch, of the church of St. Mary at Lubeck in Lower Alsace, there is, or was, a very ancient Dance of Death, said to have been painted in 1463. Dr. Nugent, who has given some account of it, says, that it is much talked of in all parts of Germany; that the figures were repaired at different times, as in 1588, 1642, and last of all in 1701. The verses that originally accompanied it were in low Dutch, but at the last repair it was thought proper to change them for German verses which were written by Nathaniel Schlott of Dantzick. The Doctor has given an English translation of them, made for him by a young lady of Lubeck.[66] This painting has been[Pg 44] engraved, and will be again mentioned. Leipsic had also a Dance of Death, but no particulars of it seem to have been recorded.

In 1525 a similar dance was painted at Anneberg in Saxony, which Fabricius seems alone to have noticed. He also mentions another in 1534, at the palace of Duke George at Dresden.[67] This is described in a German work written on the subject generally, by Paul Christian Hilscher, and published at Dresden, 1705, 8vo. and again at Bautzen, 1721, 8vo. It consisted of a long frieze sculptured in stone on the front of the building, containing twenty-seven figures. A view of this very curious structure, with the Dance itself, and also on a separate print, on a larger scale, varying considerably from the usual mode of representing the Macaber Dance, is given in Anthony Wecken’s Chronicle of Dresden, printed in German at Dresden 1680, folio. It is said to have been removed in 1721 to the church-yard of Old Dresden.

Nicolai Karamsin has given a very brief, but ludicrous, account of a Dance of Death in the cross aisle of the Orphan House at Erfurth;[68] but Peignot places it in the convent of the Augustins, and seems to say that it was painted on the panels between the windows of the cell inhabited by Luther.[69] In all probability the same place is intended by both these writers.

There is some reason to suppose that there was a[Pg 45] Dance of Death at Nuremberg. Misson, describing a wedding in that city, states that the bridegroom and his company sat down on one side of the church and the bride on the other. Over each of their heads was a figure of Death upon the wall. This would seem very like a Dance of Death, if the circumstance of the figure being on both sides of the church did not excite a doubt on the subject.

Whether there ever was a Macaber Dance at Berne of equal antiquity with that of Basle has not been ascertained: but Sandrart, in his article for Nicolas Manuel Deutch, a celebrated painter at Berne, in the beginning of the 16th century, has recorded a Dance of Death painted by him in oil, and regrets that a work materially contributing to the celebrity of that city had been so extremely neglected that he had only been able to lay before the readers the following German rhymes which had been inscribed on it:

Manuel aller welt figur,
Hastu gemahlt uf diese mur
Nu must sterben da, hilft kun fund:
Bist nit sicher minut noch stund.

Which he thus translates:

Cunctorum in muris pictis ex arte figuris.
Tu quoque decedes; etsi hoc vix tempore credes.

Then Manuel’s answer:

Kilf eineger Heiland! dru ich dich bitt:
Dann hic ist gar kein Bleibens nit
So mir der Tod mein red wird stellen
So bhut euch Gott, mein liebe Gsellen.

That is, in Latin:

En tibi me credo, Deus, hoc dum sorte recedo
Mors rapiat me, te, reliquos sociosque, valete!

To which account M. Fuseli adds, that this painting, equally remarkable for invention and character, was retouched in 1553; and in 1560, to render the street in[Pg 46] which it was placed more spacious, entirely demolished. There were, however, two copies of it preserved at Berne, both in water colours, one by Albrech Kauw, the other a copy from that by Wilhelm Stettler, a painter of Berne, and pupil of Conrad Meyer of Zurich. The painting is here said to have been in fresco on the wall of the Dominican cemetery.[70]

The verses that accompanied this painting have been mentioned as containing sarcastical freedoms against the clergy; and as Manuel had himself undergone some persecutions on the score of religion at the time of the Reformation, this is by no means improbable. There is even a tradition that he introduced portraits of some of his friends, who assisted in bringing about that event.

In 1832, lithographic copies of the Berne painting, after the drawings of Stettler, were published at Berne, with a portrait of Manuel; and a set of very beautiful drawings in colours, made by some artist at Berne, either after those by Stettler or Kauw, in the public library, are in the possession of the writer of this essay. They, as well as the lithographic prints, exhibit Manuel’s likeness in the subject of the painter.

One of the bridges at Lucerne was covered with a Macaber Dance, executed by a painter named Meglinger, but at what time we are not informed. It is said to have been very well painted, but injured greatly by injudicious retouchings; yet there seems to be a difference of opinion as to the merit of the paintings, which are or were thirty-six in number, and supposed to have been copied from the Basle dance. Lucerne has also another of the same kind in the burial ground of the parish church of Im-hof. One of the subjects placed over the tomb of some canon, the founder of a musical society, is Death playing on the violin, and[Pg 47] summoning the canon to follow him, who, not in the least terrified, marks the place in the book he was reading, and appears quite disposed to obey. This Dance is probably more modern than the other.[71] The subject of Death performing on the above instrument to some person or other is by no means uncommon among the old painters.

M. Maurice Rivoire, in his very excellent description of the cathedral of Amiens, mentions the cloister of the Machabees, originally called, says he, the cloister of Macabré, and, as he supposes, from the name of the author of the verses. He gives some lines that were on one of the walls, in which the Almighty commands Death to bring all mortals before him.[72] This cloister was destroyed about the year 1817, but not before the present writer had seen some vestiges of the painting that remained on one of the sides of the building.

M. Peignot has a very probable conjecture that the church-yard of Saint Maclou, at Rouen, had a Macaber Dance, from a border or frieze that contains several emblematical subjects of mortality. The place had more than once been destroyed.[73] On the pillars of the church at Fescamp, in Normandy, the Dance of Death was sculptured in stone, and it is in evidence that the castle of Blois had formerly this subject represented in some part of it.

In the course of some recent alterations in the new church of the Protestants at Strasburg, formerly a Dominican convent, the workmen accidentally uncovered a Dance of Death that had been whitewashed, either for the purpose of obliteration or concealment. This painting seems to differ from the usual Macaber Dance, not always confined like that to two figures[Pg 48] only, but having occasionally several grouped together. M. Peignot has given some more curious particulars relating to it, extracted from a literary journal by M. Schweighæuser, of Strasburg.[74] It is to be hoped that engravings of it will be given.

Chorier has mentioned the mills of Macabrey, and also a piece of land with the same appellation, which he says was given to the chapter of St. Maurice at Vienne in Dauphiné, by one Marc Apvril, a citizen of that place. He adds, that he is well aware of the Dance of Macabre. Is it not, therefore, probable, that the latter might have existed at Vienne, and have led to the corruption of the above citizen’s name by the common people.[75]

Misson has noticed a Dance of Death in St. Mary’s church at Berlin, and obscurely referred to another in some church at Nuremberg.

Bruckmann, in his Epistolæ Itinerariæ, vol. v. Epist. xxxii. describes several churches and other religious buildings at Vienna, and among them the monastery of the Augustinians, where, he says, there is a painting of a house with Death entering one of the windows by a ladder.

In the same letter he describes a chapel of Death in the above monastery, which had been decorated with moral paintings by Father Abraham à St. Clara, one of the monks. Among these were, 1. Death demolishing a student. 2. Death attacking a hunter who had just killed a stag. 3. Death in an apothecary’s shop, breaking the phials and medicine boxes. 4. Death playing at draughts with a nobleman. 5. Harlequin making grimaces at Death. A description of this chapel, and its painting was published after the good father’s decease. Nuremberg, 1710, 8vo.

[Pg 49]The only specimen of it in Holland that has occurred on the present occasion is in the celebrated Orange-Salle, which constitutes the grand apartment of the country seat belonging to the Prince of Orange in the wood adjacent to the Hague. In three of its compartments, Death is represented by skeletons darting their arrows against a host of opponents.[76]

Nor has Italy furnished any materials for the present essay. Blainville has, indeed, described a singular and whimsical representation of Death in the church of St. Peter the Martyr, at Naples, in the following words. “At the entrance on the left is a marble with a representation of Death in a grotesque form. He has two crowns on his head, with a hawk on his fist, as ready for hunting. Under his feet are extended a great number of persons of both sexes and of every age. He addresses them in these lines:

Eo sò la morte che caccio
Sopera voi jente mondana,
La malata e la sana,
Di, e notte la percaccio;
Non fugge, vessuna intana
Per scampare dal mio laczio
Che tutto il mondo abbraczio,
E tutta la jente humana
Perchè nessuno se conforta,
Ma prenda spavento
Ch’eo per comandamento
Di prender à chi viene la sorte.
Sia vi per gastigamento
Questa figura di morte,
E pensa vie di fare forte
Tu via di salvamento.

Opposite to the figure of Death is that of a man dressed like a tradesman or merchant, who throws a bag of money on a table, and speaks thus:

Tutti ti volio dare
Se mi lasci scampare.

[Pg 50]To which Death answers:

Se mi potesti dare
Quanto si pote dimandare
Non te pote scampare la morte
Se te viene la sorte.[77]

It can hardly be supposed that this subject was not known in Spain, though nothing relating to it seems to have been recorded, if we except the poem that has been mentioned in p. 25, but no Spanish painting has been specified that can be called a regular Macaber Dance. There are grounds, however, for believing that there was such a painting in the cathedral of Burgos, as a gentleman known to the author saw there the remains of a skeleton figure on a whitewashed wall.



[Pg 51]


Macaber Dance in England.—St. Paul’s.—Salisbury.—Wortley Hall.—Hexham.—Croydon.—Tower of London.—Lines in Pierce Plowman’s Vision supposed to refer to it.


We are next to examine this subject in relation to its existence in our own country. On the authority of the work ascribed to Walter de Mapes, already noticed in p. 24, it is not unreasonable to infer that paintings of the Macaber Dance were coeval with that writer, though no specimens of it that now remain will warrant the conclusion. We know that it existed at Old Saint Paul’s. Stowe informs us that there was a great cloister on the north side of the church, environing a plot of ground, of old time called Pardon church-yard. He then states, that “about this cloyster was artificially and richly painted the Dance of Machabray, or Dance of Death, commonly called the Dance of Paul’s: the like whereof was painted about St. Innocent’s cloyster at Paris: the meters or poesie of this dance were translated out of French into English, by John Lidgate, Monke of Bury, the picture of Death leading all estates; at the dispence of Jenken Carpenter in the reigne of Henry the Sixt.”[78] Lydgate’s verses were first printed at the end of Tottell’s edition of the translation of his Fall of Princes, from Boccaccio, 1554, folio, and afterwards, in Sir W. Dugdale’s History of St. Paul’s cathedral.[79] In[Pg 52] another place Stowe records that “on the 10th April, 1549, the cloister of St. Paul’s church, called Pardon church-yard, with the Dance of Death, commonly called the Dance of Paul’s, about the same cloister, costly and cunningly wrought, and the chappel in the midst of the same church-yard, were all begun to be pulled down.”[80] This spoliation was made by the Protector Somerset, in order to obtain materials for building his palace in the Strand.[81]

The single figure that remained in the Hungerford chapel at Salisbury cathedral, previously to its demolition, was formerly known by the title of “Death and the Young Man,” and was, undoubtedly, a portion of the Macaber Dance, as there was close to it another compartment belonging to the same subject. In 1748, a print of these figures was published, accompanied with the following inscription, which differs from that in Lydgate. The young man says:

Alasse Dethe alasse a blesful thyng thou were
Yf thou woldyst spare us yn ouwre lustynesse.
And cum to wretches that bethe of hevy chere
Whene thay ye clepe to slake their dystresse
But owte alasse thyne own sely selfwyldnesse
Crewelly werneth me that seygh wayle and wepe
To close there then that after ye doth clepe.

[Pg 53]Death answers:

Grosless galante in all thy luste and pryde
Remembyr that thou schalle onys dye
Deth schall fro thy body thy sowle devyde
Thou mayst him not escape certaynly
To the dede bodyes cast down thyne ye
Beholde thayme well consydere and see
For such as thay ar such shalt thou be.

This painting was made about the year 1460, and from the remaining specimen its destruction is extremely to be regretted, as, judging from that of the young gallant, the dresses of the time would be correctly exhibited.

In the chapel at Wortley Hall, in Gloucestershire, there was inscribed, and most likely painted, “an history and Daunce of Deathe of all estatts and degrees.” This inscribed history was the same as Lydgate’s, with some additional characters.[82] From a manuscript note by John Stowe, in his copy of Leland’s Itinerary, it appears that there was a Dance of Death in the church of Stratford upon Avon: and the conjecture that Shakespeare, in a passage in Measure for Measure, might have remembered it, will not, perhaps, be deemed very extravagant. He there alludes to Death and the fool, a subject always introduced into the paintings in question.[83]

On the upper part of the great screen which closes the entrance to the choir of the church at Hexham, in Northumberland, are the painted remains of a Dance of Death.[84] These consist of the figures of a pope, a cardinal, and a king, which were copied by the ingenious John Carter, of well-deserved antiquarian memory.

[Pg 54]Vestiges of a Macaber Dance were not long since to be traced on the walls of the hall of the Archiepiscopal palace at Croydon, but so much obscured by time and neglect that no particular compartment could be ascertained.

The tapestries that decorated the walls of palaces, and other dwelling places, were sometimes applied in extension of this moral subject. In the tower of London, the original and most ancient seat of our monarchs, there was some tapestry with the Macaber Dance.[85]

The following lines in that admirable satire, the Vision of Pierce Plowman, written about the year 1350, have evidently an allusion to the Dance, unless they might be thought to apply rather to the celebrated triumph of Death by Petrarch, of which some very early paintings, and many engravings, still exist; or they may even refer to some of the ancient representations of the infernal regions that follow Death on the Pale horse of the Revelations, and in which is seen a grotesque intermixture of all classes of people.[86]

Death came driving after, and all to dust pashed
Kynges and Kaysers, Knightes and Popes,
Learned and lewde: he ne let no man stande
That he hitte even, he never stode after.
Many a lovely ladie and lemmans of knightes
Swouned and swelted for sorrowe of Deathes dyntes.

It is probable that many cathedrals and other edifices, civil as well as ecclesiastical, in France, Germany, England, and probably other European countries, were ornamented with paintings and sculpture of this extremely popular subject.



[Pg 55]


List of editions of the Macaber Dance.—Printed Horæ that contain it.—Manuscript Horæ.—Other Manuscripts in which it occurs.—Various articles with letter-press, not being single prints, but connected with it.


It remains only, so far as regards the Macaber Dance, to present the reader with a list of the several printed editions of that celebrated work, and which, with many corrections and additions, has been chiefly extracted from M. Peignot’s “Recherches historiques et litteraires sur les Danses des Morts,” Paris et Dijon, 1826, 8vo.

The article that should stand at the head of this list, if any reliance could be had on a supposed date, is the German edition, intitled, “Der Dotendantz mit figuren. Clage und Antwort Schon von allen staten der welt,” small folio. This is mentioned in Braun Notitia de libris in Bibliotheca Monasterii ad SS. Udalricum et Afram Augustæ, vol. ii. 62. The learned librarian expresses his doubts as to the date, which he supposes may be between 1480 and 1500. He rejects a marginal note by the illuminator of the letters, indicating the date of 1459. Every page of this volume is divided into two columns, and accompanied with German verses, which may be either the original text, or a translation from the French verses in some early edition of the Macaber Dance in that language. It consists of twenty-two leaves, with wood-cuts of the Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Abbot, &c. &c. accompanied by figures of Death.

1. “La Danse Macabre imprimée par ung nommé[Pg 56] Guy Marchand, &c. Paris, 1485,” small folio. Mons. Champollion Figeac has given a very minute description of this extremely rare, and perhaps unique, volume, the only known copy of which is in the public library of Grenoble. This account is to be found in Millin’s Magazin Encyclopedique, 1811, vol. vi. p. 355, and thence by M. Peignot, in his Recherches, &c.

2. “Ce present livre est appelle Miroer salutaire pour toutes gens, et de tous estatz, et est de grant utilité et recreation pour pleuseurs ensegnemens tant en Latin comme en Francoys lesquels il contient ainsi compose pour ceulx qui desirent acquerir leur salut: et qui le voudront avoir. La Danse Macabre nouvelle.” At the end, “Cy finit la Danse Macabre hystoriee augmentee de pleuseurs nouveaux pârsonnages (six) et beaux dis. et les trois mors et trois vif ensemble. Nouvellement ainsi composee et imprimee par Guyot Marchant demorant a Paris au grant hostel du college de Navarre en champ Gaillart lan de grace, 1486, le septieme jour de juing.” A small folio of fifteen leaves, or thirty pages, twenty-four of which belong to the Danse Macabre, and six to the Trois morts et les trois vifs.

On the authority of the above expression, “composée,” and also on that of La Croix du Maine, Marchant has been made the author as well as the printer of the work; but M. De la Monnoye is not of that opinion, nor indeed is there any other metrical composition by this printer known to exist.

3. “La Danse Macabre des femmes, &c. Paris, par Guyot Marchant, 1486, le septieme jour de Juillet,” small folio, of fifteen leaves only. This is the first edition of the Macaber Dance of females; and though thirty-two of them are described, the Queen and Duchess only are engraved. See No. 6 for the rest. This and the preceding edition are also particularly described by Messrs. Champollion Figeac and Peignot.

4. “Chorea ab eximio Macabro versibus Alemanicis[Pg 57] edita, et a Petro Desrey emendata. Parisiis per magistrum Guidonem Mercatorem pro Godeffrido de Marnef. 1490,” folio. Papillon thought the cuts were in the manner of the French artist Jollat, but without foundation, for they are much superior to any work by that artist, and of considerable merit.

5. “La nouvelle Danse Macabre des hommes dicte miroer salutaire de toutes gens et de touts etats, &c. Paris, Guyot Marchant. 1490.” folio.

6. “La Danse Macabre des femmes, toute hystoriée et augmentée de nouveaulx personnages, &c. Paris, Guyot Marchant, le 2 Mai, 1491,” folio. This edition, the second of the Dance of females, has all the cuts with other additions. The list of the figures is in Peignot, but with some doubts on the accuracy of his description.

7. An edition in the Low German dialect was printed at Lubeck, 1496, according to Vonder Hagen in his Deutschen Poesie, p. 459, who likewise mentions a Low German edition in prose, at the beginning of the 15th (he must mean 16th) century. He adds, that he has copied one page with cuts from Kindeling’s Remains, but he does not say in what work.

8. “La grant Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes hystorice et augmentée de beaulx dits en Latin, &c. &c. Le tout composé en ryme Francoise et accompagné de figures. Lyon, le xviii jour de Fevrier, l’an 1499,” folio. This is supposed to be the first edition that contains both the men and the women.

9. There is a very singular work, intitled “Icy est le compost et kalendrier des Bergeres, &c. Imprimè à Paris en lostel de beauregart en la rue Cloppin à lenseigne du roy Prestre Jhan. ou quel lieu sont à vendre, ou au lyon dargent en la rue Sainct Jaques.” At the end, “Imprimè à Paris par Guy Marchant maistre es ars ou lieu susdit. Le xvii iour daoust mil cccciiiixx·xix.” This extremely rare volume is in the British Museum,[Pg 58] and is mentioned by Dr. Dibdin, in vol. ii. p. 530 of his edition of Ames’s typographical antiquities, and probably nowhere else. It is embellished with the same fine cuts that relate to the females in the edition of the Macaber Dance, Nos. 4 and 11. The work begins with the words “Deux jeunes Bergeres seulettes,” and appears to have been composed for females only, differing very materially from the well-known “Kalendrier des Bergers,” though including matter common to both.

10. “Chorea ab eximio Macabro versibus Alemanicis edita et à Petro Desrey Trecacio quodam oratore nuper emendata. Parisiis per Magistrum Guidonem Mercatorem pro Godeffrido Marnef. 15 Octob. 1499,” folio, with cuts.

11. “La Danse Macabre, &c. Ant. Verard, no date, but about 1500,” small folio. A vellum copy of this rare edition is described by M. Van Praet in his catalogue of vellum books in the royal library at Paris. A copy is in the Archb. Cant. library at Lambeth.

12. “La Danse Macabre, &c. Ant. Verard, no date, but about 1500,” folio. Some variations from No. 9 are pointed out by M. Van Praet. This magnificent volume on vellum, and bound in velvet, came from the library at Blois. It is a very large and thin folio, consisting of three or four leaves only, printed on pasteboard, with four pages or compartments on each leaf. The cuts are illuminated in the usual manner of Verard’s books. In the beginning it is marked “Marolles, No. 1601.” It is probably imperfect, the fool not being among the figures, and all the females are wanting, though, perhaps, not originally in this edition. It is in the royal library at Paris, where there is another copy of the work printed by Verard, with coloured prints, but differing materially from the other in the press-work. It is a common-sized folio, and was purchased at the sale of the Count Macarthy’s books.[87]

[Pg 59]13. “La grant Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, &c. Imprimèe à Troyes par Nicolas Le Rouge demourant en la grant rue à l’enseigne de Venise auprès la belle croix.” No date, folio. With very clever wood-cuts, probably the same as in the edition of 1490; and if so, they differ much from the manner of Jollat, and have not his well-known mark.

14. “La grant Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, &c. Rouen, Guillaume de la Mare.” No date, 4to. with cuts, and in the Roman letter.

15. “La grande Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, ou est démonstré tous humains de tous estats estre du bransle de la Mort. Lyon, Olivier Arnoulet.” No date, 4to.

16. “La grant Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, &c. Lyon, Nourry, 1501,” 4to. cuts.

17. “La grant Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, &c. Imprimé à Genesve, 1503,” 4to. cuts.

18. “La grant Danse Macabre, &c. Paris, Nicole de la Barre, 1523,” 4to. with very indifferent cuts, and the omission of some of the characters in preceding editions. This has been privately reprinted, 1820, by Mr. Dobree, from a copy in the British Museum.

19. “La grant Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes. Troyes, Le Rouge, 1531,” folio, cuts.

20. “La grand Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes. Paris, Denys Janot. 1533,” 8vo. cuts.

21. “La grand Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, tant en Latin qu’en Francoys. Paris, par Estienne Groulleau libraire juré en la rue neuve Nostre Dame à l’enseigne S. Jean Baptiste.” No date, 16mo. cuts. The first edition of this size, and differing in some respects from the preceding.

22. “La grand Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, &c. Paris, Estienne Groulleau, 1550,” 16mo. cuts.

[Pg 60]23. “La grande Danse des Morts, &c. Rouen, Morron.” No date, 8vo. cuts.

24. “Les lxviii huictains ci-devant appellés la Danse Machabrey, par lesquels les Chrestiens de tous estats tout stimulés et invités de penser à la mort. Paris, Jacques Varangue, 1589,” 8vo. In Roman letter, without cuts.

25. “La grande Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, &c. Troyes, Oudot,” 1641, 4to. cuts. One of the bibliothèque bleue books.

26. “La grande Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, renouvellée de vieux Gaulois en langage le plus poli de notre temps, &c. Troyes, Pierre Garnier rue du Temple.” No date, but the privilege is in 1728, 4to. cuts. The polished language is, of course, for the worse, and Macaber is called “des Machabées,” no doubt, the editor’s improvement.

27. “La grande Danse Macabre des hommes et des femmes, renouvellée, &c. Troyes, chez la veuve Oudot, et Jean Oudot fils, rue du Temple, 1729,” 4to. cuts. Nearly the same as No. 25.

These inferior editions continued, till very lately, to be occasionally reprinted for the use of the common people, and at the trifling expense of a very few sous. They are, nevertheless, of some value to those who feel interested in the subject, as containing tolerable copies of all the fine cuts in the preceding edition, No. 11.

Dr. Dibdin saw in the public library at Munich a very old series of a Macaber Dance, that had been inserted, by way of illustration, into a German manuscript of the Dance of Death. Of these he has given two subjects in his “Bibliographical Tour,” vol. iii. p. 278.

But it was not only in the above volumes that the very popular subject of the Macaber Dance was particularly exhibited. It found its way into many of the beautiful service books, usually denominated Horæ, or[Pg 61] hours of the Virgin. These principally belong to France, and their margins are frequently decorated with the above Dance, with occasional variety of design. In most of them Death is accompanied with a single figure only, characters from both sexes being introduced. It would be impossible to furnish a complete list of them; but it is presumed that the mention of several, and of the printers who introduced them, will not be unacceptable.

No. I. “Las Horas de nuestra Senora con muchos otros oficios y oraçiones.” Printed in Paris by Nicolas Higman for Simon Vostre, 1495, 8vo. It has two Dances of Death, the first of which is the usual Macaber Dance, with the following figures: “Le Pape, l’Empereur, le Cardinal, l’Archevesque, le Chevalier, l’Evesque, l’Escuyer, l’Abè, le Prevost, le Roy, le Patriarche, le Connestable, l’Astrologien, le Bourgoys, le Chanoine, le Moyne, l’Usurier, le Medesin, l’Amoureux, l’Advocat, le Menestrier, le Marchant, le Chartreux, le Sergent, le Cure, le Laboureur, le Cordelier.” Then the women: “La Royne, la Duchesse, la Regente, la Chevaliere, l’Abbesse, la Femme descine, la Prieure, la Damoissele, la Bourgoise, la Cordeliere, la Femme daceul, la Nourice, la Theologienne, la nouvelle mariee, la Femme grosse, la Veufve, la Marchande, la Ballive, la Chamberiere, la Recommanderese, la vielle Damoise, l’Espousée, la Mignote, la Fille pucelle, la Garde d’accouchée, la jeune fille, la Religieuse, la Vielle, la Revenderesse, l’Amoureuse, la Sorciere, la Bigote, la Sote, la Bergere, la Femme aux Potences, la Femme de Village; to which are added, l’Enfant, le Clerc, l’Ermite.”

The second Dance of Death is very different from the preceding, and consists of groupes of figures. The subjects, which have never yet been described, are the following:

1. Death sitting on a coffin in a church-yard. “Discite vos choream cuncti qui cernitis istam.”

[Pg 62]2. Death with Adam and Eve in Paradise. He draws Adam towards him. “Quid tum prosit honor glorie divitie.”

3. Death helping Cain to slay Abel. “Esto meorum qui pulvis eris et vermibus esca.”

4. Death holding by the garment a cardinal, followed by several persons. “In gelida putrens quando jacebis humo.”

5. Death mounted on a bull strikes three persons with his dart. “Vado mori dives auro vel copia rerum.”

6. Death seizing a man sitting at a table with a purse in his hand, and accompanied by two other persons. “Nullum respectum dat michi, vado mori.”

7. An armed knight killing an unarmed man, Death assisting. “Fortium virorum est magis mortem contemnere vitam odisse.”

8. Death with a rod in his hand, standing upon a groupe of dead persons. “Stultum est timere quod vitari non potest.”

9. Death with a scythe, having mowed down several persons lying on the ground. “Est commune mori mors nulli parcit honori.”

10. A soldier introducing a woman to another man, who holds a scythe in his hand. Death stands behind. “Mors fera mors nequam mors nulli parcit et equam.”

11. Death strikes with his dart a prostrate female, who is attended by two others. “Hec tua vita brevis: que te delectat ubique.”

12. A man falling from a tower into the water. Death strikes him at the same time with his dart. “Est velut aura levis te mors expectat ubique.”

13. A man strangling another, Death assisting. “Vita quid est hominis nisi res vallata ruinis.”

14. A man at the gallows, Death standing by. “Est caro nostra cinis modo principium modo finis.”

15. A man about to be beheaded, Death assisting. “Quid sublime genus quid opes quid gloria prestant.”

[Pg 63]16. A king attended by several persons is struck by Death with his dart. “Quid mihi nunc aderant hec mihi nunc abeunt.”

17. Two soldiers armed with battle-axes. Death pierces one of them with his dart. “Ortus cuncta suos: repetunt matremque requirunt.”

18. Death strikes with his dart a woman lying in bed. “Et redit in nihilum quod fuit ante nihil.”

19. Death aims his dart at a sleeping child in a cradle, two other figures attending. “A, a, a, vado mori, nil valet ipsa juventus.”

20. A man on the ground in a fit, Death seizes him. Others attending. “Mors scita sed dubia nec fugienda venit.”

21. Death leads a man, followed by others. “Non sum securus hodie vel cras moriturus.”

22. Death interrupts a man and woman at their meal. “Intus sive foris est plurima causa timoris.”

23. Death demolishes a group of minstrels, from one of whom he has taken a lute. “Viximus gaudentes, nunc morimur tristes et flentes.”

24. Death leads a hermit, followed by other persons. “Forte dies hec est ultima, vado mori.”

This Dance is also found in the Horæ printed by Godar, Vostre, and Gilles Hardouyn, but with occasional variations, as to size and other matters, in the different blocks which they respectively used. The same designs have also been adopted, and in a very singular style of engraving, in a work printed by Antony Verard, that will be noticed elsewhere.

Some of the cuts, for they are not all by the same artist, in this very rare and beautiful volume, and not found in others printed by or for Simon Vostre, may be very justly compared, in point of the delicacy of design and engraving, though on wood, with the celebrated pax of Maso Finiguerra at Florence, accurately copied[Pg 64] in Mr. Ottley’s history of engraving. They are accompanied with this unappropriated mark [monogram].

No. II. “Ordinarium beate Marie Virginis ad usum Cisterciensem impressum est caracteribus optimis una cum expensis honesti viri Symonis Vostre commorantis Parisiis in vico novo Dive Marie in intersignio Sancti Joannis Evangeliste, 1497,” 12mo. This beautiful book is on vellum, with the same Danse Macabre as in the preceding, but the other cuts are different.

No. III. “Hore presentes ad usum Sarum impresse fuerunt Parisiis per Philippum Pigouchet Anno Salutis MCCCCXCVIII die vero xvi Maii pro Symone Vostre librario commorante, &c.” 8vo. as above.

Another beautiful volume on vellum, with the same Danse Macabre. He printed a similar volume of the same date, for the use of Rome, also on vellum.

A volume of prayers, in 8vo. mentioned by M. Peignot, p. 145, after M. Raymond, but the title is not given. It is supposed to be anterior to 1500, and seems to contain the same personages in its Danse Macabre, as in the preceding volumes printed by Simon Vostre.

No. IV. “Heures à l’usage de Soissons.” Printed by Simon Vostre, on vellum, 1502, 8vo. With the same Danse Macabre.

No. V. “Heures à l’usage de Rheims, nouvellement imprimées avec belles histoires, pour Simon Vostre,” 1502, 8vo. This is mentioned by M. Peignot, on the authority of Papillon. It was reprinted 1513, 8vo. and has the same cuts as above.

No. VI. “Heures à l’usage de Rome. Printed for Simon Vostre by Phil. Pigouchet,” 1502, large 8vo. on vellum. With the same Danse Macabre. This truly magnificent volume, superior to all the preceding by the same printer in beauty of type and marginal decoration, differs from them in having stanzas at the bottom of[Pg 65] each page of the Dance, but which apply to the figure at the top only. They are here given.

Vous qui vivez certainement
Quoy qu’il tarde ainsi danserez
Mais quand Dieu le scet seulement
Avisez comme vous ferez

Dam Pape vous commencerez
Comme le plus digne Seigneur
En ce point honorire serez
Au grant maistre est deu l’honneur.

Mais maintenant toute haultesse
Laisserez vous nestes pas seul
Peu aurez de votre richesse
Le plus riche n’a qung linseul

Venez noble Roy couronne
Renomme de force et prouesse
Jadis fustez environne
De grans pompes de grant noblesse.

Que vous tirez la teste arriere
Archevesque tirez vous près,
Avez vous peur qu’on ne vous fiere
Ne doubtez vous viendres après

N’est pas tousjours la mort empres
Tout homme suyvant coste a coste
Rendre comment debtez et pres
Une foys fault coustera loste.

Il n’est rien que ne preigne cours
Dansez et pensez de suyr
Vous ne povez avoir secours
Il n’est qui mort puisse fuyr

Avencez vous gent escuyer
Qui scavez de danser les tours
Lance porties et escuz hyer
Aujourdhuy finerez voz jours.

Maistre pour vostre regarder
En hault ne pour vostre clergie
Ne pouvez la mort retarder
Ci ne vault rien astrologie
[Pg 66]
Toute la genealogie
D’Adam qui fust le premier homme
Mort prent se dit theologie
Tous fault mourir pour une pomme.

Vecy vostre dernier marche
Il convient que par cy passez
De tout soing serez despechie
Tel convoiste qui a assez

Marchant regardes par deca
Plusieurs pays avez cerchie
A pied a cheval de pieca
Vous n’en serez plus empeschie.

Ha maistre par la passeres
N’est ja besoing de vous defendre
Plus homme nespouvanteres
Apres Moyne sans plus attendre

Ou pensez vous cy fault entendre
Tantost aurez la bouche close
Homme n’est fors que vent et cendre
Vie donc est moult peu de chose.

Trop lavez ayme cest foleur
Et a mourir peu regarde
Tantost vous changerez couleur
Beaulte n’est que ymage farde

Gentil amoureux gent et frique
Qui vous cuidez de grant valeur
Vous estez pris la mort vous pique
Ce monde lairez a douleur.

Passez cure sans long songier
Je sans questes habandonne
Le vif le mort soulier menger
Mais vous serez aux vers donne

Vous fustes jadis ordonne
Miroir dautruy et exemplaire
De voz faitz serez guerdonne
A toute peine est deu salaire.

Sur tout du jour de la naissance
Convient chascun a mort offrir
Fol est qui n’en a congnoissance
Qui plus vit plus a assouffrir
[Pg 67]
Petit enfant naguerez ne
Au monde aures peu de plaisance
A la danse sera mene
Comme autre car mort a puissance.

Noble Royne de beau corsage
Gente et joyeuse a ladvenant
Jay de par le grant maistre charge
De vous enmener maintenant

Et comme bien chose advenant
Ceste danse commenseres
Faictes devoir au remenant
Vous qui vivez ainsi feres.

C’est bien chasse quand on pourchasse
Chose a son ame meritoire
Car au derrain mort tout enchasse
Ceste vie est moult transitoire

Gentille femme de chevalier
Que tant aymes deduit et chasse
Les engins vous fault habiller
Et suyvre le train de ma trasse.

Se vous avez sans fiction
Tout vostre temps servi à Dieu
Du cueur en sa religion
La quelle vous avez vestue

Celuy qui tous biens retribue
Vous recompenserer loyalment
A son vouloir en temps et lieu
Bien fait requiert bon payment.

Franciscan nun.
Se vos prieres sont bien dignes
Elles vous vauldront devant Dieu
Rien ne vallent soupirs ne signes
Bone operacion tient lieu

Femme de grande devocion
Cloez voz heures et matines
Et cessez contemplacion
Car jamais nyres a matines.

Dictez jeune femme a la cruche
Renommée bonne chambriere
Respondez au moins quant on huche
Sans tenir si rude maniere
[Pg 68]
Vous nirez plus a la riviere
Baver au four na la fenestre
Cest cy vostre journee derniere
Ausy tost meurt servant que maistre.

Cest belle chose de tenir
Lestat ou on est appellee
Et soy tousjours bien maintenir
Vertus est tout par tout louee.

Femme vesve venez avant
Et vous avancez de venir
Vous veez les aultres davant
Il convient une fois finir.

Lying-in nurse.
Venez ca garde dacouchees
Dresse aves maintz bainz perdus
Et ses cortines attachees
Ou estoient beaux boucques pendus

Biens y ont estez despendus
Tant de motz ditz que cest ung songe
Qui seront cher vendus
En la fin tout mal vient en ronge.

Aux camps ni rez plus soir ne matin
Veiller brebis ne garder bestes
Rien ne sera de vous demain
Apres les veilles sont les festes

Pas ne vous oublieray derriere
Venez apres moy sa la main
Entendez plaisante bergiere
Ou marcande cy main a main.

Old woman.
Et vous madame la gourree
Vendu avez maintz surplis
Donc de largent est fourree
Et en sont voz coffres remplis

Apres tous souhaitz acomplis
Convient tout laisser et ballier
Selon la robe on fait le plis
A tel potaige tel cuiller.

Est condannee comme meurtriere
A mourir ne vivra plus gaire
Je la maine en son cimitiere
Cest belle chose de bien faire
[Pg 69]
Oyez oyez on vous fait scavoir
Que ceste vielle sorciere
A fait mourir et decepvoir
Plusieurs gens en mainte maniere.

In the cut of the adoration of the shepherds their names are introduced as follows: Gobin le gay; le beau Roger; Aloris; Ysauber; Alison, and Mahault. The same cut is in two or three other Horæ mentioned in this list.

No. VII. “Heures à l’usaige de Rouan. Simon Vostre, 1508, 8vo.” With the same Danse Macabre.

No. VIII. “Horæ ad usum Romanum. Thielman Kerver,” 1508, 8vo. Vellum. With the same Danse Macabre.

No. IX. “Hore christofere virginis Marie secundum usum Romanum ad longum absque aliquo recursu, &c.” Parisiis. Simon Vostre, 1508, 8vo. M. Peignot has given a very minute description of this volume with a list of the different persons in the Danse Macabre.

No. X. “Heures à l’usage de ... Ant. Verard,” 1509, 8vo. with the same Danse Macabre.

No. XI. “Heures à l’usaige d’Angers. Simon Vostre,” 1510, 8vo. With the same Danse Macabre. Particularly described by M. Peignot.

No. XII. “Heures à l’usaige de Rome. Guil. Godar,” 1510, large 8vo. vellum illuminated. A magnificent book. It contains the Danse Macabre as in No. I. But it is remarkable for a third Dance of Death on the margins at bottom, consisting of small compartments with a single figure, but unaccompanied in the usual manner by Death, who, in various shapes and attitudes, is occasionally introduced. The characters are the following, without the arrangement commonly observed, and here given in the order in which they occur. 1. La Prieuse. 2. La Garde dacouche. 3. L’Abesse. 4. Le Promoteur. 5. Le Conestable. 6. Le Moine, without a label. 7. La Vielle Demoiselle. 8. La Baillive. 9. La[Pg 70] Duchesse. 10. Le Sergent. 11. La Nourrice. 12. La femme du Chevallier. 13. La Damoiselle. 14. Le Maistre descole. 15. La Femme du village. 16. La Rescomanderese. 17. La Revenderese. 18. Le Laboureur. 19. La Bourgoise. 20. L’Usurier. 21. Le Pelerin. 22. Le Berger. 23. La Religieuse. 24. L’Home d’armes. 25. La Sorciere. 26. Le Petit enfant. 27. Le Clerc. 28. Le Patriarche. 29. Le Cardinal. 30. L’Empereur. 31. Le Roy. 32. La Marchande. 33. Le Curé. 34. La Theologienne. 35. La Jeune fille. 36. Le Sot. 37. Le Hallebardier. 38. La Pucelle vierge. 39. L’Hermite. 40. L’Escuier. 41. La Chamberiere. 42. La Femme de lescuier. 43. La Cordeliere. 44. La Femme veuve. 45. Le Chartreux. 46. La Royne. 47. La Regente. 48. La Bergere. 49. L’Advocat. 50. L’Espousée. 51. La Femme amoureuse. 52. La Nouvelle Mariee. 53. Le Medecin. Wherever the figure of Death is introduced, he is accompanied with the motto “Amort, amort.”

No. XIII. “Hore ad usum Romanum. Thielman Kerver,” 1511, 8vo. Vellum, with the Danse Macabre.

No. XIV. “Heures à l’usage de Langres. Simon Vostre,” 1512, 8vo. In the possession of Mons. G. M. Raymond, who has described it in Millin’s “Magazin Encyclopédique,” 1814, tom. iii. p. 13. Mentioned also by M. Peignot.

No. XV. “Heures à l’usage de Paris. Simon Vostre,” 1515, 8vo. With the Danse Macabre, and the other mentioned in No. I.

No. XVI. “Heures de Nostre Dame à l’usage de Troyes.” Th. Englard, pour G. Goderet, vers 1520. Vellum. Described by M. Peignot.

No. XVII. “Hore ad usum Romanum. Thielman Kerver,” 1526, 8vo. Vellum. A beautiful volume. Prefixed to the Danse Macabre are two prints of the Trois morts et trois vifs.

In all the above Horæ the Macaber Dance is represented nearly alike in design, the variations being[Pg 71] chiefly in the attitudes of the figures, which are cut on different blocks, except in a few instances where the printers have borrowed the latter from each other. Thus Vostre uses Verard’s, and Pigouchet Godar’s. The number of the subjects also varies, Vostre and Kerver having more than Verard, Godar, and Pigouchet.

Exceptions to the above manner of representing the Macaber Dance, occur in two Horæ of singular rarity, and which are therefore worthy of particular notice.

No. XVIII. “Officium beatæ Mariæ Virginis ad usum Romane ecclesie. Impressum Lugduni expensis Bonini de Boninis Dalmatini,” die xx martij, 1499, 12mo. On vellum. Here the designs are very different, and three of the subjects are placed at the bottom of the page. They consist of the following personages, there being no females among them. It was reprinted by the same printer in 1521.

Papa  Astrologus
Imperator  Cives
Cardinales.  Canonicus.
Archiepiscopus  Scutifer
Eques  Abbas
Episcopus.  Pretor.
Rex  Monachus
Patriarche  Usurarius
Capitanus.  Medicus.
Plebanus  Mercator
Laborator  Certosinus
Frater Minor.  Nuncius.
Amans  Puer
Advocatus  Sacristanus
Joculator.  Heremita.

No. XIX. “Hore beate Marie Virginis ad usum insignis ac preclare ecclesie Sarum cum figuris passionis mysterium representātibus recenter additis. Impresse Parisiis per Johannem Bignon pro honesto viro Richardo[Pg 72] Fakes, London, librario, et ibidem commorante cymeterie Sancti Pauli sub signo A. B. C.” 1521. A ledger-like 12mo. This Macaber Dance is unfortunately imperfect in the only copy of the book that has occurred. The figures that remain are those of the Pope, King, Cardinal, Patriarch, Judge, Archbishop, Knight, Mayor, and Earl.

Under each subject are Lydgate’s verses, with some slight variation; and it is therefore very probable that we have here a copy, as to many of the figures, of the Dance that was painted at St. Paul’s in compartments like the other Macaber Dance, and not as the group in Dugdale, which has been copied from a wood-cut at the end of Lydgate’s “Fall of Prynces.” As all the before-mentioned Horæ were printed at Paris, with one exception only, and many of them at a very early period, it is equally probable that they may be copies of the Dance at the Innocents, unless a preference in that respect should be given to the figures in the French editions of the Danse Macabre.

Manuscript Horæ, or books of prayers, which contain the Macaber Dance are in the next place deserving of our attention. These are extremely rare, and two only have occurred on the present occasion.

1. A manuscript prayer book of the fifteenth century is very briefly described by M. Peignot,[88] which he states to be the only one that has come to his knowledge.

2. An exquisitely beautiful volume, in large 8vo. bound in brass and velvet. It is a Latin Horæ, elegantly written in Roman type at the beginning of the 16th century. It has a profusion of paintings, every page being decorated with a variety of subjects. These consist of stories from scripture, sports, games, trades, grotesques, &c. &c. the several employments of the[Pg 73] months, which have also the signs of the zodiac, are worth describing, there being two sets for each month.

January.  1. A man sitting at table, a servant bringing in a dish of viands. The white tablecloth is beautifully diapered. 2. Boys playing at the game called Hockey.
February.  1. A man warming himself by a fire, a domestic bringing in faggots. 2. Men and women at table, two women cooking additional food in the same apartment.
March.  1. A man pruning trees. 2. A priest confirming a group of people.
April.  1. A man hawking. 2. A procession of pilgrims.
May.  1. A gentleman and lady on the same horse. 2. Two pairs of lovers: one of the men plays on a flute, the other holds a hawk on his fist.
June.  1. A woman shearing sheep. 2. A bridal procession.
July.  1. A man with a scythe about to reap. He drinks from his leathern bottle. 2. Boys and girls at the sport called Threading the needle.
August.  1. A man reaping with a sickle. 2. Blind man’s buff.
September.  1. A man sowing. 2. The games of hot cockles and ...
October.  1. Making wine. 2. Several men repairing casks, the master of the vineyard directing.
November.  1. A man threshing acorns to feed his hogs. 2. Tennis.
December.  1. Singeing a hog. 2. Boys pelting each other with snow balls.

The side margins have the following Danse Macabre,[Pg 74] consisting as usual of two figures only. Papa, Imperator, Cardinalis, Rex, Archiepiscopus, Comestabilis, Patriarcha, Eques auratus, Episcopus, Scutarius, Abbas, Prepositus, Astrologus, Mercator, Cordiger, Satelles, Usurarius, Advocatus, Mimus, Infans, Heremita.

The margins at bottom contain a great variety of emblems of mortality. Among these are the following:

1. A man presents a mirror to a lady, in which her face is reflected as a death’s head.

2. Death shoots an arrow at a man and woman.

3. A man endeavouring to escape from Death is caught by him.

4. Death transfixes a prostrate warrior with a spear.

5. Two very grotesque Deaths, the one with a scythe, the other with a spade.

6. A group of five Deaths, four dancing a round, the other drumming.

7. Death on a bull, holding a dart in his hand.

8. Death in a cemetery running away with a coffin and pick-axe.

9. Death digging a grave for two shrouded bodies on the ground.

10. Death seizing a fool.

11. Death seizing the master of a family.

12. Death seizing Caillette, a celebrated fool mentioned by Rabelais, Des Periers, &c. He is represented in the French translation of the Ship of Fools.

13. Death seizing a beggar.

14. Death seizing a man playing at tennis.

15. Death striking the miller going to his mill.

16. Death seizing Ragot, a famous beggar in the reign of Louis XII. He is mentioned by Rabelais.

This precious volume is in the present writer’s possession.

Other manuscripts connected with the Macaber Dance are the following:

1. No. 1849, a Colbert MS. in the King of France’s[Pg 75] library, appears to have been written towards the end of the fifteenth century, and is splendidly illuminated on vellum with figures of men and women led by Death, the designs not much differing from those in Verard’s printed copy.

2. Another manuscript in the same library, formerly No. 543 in that of Saint Victor, is at the end of a small volume of miscellanies written on paper about the year 1520; the text resembles that of the immediately preceding article, and occasionally varies from the printed editions. It has no illuminations. These are the only manuscript Macaber Dances in the royal library at Paris.

3. A manuscript of the Dance of Death, in German, is in the library of Munich. See Dr. Dibdin’s bibliographical Tour, vol. iii. 278; and Vonder Hagen’s history of German poetry. Berlin, 1812, 8vo. p. 459. The date of 1450 is given to this manuscript on the authority of Docen in his Miscellanies, vol. ii. p. 148, and new Literary Advertizer for 1806, No. 22, p. 348. Vonder Hagen also states that Docen has printed it in his Miscellanies, p. 349-52, and 412-16.

4. A manuscript in the Vatican, No. 314. See Vonder Hagen, ubi supra, who refers to Adelung, vol. ii. p. 317-18, where the beginning and other extracts are given.

5. In the Duke de la Valliere’s catal. No. 2801, is “La Danse Macabre par personnages, in 4to. Sur papier du xv siecle, contenant 12 feuillets.”

In the course of this enquiry no manuscript, decorated with a regular series of a Dance of Death, has been discovered.

The Abbé Rive left, in manuscript, a bibliography of all the editions of the Macaber Dance, which is at present, with other manuscripts by the Abbé, in the hands of M. Achard, a bookseller at Marseilles. See Peignot, Diction. de Bibliologie, iii. 284.

The following articles, accompanied by letter-press,[Pg 76] and distinguishable from single prints, appear to relate to the Macaber Dance.

1. The Dance and song of Death is among books licensed to John Awdeley.[89]

2. “The roll of the Daunce of Death, with pictures and verses upon the same,” was entered on the Stationers’ books, 5th Jan. 1597, by Thomas Purfort, sen. and jun. The price was 6d. This, as well as that licensed to Awdeley, was in all probability the Dance at St. Paul’s.

3. “Der Todten Tantz au Hertzog Georgens zu Sachsen schloss zu Dresden befindlich.” i. e. “Here is found the Dance of Death on the Saxon palace of Duke George at Dresden.” It consists of twenty-seven characters, as follow: 1. Death leading the way; in his right hand he holds a drinking glass or cup, and in his left a trumpet which he is blowing. 2. Pope. 3. Cardinal. 4. Abbot. 5. Bishop. 6. Canon. 7. Priest. 8. Monk. 9. Death beating a drum with bones. 10. Emperor. 11. King. 12. Duke. 13. Nobleman. 14. Knight. 15. Gentleman. 16. Judge. 17. Notary. 18. Soldier. 19. Peasant. 20. Beggar. 21. Abbess. 22. Duchess. 23. Old woman. 24. Old man. 25. Child. 26. Old beggar. 27. Death with a scythe. This is a single print in the Chronicle of Dresden, by Antony Wecken, Dresden, 1680, folio, already mentioned in p. 44.

4. In the catalogue of the library of R. Smith, which was sold by auction in 1682, is this article “Dance of Death, in the cloyster of Paul’s, with figures, very old.” It was sold for six shillings to Mr. Mearne.

5. A sort of Macaber Dance, in a Swiss almanack, consisting of eight subjects, and intitled “Ein Stuck aus dem Todten tantz,” or, “a piece of a Dance of Death:” engraved on wood by Zimmerman with great[Pg 77] spirit, after some very excellent designs. They are accompanied with dialogues between Death and the respective characters. 1. The Postilion on horseback. Death in a huge pair of jack-boots, seizes him by the arm with a view to unhorse him. 2. The Tinker. Death, with a skillet on his head, plunders the tinker’s basket. 3. The Hussar on horseback, accompanied by Death, also mounted, and, like his comrade, wearing an enormous hat with a feather. 4. The Physician. Death habited as a modern beau, with chapeau-bras, brings his urinal to the Doctor for inspection. 5. The fraudulent Innkeeper in the act of adulterating a cask of liquor is seized and throttled by a very grotesque Death in the habit of an alewife, with a vessel at her back. 6. The Ploughman, holding his implements of husbandry, is seized by Death, who sits on a plough and carries a scythe in his left hand. 7. The Grave-digger, is pulled by Death into the grave which he has just completed. 8. The lame Messenger, led by Death. The size of the print 11 by 6½ inches.

6. Papillon states that Le Blond, an artist, then living at Orleans, engraved the Macaber Dance on wood for the Dominotiers, or venders of coloured prints for the common people, and that the sheets, when put together, form a square of three feet, and have verses underneath each figure.[90]



[Pg 78]


Hans Holbein’s connexion with the Dance of Death.—A dance of peasants at Basle.—Lyons edition of the Dance of Death, 1538.—Doubts as to any prior edition.—Dedication to the edition of 1538.—Mr. Ottley’s opinion of it examined.—Artists supposed to have been connected with this work.—Holbein’s name in none of the old editions.—Reperdius.


The name of Holbein has been so strongly interwoven with the Dance of Death that the latter is seldom mentioned without bringing to recollection that extraordinary artist.

It would be a great waste of time and words to dwell specifically on the numerous errors of such writers as Papillon, Fournier, and several others, who have inadvertently connected Holbein with the Macaber Dance, or to correct those of travellers who have spoken of the subject as it appeared in any shape in the city of Basle. The opinions of those who have either supposed or stated that Holbein even retouched or repaired the old painting at Basle, are entitled to no credit whatever, unaccompanied as they are by necessary proofs. The names of the artists who were employed on that painting have been already adverted to, and are sufficiently detailed in the volumes of Merian and Peignot; and it is therefore unnecessary to repeat them.

Evidence, but of a very slight and unsatisfactory nature, has been adduced that Holbein painted some kind of a Death’s Dance on the walls of a house at Basle. Whether this was only a copy of the old Macaber [Pg 79]subject, or some other of his own invention, cannot now be ascertained. Bishop Burnet, in his letters from Switzerland,[91] states that “there is a Dance which he painted on the walls of a house where he used to drink; yet so worn out that very little is now to be seen, except shapes and postures, but these shew the exquisiteness of the hand.” It is much to be regretted that this painting was not in a state to have enabled the bishop to have been more particular in his description. He then mentions the older Dance, which he places “along the side of the convent of the Augustinians (meaning the Dominicans), now the French church, so worn out some time ago that they ordered the best painter they had to lay new colour on it, but this is so ill done, that one had rather see the dark shadow of Holbein’s pencil than this coarse work.” Here he speaks obscurely, and adopts the error that Holbein had some hand in it.

Keysler, a man of considerable learning and ingenuity, and the author of a very excellent book of travels, mentions the old painting at Basle, and adds, that “Holbein had also drawn and painted a Death’s Dance, and had likewise painted, as it were, a duplicate of this piece on another house, but which time has entirely obliterated.”[92] We are here again left entirely in the dark as to the first mentioned painting, and its difference from the other. Charles Patin, an earlier authority than the two preceding travellers, and who was at Basle in 1671, informs us that strangers behold, with a considerable degree of pleasure, the walls of a house at the corner of a little street in the above town, which are covered from top to bottom with paintings by Holbein, that would have done honour to the commands of a great prince, whilst they are, in fact, nothing more[Pg 80] than the painter’s reward to the master of a tavern for some meals that he had obtained.[93] In the list of Holbein’s works, in his edition of Erasmus’s Moriæ encomion, he likewise mentions the painting on a house in the Eisengassen, or Iron-street, near the Rhine bridge, and for which he is said to have received forty florins,[94] perhaps the same as that mentioned in his travels.

This painting was still remaining in the year 1730, when Mr. Breval saw it, and described it as a dance of boors, but in his opinion unworthy, as well as the Dance of Death in that city, of Holbein’s hand.[95] These accounts of the paintings on houses are very obscure and contradictory, and the only way to reconcile them is by concluding that Holbein might have decorated the walls of some houses with a Dance of Death, and of others with a dance of peasants.[96] The latter subject would indeed be very much to the taste of an inn-keeper, and the nature of his occupation. Some of the writers on engraving have manifested their usual inaccuracy on the subject of Holbein’s Dance of Peasants. Joubert says it has been engraved, but that it is “a peu près introuvable.”[97] Huber likewise makes them extremely rare, and adds, without the slightest authority, that Holbein engraved them.[98] There is, however, no doubt that his beautiful pencil was employed on this subject in various ways, of which the following specimens are worthy of being recorded. 1. In a set of initial letters frequently used in books[Pg 81] printed at Basle and elsewhere. 2. In an edition of Plutarch’s works, printed by Cratander at Basle, 1530, folio, and afterwards introduced into Polydore Vergil’s “Anglicæ historiæ libri viginti sex,” printed at Basle, 1540, in folio, where, on p. 3 at bottom, the subject is very elegantly treated. It occurs also, in other books printed in the same city. 3. In an edition of the “Nugæ” of Nicolas Borbonius, Basle, 1540, 12mo. at p. 17, there is a dance of peasants replete with humour: and, 4. A vignette in the first page of an edition of Apicius, printed at Basle, 1541, 4to. without the printer’s name.

After all, there seems to be a fatality of ambiguity in the account of the Basle paintings ascribed to Holbein; and that of the Dance of Death has not only been placed by several writers on the walls, inside and outside, of houses, but likewise in the fish-market; on the walls of the church-yard of St. Peter; and even in the cathedral itself of Basle; and, therefore, amidst this chaos of description, it is absolutely impossible to arrive at any conclusion that can be deemed in any degree satisfactory.

We are now to enter upon the investigation of a work which has been somewhat erroneously denominated a “Dance of Death,” by most of the writers who have mentioned it. Such a title, however, is not to be found in any of its numerous editions. It is certainly not a dance, but rather, with slight exception, a series of admirable groups of persons of various characters, among whom Death is appropriately introduced as an emblem of man’s mortality. It is of equal celebrity with the Macaber Dance, but in design and execution of considerable superiority, and with which the name of Hans Holbein has been so intimately connected, and that great painter so generally considered as its inventor, that even to doubt his claim to it will seem quite [Pg 82]heretical to those who may have founded their opinion on internal evidence with respect to his style of composition.

In the year 1538 there appeared a work with the following title, “Les simulachres et historiees faces de la mort, autant elegamment pourtraictes, que artificiellement imaginées.” A Lyon Soubz lescu de Coloigne, 4to. and at the end, “Excudebant Lugduni Melchior et Gaspar Trechsel fratres, 1538.” It has forty-one cuts, most exquisitely designed and engraved on wood, in a manner which several modern artists only of England and Germany have been competent to rival. As to the designs of these truly elegant prints, no one who is at all skilled in the knowledge of Holbein’s style and manner of grouping his figures, would hesitate immediately to ascribe them to that artist. Some persons have imagined that they had actually discovered the portrait of Holbein in the subject of the nun and her lover; but the painter, whoever he may have been, is more likely to be represented in the last cut as one of the supporters of the escutcheon of Death. In these designs, which are wholly different from the dull and oftentimes disgusting Macaber Dance, which is confined, with little exception, to two figures only, we have the most interesting assemblage of characters, among whom the skeletonized Death, with all the animation of a living person, forms the most important personage; sometimes amusingly ludicrous, occasionally mischievous, but always busy and characteristically occupied.

Doubts have arisen whether the above can be regarded as the first edition of these justly celebrated engravings in the form of a volume accompanied with text. In the “Notices sur les graveurs,” Besançon, 1807, 8vo. a work ascribed to M. Malpé,[99] it is stated to have been originally published at Basle in 1530;[Pg 83] and in M. Jansen’s “Essai sur l’origine de la gravure,” &c. Paris, 1808, 8vo. a work replete with plagiarisms, and the most glaring mistakes, the same assertion is repeated. This writer adds, but unsupported by any authority, that soon afterwards another edition appeared with Flemish verses. Both these authors, following their blind leader Papillon, have not ventured to state that they ever saw this supposed edition of 1530, and it may indeed be asked, who has? Or in what catalogue of any library is it recorded? Malpé acknowledges that the earliest edition he had seen was that of 1538. M. Fuseli, in his edition of Pilkington’s Dictionary of Painters, has appended a note to the article for Hans Holbein, where, alluding perhaps to the former edition of the present dissertation, he remarks, that “Holbein’s title to the Dance of Death would not have been called in question, had the ingenious author of the dissertation on that subject been acquainted with the German edition.” This gentleman seems, however, to have inadvertently forgotten a former opinion which he had given in one of his lectures, where he says, “The scrupulous precision, the high finish, and the Titianesque colour of Hans Holbein would make the least part of his excellence, if his right to that series of emblematic groups known under the name of Holbein’s Dance of Death had not, of late, been too successfully disputed.” M. Fuseli would have rendered some service to this question by favouring us with an explicit account of the above German edition, if he really intended by it a complete work; but it is most likely that he adverted to some separate impressions of the cuts with printed inscriptions on them, but which are only the titles of the respective characters or subjects. To such impressions M. Malpé has certainly referred, adding that they have, at top, passages from the Bible in German, and verses at bottom in the same language. Jansen follows him as to the verses at bottom only. Now, on[Pg 84] forty-one of these separate impressions, in the collection of the accurate and laborious author of the best work on the origin and early history of engraving that has ever appeared, and on several others in the present writer’s possession, neither texts of scripture, nor verses at bottom, are to be found, and nothing more than the above-mentioned German titles of the characters. M. Huber, in his “Manuel des curieux et des amateurs de l’art,” vol. i. p. 155, after inaccurately stating that Holbein engraved these cuts, proceeds to observe, that in order to form a proper judgment of their merit, it is necessary to see the earliest impressions, printed on one side only of the paper; and refers to twenty-one of them in the cabinet of M. Otto, of Leipsig, but without stating any letter-press as belonging to them, or regarding them as a part of any German edition of the work.

In the public library of Basle there are proof impressions, on four leaves, of all the cuts which had appeared in the edition of 1538, except that of the astrologer. Over each is the name of the subject printed in German, and without any verses or letter-press whatever at bottom.

It is here necessary to mention that the first known edition in which these cuts were used, namely, that of 1538, was accompanied with French verses, descriptive of the subjects. In an edition that soon afterwards appeared, these French verses were translated into Latin by George Æmylius, a German divine; and in another edition, published at Basle, in 1554, the Latin verses were continued. In both these cases, had there been any former German verses, would they not have been retained in preference?

There is a passage, however, in Gesner’s Pandectæ, a supplemental volume of great rarity to his well-known Bibliotheca, that slightly adverts to a German edition of this work, and at the same time connects Holbein’s name with it. It is as follows: “Imagines mortis [Pg 85]expressæ ab optimo pictore Johanne Holbein cum epigrammatibus Geo. Æmylii, excusæ Francofurti et Lugduni apud Frellonios, quorum editio plures habet picturas. Vidi etiam cum metris Gallicis et Germanicis si bene memini.”[100] But Gesner writes from imperfect recollection only, and specifies no edition in German. It is most probable that he refers to an early copy of the cuts on a larger scale with a good deal of text in German, and printed and perhaps engraved by Jobst Denecker, at Augsburg, 1544, small folio.

The forty-one separate impressions of the cuts in the collection of Mr. Ottley, as well as those in the present writer’s possession, are printed on one side of the paper only, another argument that they were not intended to be used in any book; and although they are extremely clear and distinct, many of them that were afterwards used in the various editions of the book are not less brilliant in appearance. It is well known to those who are conversant with engravings on wood, that the earliest impressions are not always the best; a great deal depending on the care and skill with which they were taken from the blocks, and not a little on the quality of the paper. As they were most likely engraved at Basle by an excellent artist, of whom more will be said hereafter, and at the instance of the Lyons booksellers or publishers, it is very probable that a few impressions would be taken off with German titles only for the use of the people of Basle, or other persons using the German language. Proofs might also be wanted for the accommodation of amateurs or other curious persons, and therefore it would be only necessary to print the names or titles of the subjects. This conjecture derives additional support from the well-known literary intercourse between the cities of Lyons and Basle, and from their small distance from each other. On the whole,[Pg 86] therefore, the Lyons edition of 1538 may be safely regarded as the earliest, until some other shall make its appearance with a well ascertained prior date, either in German or any other language.

In the edition of 1538 there is a dedication, not in any of the others, and of very considerable importance. It is a pious, quaint, and jingling address to Jeanne de Touszele, Abbess of the convent of St. Peter, at Lyons, in which the author, whose name is obscurely stated to be Ouzele, compliments the good lady as the pattern of true religion, from her intimate acquaintance with the nature of Death, rushing, as it were, into his hands, by her entrance into the sepulchre of a cloister. He enlarges on the various modes of representing the mortality of human nature, and contends that the image of Death has nothing terrific in the eyes of the Christian. He maintains that there is no better method of depicting mortality than by a dead person, especially by those images which so frequently occur on sepulchral monuments. Adverting then to the figures in the present work he regrets the death of him who has here conceived [imaginé] such elegant designs, greatly exceeding all other patterns of the kind, in like manner as the paintings of Apelles and Zeuxis have surpassed those of modern times. He observes that these funereal histories, accompanied by their grave descriptions in rhyme, induce the admiring spectators to behold the dead as alive, and the living as dead; which leads him to believe that Death, apprehensive lest this admirable painter should exhibit him so lively that he would no longer be feared as Death, and that he should thereby become immortal himself, had hastened his days to an end, and thus prevented him from completing many other figures, which he had already designed, especially that of the carman crushed and wounded beneath his demolished waggon, the wheels and horses of which are so frightfully overthrown that as much horror is excited in beholding[Pg 87] their downfall, as pleasure in contemplating the lickerishness of one of the Deaths, who is clandestinely sucking with a reed the wine in a bursting cask.[101] That in these imperfect subjects no one had dared to put the finishing hand, on account of the boldness of their outline, shadow, and perspective, delineated in so graceful a manner, that by its contemplation one might indulge either in a joyful sorrow, or a melancholy pleasure. “Let antiquaries then,” says he, “and lovers of ancient imagery discover any thing comparable to these figures of Death, in which we behold the Empress of all living souls from the creation, trampling over Cæsars, Emperors, and Kings, and with her scythe mowing down the tyrannical heroes of the earth.” He concludes with admonishing the Abbess to take in good part this his sad but salutary present, and to persuade her devout nuns not only to keep it in their cells and dormitories, but in the cabinet of their memory, therein pursuing the counsel of St. Jerom, &c.

The singularity of this curious and interesting dedication is deserving of the utmost attention. It seems very strongly, if not decisively, to point out the edition to which it is prefixed, as the first; and what is of still more importance, to deprive Holbein of any claim to the invention of the work. It most certainly uses such terms of art as can scarcely be mistaken as conveying any other sense than that of originality in design. There cannot be words of plainer import than those which describe the painter, as he is expressly called, delineating[Pg 88] the subjects, and leaving several of them unfinished: and whoever the artist might have been, it clearly appears that he was not living in 1538. Now it is well known that Holbein’s death did not take place before the year 1554, during the plague which ravaged London at that time. If then the expressions used in this dedication signify any thing, it may surely be asked what becomes of any claim on the part of Holbein to the designs of the work in question, or does it not at least remain in a situation of doubt and difficulty?

It is, however, with no small hesitation that the author of the present dissertation still ventures to dispute, and even to deny, the title of Holbein to the invention of this Dance of Death, in opposition to his excellent and valuable friend Mr. Ottley, whose opinion in matters of taste, as well as on the styles of the different masters in the old schools of painting and engraving may be justly pronounced to be almost oracular. This gentleman has thus expressed himself: “It cannot be denied that were there nothing to oppose to this passage, it would seem to constitute very strong evidence that Holbein, who did not die until the year 1554, was not the author of the designs in question; but I am firmly persuaded that it refers in reality, not to the designer, but to the artist who had been employed, under his direction, to engrave the designs in wood, and whose name, there appears reason to believe, was Hans Lutzenberger.[102] Holbein, I am of opinion, had, shortly before the year 1538, sold the forty-one blocks which had been some time previously executed, to the booksellers of Lyons, and had at the same time given him a promise of others which he had lately designed, as a continuation of the series, and were then in the hands of the wood-engraver. The wood-engraver, I[Pg 89] suppose, died before he had completed his task, and the correspondent of the bookseller, who had probably deferred his publication in expectation of the new blocks, wrote from Basle to Lyons to inform his friend of the disappointment occasioned by the artist’s death. It is probable that this information was not given very circumstantially, as to the real cause of the delay, and that the person who wrote the dedication of the book might have believed the designer and engraver to be one and the same person: it is still more probable that he thought the distinction of little consequence to his reader, and willingly omitted to go into details which would have rendered his quaint moralizing in the above passage less admissible. Besides, the additional cuts there spoken of (eight cuts of the Dance of Death and four of boys) were afterwards finished (doubtless by another wood-engraver, who had been brought up under the eye of Holbein), and are not apparently inferior, whether in respect of design or execution to the others. In short, these designs have always been ascribed to Holbein, and designedly ranked amongst his finest works.”[103]

Mr. Ottley having admitted that the edition of the Dance of Death, printed in quarto, at Lyons, 1538, is the earliest with which we are at present acquainted, proceeds to state his belief that the cuts had been previously and certainly used at Basle. He then alludes to the supposed German edition, about the year 1530, but acknowledges that he had not been able to meet with or hear of any person who had seen it. He next introduces to his reader’s notice, and afterwards describes at large, a set of forty-one impressions, being the complete series of the edition of 1538, except one, and taken off with the greatest clearness and brilliancy of effect, on one side of the paper only, each cut having[Pg 90] over it its title printed in the German language, with moveable type. He thinks it possible that they may originally have had German verses underneath, and texts of Scripture above, in addition to the titles; a fact, he adds, not now to be ascertained, as the margins are clipped on the sides and at bottom. He says, it is greatly to be regretted that the blocks were never taken off with due diligence and good printing ink, after they got into the hands of the Lyons booksellers, and then introduces into his page two fac-similes of these cuts so admirably copied as to be almost undistinguishable from the originals.[104] One may, indeed, regret with Mr. Ottley the general carelessness of the old printers in their mode of taking off impressions from blocks of wood when introducing them into their books, and which is so very unequally practised that, as already observed, the impressions are often clearer and more distinct in later than in preceding editions. The works of the old designers and engravers would, in many cases, have been much more highly appreciated, if they had had the same justice done to them by the printers as the editorial taste and judgment of Mr. Ottley, combined with the skill of the workmen, have obtained in the decoration of his own book. With respect to the impressions of the cuts in question, when the blocks were in the hands of the Lyons booksellers, the fact is, that in some of their editions they are occasionally as fine as those separately printed off; and at the moment of making this remark, an edition, published in 1547, at Lyons, is before the writer, in which many of the prints are uncommonly clear and even brilliant, a circumstance owing, in a great degree, to the nature of the paper on which they are impressed.

It were almost to be wished that this perplexing evidence against Holbein’s title to the invention of the[Pg 91] work before us had never existed, and that he had consequently been left in the quiet possession of what so well accords with his exquisite pencil and extraordinary talents. True it is, that the person to whom we owe this stubborn testimony, has manifested a much more intimate acquaintance with the mode of conveying his pious ejaculations to the Lady Abbess in the quaintest language that could possibly have been chosen, than with the art of giving an accurate account of the prints in question. Yet it seems scarcely possible that he should have used the word imagined, which undoubtedly expresses originality of invention, and not the mere act of copying, if he had referred to an engraver on wood, whom he would not have dignified with the appellation of a painter on whom he was bestowing the highest possible eulogium. There would also have been much less occasion for the author’s hyperbolical fears on the part of Death in the case of an engraver, than in that of a painter. He has stated that the rainbow subject, meaning probably that of the Last Judgment, was left unfinished; but it appears among the engravings in his edition. He must, therefore, have referred to a painting, with which likewise the expression “bold shadows and perspective,” seem better to accord than with a slight engraving on wood. He had also seen the subject of the waggon with the wine casks in its unfinished state, and in this case we may almost with certainty pronounce it to have been a painting, as the cut of it does not appear in the first edition, furnishing, at the same time, an argument against Holbein’s claim; nor may it be unimportant to add that the dedicator, a religious person, and probably a man of some eminence, was much more likely to have been acquainted with the painter than with the engraver. The dedicator also stamps the work as originating at Lyons; and Frellon, its printer, in a complaint against a Venetian bookseller,[Pg 92] who pirated his edition, emphatically describes it as exclusively belonging to France.

Again, it is improbable that the dedicator, whoever he was, should have preferred complimenting the engraver of the cuts, who, with all his consummate skill, must, in point of rank and genius, be placed below the painter or designer; and it is at the same time remarkable that the name of Holbein is not adverted to in any of the early and genuine editions of the work, published at Lyons, or any other place, whilst his designs for the Bible have there been so pointedly noticed by his friend the poet Borbonius.

It would be of some importance, if it could be shown, that the engraver was dead in or before the year 1538, for that circumstance would contribute to strengthen Mr. Ottley’s opinion: but should it be found that he did not die in or before 1538, it would follow, of course, that the painter was the person adverted to in the dedication, and who consequently could not be Holbein. It becomes necessary, therefore, to endeavour at least to discover some other artist competent to the invention of the beautiful designs in question; and whether the attempt be successful or otherwise, it may, perhaps, be not altogether misplaced or unprofitable.

It must be recollected that Francis the First, on returning from his captivity at Pavia, imported with him a great many Italian and other artists, among whom were Lionardo da Vinci, Rosso, Primaticcio, &c. He is also known to have visited Lyons, a royal city at that time eminent in art of every kind, and especially in those of printing and engraving on wood; as the many beautiful volumes published at that place, and embellished with the most elegant decorations in the graphic art, will at this moment sufficiently testify. In an edition of the “Nugæ” of Nicolas Borbonius, the friend of Holbein, printed at Lyons, 1538, 8vo. are the following lines:

[Pg 93] De Hanso Ulbio, et Georgio Reperdio, pictoribus.
Videre qui vult Parrhasium cum Zeuxide,
Accersat à Britannia
Hansum Ulbium, et Georgium Reperdium.
Lugduno ab urbe Galliæ.

In these verses Reperdius is opposed to Holbein for the excellence of his art, in like manner as Parrhasius had been considered as the rival of Zeuxis.

After such an eulogium it is greatly to be regretted that notwithstanding a very diligent enquiry has been made concerning an artist, who, by the poet’s comparative view of him, is placed on the same footing with Holbein, and probably of the same school of painting, no particulars of his life or works have been discovered. It is clear from Borbonius’s lines that he was then living at Lyons, and it is extremely probable that he might have begun the work in question, and have died before he could complete it, and that the Lyons publishers might afterwards have employed Holbein to finish what was left undone, as well as to make designs for additional subjects which appeared in the subsequent editions. Thus would Holbein be so connected with the work as to obtain in future such notice as would constitute him by general report the real inventor of it. If then there be any validity in what is here stated concerning Reperdius, the difficulty and obscurity in the preface to the Lyons edition of the Dance of Death in 1538 will be removed, and Holbein remain in possession of a share at least in the composition of that inestimable work. The mark or monogram [monogram] on one of the cuts cannot possibly belong to Holbein, but may possibly be that of the engraver, of whom more hereafter.



[Pg 94]


Holbein’s Bible cuts.—Examination of the claim of Hans Lutzenberger as to the design or execution of the Lyons engravings of the Dance of Death.—Other works by him.


At this time the celebrated designs for the illustration of the Old Testament, usually denominated Holbein’s Bible, made their appearance, with the following title, “Historiarum veteris instrumenti icones ad vivum expressæ. Una cum brevi, sed quoad fieri potuit, dilucida earundem expositione. Lugduni, sub scuto Coloniensi MDXXXVIII.” 4to. They were several times republished with varied titles, and two additional cuts. Prefixed are some highly complimentary Latin verses by Holbein’s friend Nicholas Bourbon, better known by his Latinized name of Borbonius, who again introduces Parrhasius and Zeuxis in Elysium, and in conversation with Apelles, who laments that they had all been excelled by Holbein.

These lines by Borbonius do not appear, among others addressed by him to Holbein, in the first edition of his “Nugæ” in 1533, or indeed in any of the subsequent editions; but it is certain that Borbonius was at Lyons in 1538, and might then have been called on by the publishers of the designs, with whom he was intimately connected, for the commendatory verses.

The booksellers Frellon of Lyons, by some means with which we are not now acquainted, or indeed ever likely to be, became possessed of the copyright to these [Pg 95]designs for the Old Testament. It is very clear that they had previously been in possession of those for the Dance of Death, and, finding the first four of them equally adapted to a Bible, they accordingly, and for the purpose of saving expense, made use of them in this Bible, though with different descriptions, having, in all probability, employed the same engraver on wood as in the Dance of Death, a task to which he had already demonstrated himself to be fully competent. Now, if the Frellons had regarded Holbein as the designer of the “Simulachres et historiees faces de la Mort,” would they not rather have introduced into that work the complimentary lines of Borbonius on some painting by Holbein of a Dance of Death, and which will be hereafter more particularly adverted to, instead of inserting the very interesting and decisive dedication that has so emphatically referred to the then deceased painter of the above admirable composition?

Nor is it by any means a matter of certainty that Holbein was the designer of all the wood engravings belonging to the Bible in question. Whoever may take the pains to examine these biblical subjects with a strict and critical eye, will not only discover a very great difference in the style and drawing of them, but likewise a striking resemblance, in that respect, of several of them to those in the Dance of Death, as well as in the manner of engraving. The rest are in a bolder and broader style, in a careless but effective manner, corresponding altogether with such designs as are well ascertained to be Holbein’s, and of which it would be impossible to produce a single one, that in point of delicacy of outline, or composition, accords with those in the Dance;[105] and the judgment of those[Pg 96] who are best acquainted with the works of Holbein is appealed to on this occasion. It is, besides, extremely probable that the anonymous painter or designer of the Dance might have been employed also by the Frellons to execute a set of subjects for the Bible previously to his Death, and that Holbein was afterwards engaged to complete the work.

A comparison of the 8th subject in the “Simulachres, &c.” with that in the Bible for Esther I. II. where the canopy ornamented with fleurs-de-lis is the same in both, will contribute to strengthen the above conjecture, as will both the cuts to demonstrate their Gallic origin. It is most certain that the king sitting at table in the Simulachres is intended for Francis I. which, if any one should doubt, let him look upon the miniature of that king, copied at p. 214 in Clarke’s “Repertorium bibliographicum,” from a drawing in a French MS. belonging to M. Beckford, or at a wood-cut in fo. xcxix b. of “L’histoire de Primaleon de Grece.” Paris, 1550, folio, where the art in the latter will be found to resemble very much that in the “Simulachres.” The portraits also of Francis by Thomas De Leu, Boissevin, and particularly that in the portraits of illustrious men edited[Pg 97] by Beza at Geneva, may be mentioned for the like purpose.

The admission in the course of the preceding remarks that Holbein might have been employed in some of the additional cuts that appeared in the editions of the Lyons Dance of Death which followed that of 1538, may seem at variance with what has been advanced with respect to the Bible cuts ascribed to him. It is, however, by no means a matter of necessity that an artist with Holbein’s talents should have been resorted to for the purpose of designing the additional cuts to the Lyons work. There were, during the middle of the 16th century, several artists equally competent to the undertaking, both as to invention and execution, as is demonstrable, among numerous other instances, from the spurious, but beautiful, Italian copy of the original cuts; from the scarcely distinguishable copies of the Lyons Bible cuts in an edition put forth by John Stelsius at Antwerp, 1561, and from the works of several artists, both designers and wood-engravers, in the books published by the French, Flemish, and Italian booksellers at that period. An interesting catalogue raisonnè might be constructed, though with some difficulty, of such articles as were decorated with most exquisite and interesting embellishments. The above century was much richer in this respect than any one that succeeded it, displaying specimens of art that have only been rivalled, perhaps never outdone, by the very skilful engravers on wood of modern times.

Our attention will, in the next place, be required to the excellent engraver of the Dance of Death, the thirty-sixth cut of which represents the Duchess sitting up in bed, and accompanied with two figures of Death, one of which plays on a violin, whilst the other drags away the bed-clothes. On the base of one of the bed-posts is the mark or monogram [monogram], which has, among other artists, been inconsiderately ascribed to Holbein.[Pg 98] That it was intended to express the name of the designer cannot be supported by evidence of any kind. We must then seek for its meaning as belonging to the engraver, and whose name was, in all probability, Hans Leuczellberger or Lutzenberger, sometimes called Franck. M. de Mechel, the celebrated printseller and engraver at Basle, addressed a letter to M. de Murr, in which he states that on a proof sheet of an alphabet in the library in that city, containing several small figures of a Dance of Death, he had found the above name. M. Brulliot remarks that he had seen some of the letters of this alphabet, but had not perceived on them either the name of Lutzenberger, or the mark [monogram];[106] but M. de Mechel has not said that the mark was on the proof sheet, or on the letters themselves, but only the name of Lutzenberger, adding that the [monogram] on the cut of the Duchess will throw some light on the matter, and that Holbein, although this monogram has been usually ascribed to him, never expressed his name by it, but used for that purpose an H joined to a B; in which latter assertion M. de Mechel was by no means correct.

On another alphabet of a Dance of Peasants, in the possession of the writer of these pages, and undoubtedly by the same artists, M. de Mechel, to whom it was shown when in England, has written in pencil, the following memorandum: “[monogram] gravè par Hans (John) Lutzenberger, graveur en patrons à Basle, vivant là au commencement du 16me siecle;” but he has inadvertently transferred the remark to the wrong alphabet, though both were undoubtedly the work of the same artist, as well as a third alphabet, equally beautiful, of groups of children.

The late Pietro Zani, whose intimate experience in[Pg 99] whatever relates to the art of engraving, together with the vast number of prints that had passed under his observation, must entitle his opinions to the highest consideration, has stated, in more places than one in his “Enciclopedia Metodica,” that Holbein had no concern with the cuts of the Lyons Dance of Death, the engraving of which he decidedly ascribes to Hans Lutzenberger; and, without any reference to the inscription on the proof of one of the alphabets in the library at Basle before-mentioned, which he had probably neither seen nor heard of, mentions the copy of one of the alphabets which he had seen at Dresden, and at once consigns it to Lutzenberger. He promises to resume the subject at large in some future part of his immense work, which, if existing, has not yet made its appearance.

As the prints by this fine engraver are very few in number, and extremely rare, the following list of them may not be unacceptable.

1. An oblong wood engraving, in length 11 inches by 3½. It represents, on one side, Christ requiring the attention of a group of eight persons, consisting of a monk, a peasant with a flail, a female, &c. to a lighted taper on a candelabrum placed in the middle of the print; on the other side, a group of thirteen or fourteen persons, preceded by one who is looking into a pit in which is the word PLATO. Over his head is inscribed ARISTOTELES; he is followed by a pope, a bishop, monks, &c. &c.

2. Another oblong wood engraving, 6½ inches by 2½, in two compartments, divided by a pillar. In one, the Judgment of Solomon; in the other, Christ and the woman taken in adultery; he writes something on the ground with his finger. It has the date 1539.

3. Another, size as No. 2. An emperor is sitting in a court of justice with several spectators attending some trial. This is doubtful.

[Pg 100]4. Another oblong print, 10½ inches by 3, and in two compartments. 1. David prostrate before the Deity in the clouds, accompanied by Manasses and a youth, over whom is inscribed OFFEN SVNDER. 2. A pope on a throne delivering some book, perhaps letters of indulgence, to a kneeling monk. This very beautiful print has been called “The Traffic of Indulgences,” and is minutely and correctly described by Jansen.[107]

5. A print, 12 inches by 6, representing a combat in a wood between several naked persons and a troop of peasants armed with instruments of husbandry. Below on the left, the letters [monogram]. Annexed are two tablets, one of which is inscribed HANS LEVCZELLBVRGER FVRMSCHNIDER; on the other is an alphabet. Jansen has also mentioned this print.[108] Brulliot describes a copy of it in the cabinet of prints belonging to the King of Bavaria, in which, besides the name, is the date MDXXII.[109]

6. A print of a dagger or knife case, in length 9 inches. At top, a figure inscribed VENVS has a lighted torch in one hand and a horn in the other; she is accompanied by Cupid. In the middle two boys are playing, and at bottom three others standing, one with a helmet.

7. A copy of Albert Durer’s decollation of John the Baptist, with the mark H L reversed, is mentioned by Zani as certainly belonging to this artist.[110] In the index of names, he says, he finds his name thus written HANNS LVTZELBVRGER FORMSCHNIDER GENANT (chiamato) FRANCK, and calls him the true prince of engravers on wood.

8. An alphabet with a Dance of Death, the subjects[Pg 101] of which, with a few exceptions, are the same as those in the other Dance; the designs, however, occasionally vary. In delicacy of drawing, in strength of character and in skill as to engraving they may be justly pronounced superior to every thing of the kind, and their excellence will probably remain a long time unrivalled. The figures are so small as almost to require the aid of lenses, the size of each letter being only an inch square. Zani had seen and admired this alphabet at Dresden.[111]

9. Another alphabet by the same artists. It is a Dance of Peasants, intermixed with other subjects, some of which are not of the most delicate nature. They are smaller than the letters in the preceding article, and are probably connected in point of design with the Dance of Peasants that Holbein is said to have painted at Basle.

10. Another alphabet, also by the same artists. This is in all respects equal in beauty and merit to the others, and exhibits groups of boys in the most amusing and playful attitudes and employments. The size of the letters is little more than half an inch square. These children much resemble those which Holbein probably added to the later editions of the Lyons engravings.[112]

The proofs of the above alphabets, may have been deposited by Lutzenberger in the public library of his native city. Whether they were cut on wood or on metal may admit of a doubt; but there is reason to believe that the old printers and type-cutters occasionally used blocks of metal instead of wood for their figured initial letters, and the term formschneider equally applies to those who engraved in relief on either of those[Pg 102] materials. Nothing can exceed the beauty and spirit of the design in these alphabets, nor the extreme delicacy and accurate minuteness of the engraving.

The letters in these respective alphabets were intended for the use of printers, and especially those of Basle, as Cratander, Bebelius, and Isingrin. Copies and imitations of them are to be found in many books printed at Zurich, Strasburg, Vienna, Augsburg, Frankfort, &c. and a few even in books printed at London by Waley, Purslowe, Marsh, and Nicholson, particularly in a quarto edition of Coverdale’s Bible, if printed in the latter city; and one of them, a capital A, is in an edition of Stowe’s Survey of London, 1618, 4to.

There is an unfortunate ambiguity connected with the marks that are found on ancient engravings in wood, and it has been a very great error on the part of all the writers who treat on such engravings, in referring the marks that accompany them to the block-cutters, or as the Germans properly denominate them the formschneiders, whilst, perhaps, the greatest part of them really belong to the designers, as is undoubtedly the case with respect to Albert Durer, Hans Schaufelin, Jost Amman, Tobias Stimmer, &c. It may be laid down as a rule that there is no certainty as to the marks of engravers, except where they are accompanied with some implement of their art, especially a graving tool. Where the designer of the subject put his mark on the drawing which he made on, or for, the block, the engraver would, of course, copy it. Sometimes the marks of both designer and engraver are found on prints, and in these cases the ambiguity is consequently removed.



[Pg 103]


List of several editions of the Lyons work on the Dance of Death, with the mark of Lutzenberger.—Copies of them on wood.—Copies on copper by anonymous artists.—By Wenceslaus Hollar.—Other anonymous artists.—Nieuhoff Picard.—Rusting.—Mechel.—Crozat’s drawings.—Deuchar.—Imitations of some of the subjects.




Les Simulachres et historiées faces de la Mort, autant elegamment pourtraictes, que artificiellement imaginées. A Lyon, Soubz l’escu de Coloigne, MDXXXVIII.” At the end “Excudebant Lugduni Melchior et Gaspar Trechsel fratres, 1538,” 4to. On this title-page is a cut of a triple-headed figure crowned with wings, on a pedestal, over which a book with ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ. Below, two serpents and two globes, with “usus me genuit.” This has, 1. A dedication to Madame Jehanne de Touszele. 2. Diverses tables de mort, non painctes, mais extraictes de l’escripture saincte, colorées par Docteurs Ecclesiastiques, et umbragées par philosophes. 3. Over each print, passages from scripture, allusive to the subject, in Latin, and at bottom the substance of them in four French verses. 4. Figures de la mort moralement descriptes et depeinctes selon l’authorité de l’scripture, et des Sainctz Peres. 5. Les diverses mors des bons, et des maulvais du viel, et nouveau testament. 6. Des sepultures des justes. 7. Memorables authoritez, et sentences des philosophes, et[Pg 104] orateurs Payens pour conformer les vivans à non craindre la mort. 7. De la necessite de la mort qui ne laisse riens estre par durable.” With forty-one cuts. This may be safely regarded as the first edition of the work. There is nothing in the title page that indicates any preceding one.

II. “Les Simulachres et historiées faces de la mort, contenant la Medecine de l’ame, utile et necessaire non seulement aux malades mais à tous qui sont en bonne disposition corporelle. D’avantage, la forme et maniere de consoler les malades. Sermon de sainct Cecile Cyprian, intitulé de Mortalité. Sermon de S. Jan Chrysostome, pour nous exhorter à patience: traictant aussi de la consommation de ce siecle, et du second advenement de Jesus Christ, de la joye eternelle des justes, de la peine et damnation des mauvais, et autres choses necessaires à un chascun chrestien, pour bien vivre et bien mourir. A Lyon, à l’escu de Coloigne, chez Jan et François Frellon freres,” 1542, 12mo. With forty-one cuts. Then a moral epistle to the reader, in French. The descriptions of the cuts in Latin and French as before, and the pieces expressed in the title page.

III. “Imagines Mortis. His accesserunt, Epigrammata, è Gallico idiomate à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum translata. Ad hæc, Medicina animæ, tam iis qui firma, quàm qui adversa corporis valetudine præditi sunt, maximè necessaria. Ratio consolandi ob morbi gravitatem periculosè decumbentes. Quæ his addita sunt, sequens pagina commonstrabit. Lugduni, sub scuto Coloniensi, 1545.” With the device of the crab and the butterfly. At the end, “Lugduni Excudebant Joannes et Franciscus Frellonii fratres,” 1545, 12mo. The whole of the text is in Latin, and translated, except the scriptural passages, from the French, by George Æmylius, as he also states in some verses at the beginning; but several of the mottoes at bottom are different and enlarged. It has forty-two cuts, the [Pg 105]additional one, probably not by the former artist, being that of the beggar sitting on the ground before an arched gate: extremely fine, particularly the beggar’s head. This subject has no connection with the Dance of Death, and is placed in another part of the volume, though in subsequent editions incorporated with the other prints. The “Medicina animæ” is very different from the French one. There is some reason for supposing that the Frellons had already printed an edition with Æmylius’s text in 1542. This person was an eminent German divine of Mansfelt, and the author of many pious works. In the present edition the first cut of the creation exhibits a crack in the block from the top to the bottom, but it had been in that state in 1543, as appears from an impression of it in Holbein’s Bible of that date. It is found so in all the subsequent editions of the present work, with the exception of those in Italian of 1549 and in the Bible of 1549, in which the crack appears to have been closed, probably by cramping; but the block again separated afterwards.

This edition is of some importance with respect to the question as to the priority of the publication of the work in France or Germany, or, in other words, whether at Lyons or Basle. It is accompanied by some lines addressed to the reader, which begin in the following manner:

Accipe jucundo præsentia carmina vultu,
Seu Germane legis, sive ea Galle legis:
In quibus extremæ qualis sit mortis imago
Reddidit imparibus Musa Latina modis
Gallia quæ dederat lepidis epigrammata verbis
Teutona convertens est imitata manus.
Da veniam nobis doctissime Galle, videbis
Versibus appositis reddita si qua parum.

Now, had the work been originally published in the German language, Æmylius, himself a German, would,[Pg 106] as already observed, scarcely have preferred a French text for his Latin version. This circumstance furnishes likewise, an argument against the supposed existence of German verses at the bottom of the early impressions of the cuts already mentioned.

A copy of this edition, now in the library of the British Museum, was presented to Prince Edward by Dr. William Bill, accompanied with a Latin dedication, dated from Cambridge, 19 July, 1546, wherein he recommends the prince’s attention to the figures in the book, in order to remind him that all must die to obtain immortality; and enlarges on the necessity of living well. He concludes with a wish that the Lord will long and happily preserve his life, and that he may finally reign to all eternity with his most Christian father. Bill was appointed one of the King’s chaplains in ordinary, 1551, and was made the first Dean of Westminster in the reign of Elizabeth.

IV. “Imagines Mortis. Duodecim imaginibus præter priores, totidemque inscriptionibus præter epigrammata è Gallicis à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum versa, cumulatæ. Quæ his addita sunt, sequens pagina commonstrabit. Lugduni sub scuto Coloniensi, 1547.” With the device of the crab and butterfly. At the end, “Excudebat Joannes Frellonius, 1547,” 12mo. This edition has twelve more cuts than those of 1538 and 1542, and eleven more than that of 1545, being, the soldier, the gamblers, the drunkards, the fool, the robber, the blind man, the wine carrier, and four of boys. In all fifty-three. Five of the additional cuts have a single line only in the frames, whilst the others have a double one. All are nearly equal in merit to those which first appeared in 1538.

V. “Icones Mortis, Duodecim imaginibus præter priores, totidemque inscriptionibus, præter epigrammata è Gallicis à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum versa, cumulatæ. Quæ his addita sunt, sequens pagina [Pg 107]commonstrabit, Lugduni sub scuto Coloniensi, 1547.” 12mo. At the end, Excudebat Johannes Frellonius, 1547. This edition contains fifty-three cuts, and is precisely similar to the one described immediately before, except that it is entitled Icones, instead of Imagines Mortis.

VI. “Les Images de la Mort. Auxquelles sont adjoustées douze figures. Davantage, la medecine de l’ame, la consolation des malades, un sermon de mortalité, par Sainct Cyprian, un sermon de patience, par Sainct Jehan Chrysostome. A Lyon. A l’escu de Cologne, chez Jehan Frellon, 1547.” With the device of the crab and butterfly. At the end, “Imprimé a Lyon à l’escu de Coloigne, par Jehan Frellon, 1547. 12mo.” The verses at bottom of the cuts the same as in the edition of 1538, with similar ones for the additional. In all, fifty-three cuts.

VII. “Simolachri historie, e figure de la morte. La medicina de l’anima. Il modo, e la via di consolar gl’infermi. Un sermone di San Cipriano, de la mortalità. Due orationi, l’un a Dio, e l’altra à Christo. Un sermone di S. Giovan. Chrisostomo, che ci essorta à patienza. Aiuntovi di nuovo molte figure mai piu stampate. In Lyone appresso Giovan Frellone MDXLIX.” 12mo. With the device of the crab and butterfly. At the end, the same device on a larger scale in a circle. Fifty-three cuts. The scriptural passages are in Latin. To this edition Frellon has prefixed a preface, in which he complains of a pirated copy of the work in Italian by a printer at Venice, which will be more particularly noticed hereafter. He maintains that the cuts in this spurious edition are far less beautiful than the French ones, and this passage goes very far in aid of the argument that they are not of German origin. Frellon, by way of revenge, and to save the trouble of making a new translation of the articles that compose the volume, makes use of that of his Italian competitor.

[Pg 108]VIII. “Icones Mortis. Duodecim Imaginibus præter priores, totidemque inscriptionibus, præter epigrammata è Gallicis à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum versa, cumulatæ. Quæ his addita sunt, sequens pagina commonstrabit. Basileæ, 1554. 12mo.” With fifty-three cuts. It would not be very easy to account for the absence of the name of the Basle printer.

IX. “Les Images de la Mort, auxquelles sont adjoustees dix sept figures. Davantage, la medecine de l’ame. La consolation des malades. Un sermon de mortalité, par Saint Cyprian. Un sermon de patience, par Saint Jehan Chrysostome. A Lyon, par Jehan Frellon, 1562.” With the device of the crab and butterfly. At the end, “A Lyon, par Symphorien Barbier,” 12mo. This edition has five additional cuts, viz. 1. A group of boys, as a triumphal procession, with military trophies. 2. The bride; the husband plays on a lute, whilst Death leads the wife in tears. 3. The bridegroom led by Death blowing a trumpet. Both these subjects are appropriately described in the verses below. 4. A group of boy warriors, one on horseback with a standard. 5. Another group of boys with drums, horns, and trumpets. These additional cuts are designed and engraved in the same masterly style as the others, but it is now impossible to ascertain the artists who have executed them. From the decorations to several books published at Lyons it is very clear that there were persons in that city capable of the task. Holbein had been dead eight years, after a long residence in London.

Du Verdier, in his Bibliothèque Françoise, mentions this edition, and adds that it was translated from the French into Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, and English;[113] a statement that stands greatly in need of confirmation as to the last three languages, but this[Pg 109] writer, on too many occasions, deserves but small compliment for his accuracy.

X. “Imagines Mortis: item epigrammata è Gall. à G. Æmilio in Latinum versa. Lugdun. Frellonius, 1574.” 12mo.[114]

XI. In 1654 a Dutch work appeared with the following title, “De Doodt vermaskert met swerelts ydelheyt afghedaen door G. V. Wolsschaten, verciert met de constighe Belden vanden maerden Schilder Hans Holbein. i. e. Death masked, with the world’s vanity, by G. V. Wolsschaten, ornamented with the ingenious images of the famous painter Hans Holbein. T’Antwerpen, by Petrus Bellerus.” This is on an engraved frontispiece of tablet, over which are spread a man’s head and the skin of two arms supported by two Deaths blowing trumpets. Below, a spade, a pilgrim’s staff, a scepter, and a crosier, with a label, on which is “sceptra ligonibus æquat.” Then follows another title-page, with the same words, and the addition of Geeraerdt Van Wolsschaten’s designation, “Prevost van sijne conincklijcke Majesteyts Munten des Heertoogdoms van Brabant, &c. MDCLIV.” 12mo. The author of the text, which is mixed up with poetry and historical matter, was prefect of the mint in the Duchy of Brabant.[115] This edition contains eighteen cuts, among which the following subjects are from the original blocks. 1. Three boys. 2. The married couple. 3. The pedlar. 4. The shipwreck. 5. The beggar. 6. The corrupt judge. 7. The astrologer. 8. The old man. 9. The physician. 10. The priest with the eucharist. 11. The monk. 12. The abbess. 13. The abbot. 14. The duke. Four others, viz. the[Pg 110] child, the emperor, the countess, and the pope, are copies, and very badly engraved. The blocks of the originals appear to have fallen into the hands of an artist, who probably resided at Antwerp, and several of them have his mark, [monogram], concerning which more will be said under one of the ensuing articles. As many engravings on wood by this person appeared in the middle of the sixteenth century, it is probable that he had already used these original blocks in some edition of the Dance of Death that does not seem to have been recorded. There are evident marks of retouching in these cuts, but when they first appeared cannot now be ascertained. The mark might have been placed on them, either to denote ownership, according to the usual practice at that time, or to indicate that they had been repaired by that particular artist.

All these editions, except that of 1574, have been seen and carefully examined on the present occasion: the supposed one of 1530 has not been included in this list, and remains to be seen and accurately described, if existing, by competent witnesses.

Papillon, in his Traité de la gravure en bois, has given an elaborate, but, as usual with him, a very faulty description of these engravings. He enlarges on the beauty of the last cut with the allegorical coat of arms, and particularly on that of the gentleman whose right hand he states to be placed on its side, whilst it certainly is extended, and touches with the back of it the mantle on which the helmet and shield of arms are placed. He errs likewise in making the female look towards a sort of dog’s head, according to him, under the mantle and right-hand of her husband, which, he adds, might be taken for the pummell of his sword, and that she fondles this head with her right hand, &c. not one word of which is correct. He says that a good impression of this print would be well worth a Louis d’or to an amateur. He appears to have been in [Pg 111]possession of the block belonging to the subject of the lovers preceded by Death with a drum; but it had been spoiled by the stroke of a plane.



I. At the head of these, in point of merit, must be placed the Italian spurious edition mentioned in No. VII. of the preceding list. It is entitled “Simolachri historie, e figure de la morte, ove si contiene la medicina de l’anima utile e necessaria, non solo à gli ammalati, ma tutte i sani. Et appresso, il modo, e la via di consolar gl’infermi. Un sermone di S. Cipriano, de la mortalità. Due orationi, l’una a Dio, e l’altra à Christo da dire appresso l’ammalato oppresso da grave infermitá. Un sermone di S. Giovan Chrisostomo, che ci essorta à patienza; e che tratta de la consumatione del secolo presente, e del secondo avenimento di Jesu Christo, de la eterna felicita de giusti, de la pena e dannatione de rei; et altre cose necessarie à ciascun Christiano, per ben vivere, e ben morire. Con gratia e privilegio de l’illustriss. Senato Vinitiano, per anni dieci. Appresso Vincenzo Vaugris al segno d’Erasmo, MDXLV.” 12mo. With a device of the brazen serpent, repeated at the end. It has all the cuts in the genuine edition of the same date, except that of the beggar at the gate. It contains a very moral dedication to Signor Antonio Calergi by the publisher Vaugris or Valgrisi; in which, with unjustifiable confidence, he enlarges on the great beauty of the work, the cuts in which are, in his estimation, not merely equal, but far superior to those in the French edition in design and engraving. They certainly approach the nearest to the fine originals of all the imitations, but will be found on comparison to be inferior. The mark [monogram] on the cut of the duchess[Pg 112] sitting up in bed, with the two Deaths, one of whom is fiddling, whilst the other pulls at the clothes, is retained, but this could not be with a view to pass these engravings as originals, after what is stated in the dedication. An artist’s eye will easily perceive the difference in spirit and decision of drawing. In the ensuing year 1546, Valgrisi republished this book in Latin, but without the dedication, and there are impressions of them on single sheets, one of which has at the bottom, “In Venetia, MDLXVIII. Fra. Valerio Faenzi Inquis. Apreso Luca Bertelli.” So that they required a license from the Inquisition.

II. In the absence of any other Italian editions of the “Simolachri,” it is necessary to mention that twenty-four of the last-mentioned cuts were introduced in a work of extreme rarity, and which has escaped the notice of bibliographers, intitled “Discorsi Morali dell’ eccell. Sig. Fabio Glissenti contra il dispiacer del morire. Detto Athanatophilia Venetia, 1609.” 4to. These twenty-four were probably all that then remained; and five others of subjects belonging also to the “Simolachri,” are inserted in this work, but very badly imitated, and two of them reversed. In the subject of the Pope there is in the original a brace of grotesque devils, one of which is completely erased in Glissenti, and a plug inserted where the other had been scooped out. A similar rasure of a devil occurs in the subject of the two rich men in conversation, the demon blowing with a bellows into his ear, whilst a poor beggar in vain touches him to be heard. Besides these cuts, Glissenti’s work is ornamented with a great number of others, connected in some way or other with the subject of Death, which the author discusses in almost every possible variety of manner. He appears to have been a physician, and an exceedingly pious man. His portrait is prefixed to every division of the work, which consists of five dialogues.

[Pg 113]III. In an anonymous work, intitled “Tromba sonora per richiamar i morti viventi dalla tomba della colpa alla vita della gratia. In Venetia, 1670.” 8vo. Of which there had already been three editions; there are six of the prints from the originals, as in the “Simolachri,” &c. No. I. and a few others, the same as the additional ones to Glissenti’s work.

In another volume, intitled “Il non plus ultra di tutte le scienze ricchezze honori, e diletti del mondo, &c. In Venetia, 1677.” 24mo. There are twenty-five of the cuts as in the Simolachri, and several others from those added to Glissenti.

IV. A set of cuts which do not seem to have belonged to any work. They are very close copies of the originals. On the subject of the Duchess in bed, the letter S appears on the base of one of the pillars or posts, instead of the original [monogram], and it is also seen on the cut of the soldier pierced by the lance of Death. Two have the date 1546. In that of the monk, whom, in the original, Death seizes by the cowl or hood, the artist has made a whimsical alteration, by converting the hood into a fool’s cap with bells and asses’ ears, and the monk’s wallet into a fool’s bauble. It is probable that he was of the reformed religion.

V. “Imagines Mortis, his accesserunt epigrammata è Gallico idiomate à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum translata, &c. Coloniæ apud hæredes Arnoldi Birckmanni, anno 1555. 12mo.” With fifty-three cuts. This may be regarded as a surreptitious edition of No. IV. of the originals by [monogram] p. 106. The cuts are by the artist mentioned in No. IX. of those originals, whose mark is [monogram] which is here found on five of them. They are all reversed, except the nobleman; and although not devoid of merit, they are not only very inferior to the fine originals, but also to the Italian copies in No. I. The first two subjects are newly designed; the two Devils in that of the Pope are omitted, and there are several[Pg 114] variations, always for the worse, in many of the others, of which a tasteless example is found in that of Death and the soldier, where the thigh bone, as the very appropriate weapon of Death, is here converted into the common-place dart. The mark [monogram] in the original cut of the Duchess in bed, is here omitted, without the substitution of any other. This edition was republished by the same persons, without any variation, successively in 1557, 1566, 1567, and 1573.[116]

Papillon, in his “Traité sur la gravure en bois,”[117] when noticing the above-mentioned mark, has, amidst the innumerable errors that abound in his otherwise curious work, been led into a mistake of an exceedingly ludicrous nature, by converting the owner of the mark into a cardinal. He had found it on the cuts to an edition of Faerno’s fables, printed at Antwerp, 1567, which is dedicated to Cardinal Borromeo by Silvio Antoniano, professor of Belles Lettres at Rome, afterwards secretary to Pope Pius IV. and at length himself a Cardinal. He was the editor of Faerno’s work. Another of Papillon’s blunders is equally curious and absurd. He had seen an edition of the Emblems of Sambucus, with cuts, bearing the mark [monogram] in which there is a fine portrait of the author with his favourite dog, and under the latter the word BOMBO, which Papillon gravely states to be the name of the engraver; and finding the same word on another of the emblems which has also the dog, he concludes that all the cuts which have not the [monogram] were engraved by the same BOMBO. Had Papillon, a good artist in his time, but an ignorant man, been able to comprehend the verses belonging to that particular emblem, he would have seen that the above word was merely the name of the[Pg 115] dog, as Sambucus himself has declared, whilst paying a laudable tribute to the attachment of the faithful companion of his travels. Brulliot, in his article on the mark [monogram][118] has mentioned Papillon’s ascription of it to Silvio Antoniano, but without correcting the blunder, as he ought to have done. This monogram appears on five of the cuts to the present edition of the “Imagines Mortis;” but M. De Murr and his follower Janssen, are not warranted in supposing the rest of them to have been engraved by a different artist.

It will perhaps not be deemed an unimportant digression to introduce a few remarks concerning the owner of the above monogram. It is by no means clear whether he was a designer or an engraver, or even both. There is a chiaroscuro print of a group of saints, engraved by Peter Kints, an obscure artist, with the name of Antony Sallaerts at length, and the mark. Here he appears as a designer. M. Malpé, the Besançon author of “Notices sur les graveurs,” speaks of Sallaerts as an excellent painter, born at Brussels about 1576, which date cannot possibly apply to the artist in question; but at the same time, he adds, that he is said to have engraved on wood the cuts in a little catechism printed at Antwerp that have the monogram [monogram]. These are certainly very beautiful, in accordance with many others with the same mark, and very superior in design to those which have it in the “Imagines Mortis.” M. Malpé has also an article for Antony Silvyus or Silvius, born at Antwerp about 1525, and he mentions several books with engravings and the mark in question, which he gives to the same person. M. Brulliot expresses a doubt as to this artist; but it is very certain there was a family of that name, and surnamed, or at least sometimes called, Bosche or Bush, which indeed is more likely to have been the real Flemish name Latinized[Pg 116] into Silvius. Foppens[119] has mentioned an Antony Silvius, a schoolmaster at Antwerp, in 1565, and several other members of this family. Two belonging to it were engravers, and another a writing master.

Whether the artist in question was a Sallaerts or a Silvius, it is certain that Plantin, the celebrated printer, employed him to decorate several of his volumes, and it is to be regretted that an unsuccessful search has been made for him in Plantin’s account books, that were not long since preserved, with many articles belonging to him, in his house at Antwerp. His mark also appears in several books printed in England during the reign of Elizabeth, and particularly on a beautiful set of initial letters, some of which contain the story of Cupid and Psyche, from the supposed designs by Raphael, and other subjects from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: these have been counterfeited, and perhaps in England. The initial G, in this alphabet, with the subject of Leda and the swan, was inadvertently prefixed to the sacred name at the beginning of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews in the Bishop’s Bible, printed by Rd. Jugge in 1572, and in one of his Common Prayer Books. An elegant portrait of Edward VI. with the mark [monogram] is likewise on Jugge’s edition of the New Testament, 1552, 4to. and there is reason to believe that Jugge employed this artist, as the same monogram appears on a cut of his device of the pelican.

VI. In the German volume, the title of which is already given in the first article of the engravings from the Basle painting,[120] there are twenty-nine subjects belonging to the present work; the rest relating to the Basle dance, except two or three that are not in either of them. These have fallen into the hands of a modern bookseller, but there can be no doubt that there were[Pg 117] other editions which contained the whole set. The most of them have the letters G. S. with the graving tool, and one has the date 1576. The name of this artist is unknown; but M. Bartsch has mentioned several other engravings by him, omitting, however, the present, which, it is to be observed, sometimes vary in design from the originals.

VII. “Imagines Mortis illustratæ epigrammatis Georgii Æmylii theol. doctoris. Fraxineus Æmylio Suo. Criminis ut poenam mortem mors sustulit una: sic te immortalem mortis imago facit.” With a cut of Death and the old man. This is the middle part only of a work, intitled “Libellus Davidis Chytræi de morte et vita æterna. Editio postrema; cui additæ sunt imagines mortis, illustrata Epigrammatis D. Georgio Æmylio, Witebergæ. Impressus à Matthæo Welack, anno MDXC.” 12mo. The cuts, fifty-three in number, are, on the whole, tolerably faithful, but coarsely engraved. In the subject of the Pope the two Devils are omitted, and, in that of the Counsellor, the Demon blowing with a bellows into his ear is also wanting. Some have the mark [monogram], and one that of [monogram] with a knife or graving tool.

VIII. “Todtentanz durch alle stendt der menschen, &c. furgebildet mit figuren. S. Gallen, 1581.” 4to. See Janssen, Essai sur l’origine de la gravure, i. 122, who seems to make them copies of the originals.

IX. The last article in this list of the old copies, though prior in date to some of the preceding, is placed here as differing materially from them with respect to size. It is a small folio, with the following title, “Todtentantz,

Das menschlichs leben anders nicht
Dann nur ain lauff zum Tod
Und Got ain nach seim glauben richt
Dess findstu klaren tschaid
[Pg 118]O Mensch hicrinn mit andacht lisz
Und fassz zu hertzen das
So wirdsttu Ewigs hayls gewisz
Kanst sterben dester bas.


Desine longævos exposcere sedulus annos
Inque bonis multos annumerare dies
Atque hodie, fatale velit si rumpere filum
Atropos, impavido pectore disce mori.”

At the end, “Gedruckt inn der kaiserlichen Reychstatt Augspurg durch Jobst Denecker Formschneyder.” This edition is not only valuable for its extreme rarity, but for the very accurate and spirited manner in which the fine original cuts are copied. It contains all the subjects that were then published, but not arranged as those had been. It has the addition of one singular print, intitled “Der Eebrecher,” i. e. the Adulterer, representing a man discovering the adulterer in bed with his wife, and plunging his sword through both of them, Death guiding his hands. On the opposite page to each engraving there is a dialogue between Death and the party, and at bottom a Latin hexameter. The subject of the Pleader has the unknown mark [monogram], and on that of the Duchess in bed, there is the date 1542. From the above colophon we are to infer that Dennecker, or as he is sometimes, and perhaps more properly, called De Necker or De Negher, was the engraver, as he is known to have executed many other engravings on wood, especially for Hans Schaufelin, with whom he was connected. He was also employed in the celebrated triumph of Maximilian, and in a collection of saints, to whom the family of that emperor was related.

X. “Emblems of Mortality, representing, in upwards of fifty cuts, Death seizing all ranks and degrees of people, &c. Printed for T. Hodgson, in George’s Court, St. John’s Lane, Clerkenwell, 1789. 12mo.” With an[Pg 119] historical essay on the subject, and translations of the Latin verses in the Imagines Mortis, by John Sidney Hawkins, esq. The cuts were engraved by the brother of the celebrated Bewick, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and a pupil of Hodgson, who was an engraver on wood of some merit at that time. They are but indifferently executed, but would have been better had the artist been more liberally encouraged by the master, who was the publisher on his own account, Mr. Hawkins very kindly furnishing the letter-press. They are faithful copies of all the originals, except the first, which, containing a figure of the Deity habited as a Pope, was scrupulously exchanged for another design. A frontispiece is added, representing Death leading up all classes of men and women.

XI. “The Dance of Death of the celebrated Hans Holbein, in a series of fifty-two engravings on wood by Mr. Bewick, with letter-press illustrations.

What’s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid more thousand Deaths: yet Death we fear,
That makes these odds all even.

London. William Charlton Wright.” 12mo. With a frontispiece, partly copied from that in the preceding article, a common-place life of Holbein, and an introduction pillaged verbatim from an edition with Hollar’s cuts, published by Mr. Edwards. The cuts, with two or three exceptions, are imitated from the originals, but all the human figures are ridiculously modernised. The text to the subjects is partly descriptions in prose, and partly Mr. Hawkins’s verses, and the cuts, if Bewick’s, very inferior to those in his other works.

XII. “Emblems of Mortality, representing Death seizing all ranks and degrees of people. Imitated in a series of wood cuts from a painting in the cemetery of the Dominican church at Basil in Switzerland, with[Pg 120] appropriate texts of scripture, and a poetical apostrophe to each, freely translated from the Latin and French. London. Printed for Whittingham and Arliss, juvenile library, Paternoster-row.” 12mo. The frontispiece and the rest of the cuts, with two exceptions, from the same blocks as those used for the last-mentioned edition. The preface, with very slight variation, is abridged from that by Mr. Hawkins in No. VIII. and the descriptive verses altogether the same as those in that edition. Both the last articles seem intended for popular and juvenile use. It will be immediately perceived that the title page is erroneous in confounding the Basle Dance of Death with that in the volume itself.

XIII. The last in this list is “Hans Holbein’s Todtentanz in 53 getreu nach den holtz schnitten lithographirten Blattern. Herausgegeben von J. Schlotthauer, K. Professor. Mit erklärendem Texte. Munschen, 1832. Auf kosten des Herausgebers,” 12mo. or, “Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death in fifty-three lithographic leaves, faithfully taken from wood engravings. Published by J. Schlotthauer, royal professor, with explanatory text. Munich, 1832. At the cost of the editors.” This work is executed in so beautiful and accurate a manner that it might easily be mistaken for the wood originals.

The professor has substituted German verses, communicated by a friend, instead of the former Latin ones. He states that the subject will be taken up by Professor Massman, of Munich, whose work will satisfy all enquiries relating to it. Massman, however, has added to this volume a sort of explanatory appendix, in which some of the editions are mentioned. He thinks it possible that the cholera may excite the same attention to this work as the plague had formerly excited to the old Macaber Dance at Basle, and concludes with a promise to treat the subject more at large at some future time.

 [Pg 121]


I. “Todten Dantz durch alle stande und Beschlecht der Menschen, &c.” i. e. “Death’s Dance through all ranks and conditions of men.” This title is on a frontispiece representing a gate of rustic architecture, at the top of which are two boy angels with emblems of mortality between them, and underneath are the three Fates. At the bottom, Adam and Eve with the tree of knowledge, each holding the apple presented by the serpent. Between them is a circular table, on which are eight sculls of a Pope, Emperor, Cardinal, &c. with appropriate mottoes in Latin. On the outer edge of the table STATVTVM EST OMNIBVS HOMINIBVS SEMEL MORI POST HOC AVTEM IVDICIVM. In the centre the letters MVS, the terminating syllable of each motto. Before the gate are two pedestals, inscribed MEMENTO MORI and MEMORARE NOVISSIMA, on which stand figures of Death supporting two pyramids or obelisks surmounted with sculls and a cross, and inscribed ITER AD VITAM. Below, “Eberh. Kieser excudit.” This frontispiece is a copy of a large print engraved on wood long before. Without date, in quarto.

The work consists of sixty prints within borders of flowers, &c. in the execution of which two different and anonymous artists have been employed. At the top of each print is the name of the subject, accompanied with a passage from scripture, and at the bottom three couplets of German verses. Most of the subjects are copied from the completest editions of the Lyons cuts, with occasional slight variations. They are not placed in the same order, and all are reversed, except Nos. 57 and 60. No. 12 is not reversed, but very much altered, a sort of duplicate of the Miser. No. 50, the Jew, and No. 51, the Jewess, are entirely new. The latter is[Pg 122] sitting at a table, on which is a heap of money, and Death appears to be giving effective directions to a demon to strangle her. No. 52 is also new. A castle within a hedge. Death enters one of the windows by a ladder, whilst a woman looks out of another.[121] The subject is from Jeremiah, ch. ix. v. 21. “Death is come up into our windows, &c.” In the subject of the Pope, the two Devils are omitted. Two military groups of boys, newly designed, are added. The following are copies from Aldegrever, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 11, and 12. At the beginning and end of the book there are moral poems in the German language.

II. Another edition of the same cuts. The title-page of the copy here described is unfortunately lost. It has a dedication in Latin to three patricians of Frankfort on the Maine by Daniel Meisner à Commenthaw, Boh. Poet. L. C. dated, according to the Roman capitals, in a passage from Psalm 46, in the year 1623. This is followed by the Latin epigram, or address to the reader, by Geo. Æmylius, whose translations of the original French couplets are also given, as well as the originals themselves. These are printed on pages opposite to the subjects, but they are often very carelessly transposed. At the end the date 1623 is twice repeated by means of the Roman capitals in two verses from Psalms 78 and 63, the one German, the other Latin. 12mo.

III. “Icones Mortis sexaginta imaginibus totidemque inscriptionibus insignitæ, versibus quoque Latinis et novis Germanicis illustratæ. Vorbildungen desz Todtes. In sechtzig figuren durch alle Stande und Geschlechte, derselbigen nichtige Sterblichkeit furzuweisen, aus gebruckt, und mit so viel ubors schriffren, auch Lateinischen und neuen Teutschen Verszlein erklaret. Durch[Pg 123] Johann Vogel. Bey Paulus Fursten Kunsthandlern zu finden.” On the back of this printed title is an engraving of a hand issuing from the clouds and holding a pair of scales, in one of which is a scull, in the other a Papal tiara, sceptre, &c. weighing down the scull. On the beam of the scales an hour glass and an open book with Arabic numerals. In the distance, at bottom, is seen a traveller reposing in a shed. Above is a label, inscribed “Metas et tempora libro,” and below, “Ich Wage ziel und zeitten ab.” Then follows a neatly engraved and regular title-page. At top, a winged scull surmounted with an hour-glass, and crossed with a spade and scythe. At bottom, three figures of Death sitting on the ground; one of them plays on a hautboy, or trumpet, another on a bagpipe, and the third has a drum behind him. The middle exhibits a circular Dance of Death leading by the hand persons of all ranks from the Emperor downwards. In the centre of this circle “Toden Tantz zu finden bey Paulus Furst Kunst handlern,” and quite at the bottom of the page, “G. Stra. in. A. Khol fecit.” Next comes an exhortation on Death to the reader in Latin verse, followed by several poems in German and Latin, those in German signed G. P. H. Immediately afterwards, and before the first cut of the work is another elegantly engraved frontispiece representing an arched gate of stone surmounted with three sculls of a Pope, a Cardinal, and a King, between a vase of flowers on the right, and a pot of incense, a cock standing near it, on the left. On the keystone of the gate are two tilting lances in saltier, to which a shield and helmet are suspended. Through the arch is seen a chamber, in which there seems to be a bier, and near it a cross. On the left of the gate is a niche with a scull and bones in it. Below are two large figures of Death. That on the left has a wreath of flowers round its head, and is beating a bell with a bone. Under him is an owl, and on the side of his left[Pg 124] knee a scythe. The other Death has a cap and feather, in his right hand an hour-glass, the left pointing to the opposite figure. On the ground between them, a bow, a quiver of arrows and a dart. On the left inner side of the gate a pot with holy water is suspended to a ring, the sprinkler being a bone. Further on, within the gate, is a flat stone, on which are several sculls and bones, a snake biting one of the sculls. On the right hand corner at bottom is the letter [monogram], perhaps the mark of the unknown engraver. The explanations on the pages opposite to each print are in German and Latin verses, the latter by Æmylius, with occasional variations. This edition has the sixty prints in the two preceding Nos. some of them having been retouched; and the cut of the King at table, No. 9, is by a different engraver from the artist of the same No. in the preceding 4to. edition, No. I. The present edition has also an additional engraving at the end, representing a gate, within which are seen several sculls and bones, other sculls in a niche, and in the distance a cemetery with coffins and crosses. Over the gate a scull on each side, and on the outer edge of the arch is the inscription, “Quis Rex, quis subditus hic est?” At bottom,

Hie sage wer es sagen kan    Here let tell who may:
Wer konig sey? wer unterthan.     Or, which be the king? which the
Paulus Furst Excu.

The whole of the print in a border of sculls, bones, snakes, toads, and a lizard. Opposite to it the date 1647 is to be gathered from the Roman capitals in two scriptural quotations, the one in Latin, the other in German, ending with this colophon, “Gedrucht zu Nuremberg durch Christoff Lochner. In Verlegung Paul Fursten Kunsthandlern allda.” 12mo.

IV. A set of engravings, 8 inches by 8, of which the[Pg 125] subject of the Pedlar, only has occurred on the present occasion. Instead of the trump-marine, which one of the Deaths plays on in the original cut, this artist has substituted a violin, and added a landscape in the back-ground. Below are these verses:

La Mort.
Sus? cesse ton traficq, car il fault à ceste heure
Que tu sente l’effort de mon dard asseré.
Tu as assez vescu, il est temps que tu meure,
Mon coup inevitable est pour toy preparé.

Le Marchant.
Et de grace pardon, arreste ta cholere.
Je suis pauvre marchant appaise ta rigueur.
Permete qu’encore un temps je vive en ceste terre:
Et puis tu recevras l’offrande de mon cœur.

V. A set of thirty etchings by Wenceslaus Hollar, within elegant frames or borders designed by Diepenbecke, of which there are three varieties. The first of these has at the top a coffin with tapers, at bottom, Death lying prostrate. The sides have figures of time and eternity. At bottom, Ab. Diepenbecke inv. W. Hollar fecit. The second has at top a Death’s head crowned with the Papal tiara; at bottom, a Death’s head with cross-bones on a tablet, accompanied by a saw, a globe, armour, a gun, a drum, &c. On the sides are Hercules and Minerva. At bottom, Ab. Diepenbecke inv. W. Hollar fecit, 1651. The third has at top a Death’s head, an hour-glass winged between two boys; at bottom, a Death’s head and cross-bones on a tablet between two boys holding hour-glasses. On the sides, Democritus and Heraclitus with fools’ caps. This border has no inscription below. As these etchings are not numbered, the original arrangement of them cannot be ascertained. The names of Diepenbecke and Hollar are at the bottom of several of the borders, &c. On the subject of the Queen is the mark [monogram] and on three others that of [monogram]. This is the first and most desirable state of[Pg 126] the work, the borders having afterwards fallen into the hands of Petau and Van Morle, two foreign printsellers, whose impressions are very inferior. It has not been ascertained what became of these elegant additions, but the work afterwards appeared without them, and with the additional mark [monogram] i. on every print, and intended for Holbein invenit. It is very certain that Hollar himself did not place this mark on the prints; he has never introduced it in any of his copies from Holbein, always expressing that painter’s name in these several ways: [monogram], [monogram] inv. [monogram] pinxit, H. Holbein inv. H. Holbein inventor. On one of his portraits from the Arundel collection he has placed “[monogram] incidit in lignum.” No copy, however, of this portrait has occurred in wood, and, if this be only a conjecture on the part of the engraver, the distance of time between the respective artists is an objection to its validity, though it is possible that Holbein might have engraved on wood, because there are prints which have all the appearance of belonging to him, that have his usual mark, accompanied by an engraving tool. There is no text to these etchings, except the Latin scriptural passages under each, that occur in the original editions in that language. As a sort of frontispiece to the work, Hollar has transferred the last cut of the allegorical shield of arms, supported by a lady and gentleman, to the beginning, with the appropriate title of MORTALIVM NOBILITAS. The other subjects are, 1. Adam and Eve in Paradise. 2. Their expulsion from Paradise. 3. Adam digging, Eve spinning. 4. The Pope. 5. The Emperor. 6. The Empress. 7. The Queen. 8. The Cardinal. 9. The Duke. 10. The Bishop. 11. The Nobleman. 12. The Abbot. 13. The Abbess. 14. The Friar. 15. The Nun. 16. The Preacher. 17. The Physician. 18. The Soldier, or Warrior. 19. The Advocate. 20. The Married Couple. 21. The Duchess. 22. The Merchant. 23. The [Pg 127]Pedlar. 24. The Miser. 25. The Waggoner with wine casks. 26. The Gamesters. 27. The Old Man. 28. The Old Woman. 29. The Infant. Of these, Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 14, 23, 27, and 28, correspond with the Lyons wood-cuts, except that in No. 1 a stag is omitted, and there are some variations; in No. 6, the windows of the palace are altered; in No. 13, a window is added to the house next to the nunnery; and in No. 9, a figure is introduced, and the ducal palace much altered; in No. 23, a sword is omitted. They are all reverses, except No. 5. The rest of the subjects are reversed, with one exception, from the copies by [monogram] in the spurious edition first printed at Cologne in 1555, with occasional very slight variations. Hollar’s copies from the original cuts are in a small degree less both in width and depth. In the subject of Death and the Soldier he has not shown his judgment in making use of the spurious edition rather than the far more elegant and interesting original,[122] and it is remarkable that this is the only print belonging to the spurious ones that is not reversed.

It is very probable that Hollar executed this work at Antwerp, where, at the time of its date, he might have found Diepenbecke and engaged him to make designs for the borders which are etched on separate plates, thus supplying passe-par-touts that might be used at discretion. Many sets appear without the borders, which seem to have strayed, and perhaps to have been afterwards lost or destroyed. As Rubens is recorded to have admired the beauty of the original cuts, so it is to be supposed that Diepenbecke, his pupil, would entertain the same opinion of them, and that he might have suggested to Hollar the making etchings of them, undertaking himself to furnish appropriate borders. But how shall we account for the introduction of so many of the spurious and [Pg 128]inferior designs, if he had the means of using the originals? Many books were formerly excessively rare, which, from peculiar circumstances, not necessary to be here detailed, but well known to bibliographers and collectors, have since become comparatively common. Hollar might not have had an opportunity of meeting with a perfect copy of the original cuts, or he might, in some way or other, have been impeded in the use of them, when executing his work, and thus have been driven to the necessity of pursuing it by means of the spurious edition. These, however, are but conjectures, and it remains for every one to adopt his own opinion.

The copper-plates of the above thirty etchings appear to have fallen into the hands of an English noble family, from which the late Mr. James Edwards, a bookseller of well merited celebrity, obtained them, and about the year 1794 caused many impressions to be taken off after they had been rebitten with great care, so as to prevent that injury, with respect to outline, which usually takes place where etchings or engravings upon copper are retouched. Previously to this event good impressions must have been extremely rare, at least on the continent, as they are not found in the very rich collections of Winckler or Brandes, nor are they mentioned by the foreign writers on engraving. To Mr. Edwards’s publication of Hollar’s prints there was prefixed a short dissertation on the Dance of Death, which is here again submitted to public attention in a considerably enlarged form, and corrected from the errors and imperfections into which its author had been misled by preceding writers on the subject, and by the paucity of the materials which he was then able to obtain. This edition was reprinted verbatim, and with the same etchings, in 1816, for J. Coxhead, in Holywell Street, Strand, but without any mention of the former, and accompanied with the addition of a brief memoir of Holbein.

[Pg 129]It is most likely that Hollar, having discovered the error which he had committed in copying the spurious engravings before-mentioned, and subsequently procured a set of genuine impressions, resolved to make another set of etchings from the original work, four only of which he appears to have executed, his death probably taking place before they could be completed. These are, 1. The Pope crowning the Emperor, with “Moriatur sacerdos magnus.” 2. The rich man disregarding the beggar, with “Qui obturat aurem suam ad clamorem pauperis, &c.” and the four Latin lines, “Consulitis, dites, &c.” at bottom, as in the original. It is beautifully and most faithfully copied, with [monogram] inv. Hollar fecit. 3. The Ploughman, with “In sudore vultus, &c.” 4. The Robber, with “Domine vim patior.”

In Dugdale’s History of St. Paul’s, and also in the Monasticon, there is a single etching by Hollar of Death leading all ranks of people. It is only an improved copy of an old wood-cut in Lydgate’s works, already mentioned in p. 52, and which is altogether imaginary, not being taken from any real series of the Dance.

VI. “Varii e veri ritratte della morte disegnati in immagini, ed espressi in Essempii al peccatore duro di cuore, dal padre Gio. Battista Marmi della compagnia de Giesu.” Venetia, 1669, 8vo. It has several engravings, among which are the following, after the original designs. 1. Queen. 2. Nobleman. 3. Merchant. 4. Gamblers. 5. Physician. 6. Miser. The last five being close copies from the same subjects, in the Basle edit. 1769, No. V. of the copies in wood.

VII. “Theatrum mortis humanæ tripartitum. I. Pars. Saltum Mortis. II. Pars. Varia genera Mortis. III. Pars. Pænas Damnatorum continens, cum figuris æneis illustratum.” Then the same repeated in German, with the addition “Durch Joannem Weichardum Valvasor. Lib. Bar. cum facultate superiorum, et speciali [Pg 130]privilegio Sac. Cæs. Majest. Gedrucht zu Laybach, und zu finden ben Johann Baptista Mayr, in Saltzburg. Anno 1682. 4to.” Prefixed is an engraved frontispiece representing a ruined arch, under which is a coffin, and before it the King of Terrors between two other figures of Death mounted respectively on an elephant and camel. In the foreground, Adam and Eve, tied to the forbidden tree of knowledge, between several other Deaths variously employed. Two men digging graves, &c. Underneath, “W. inven. W. excud. Jo. Koch del. And. Trost sculp. Wagenpurgi in Carniola.” It is the first part only with which we are concerned. The artist, with very little exception, has followed and reversed the spurious wood-cuts of 1555, by [monogram]. To the groups of boys he has added a Death leading them on.

VIII. “De Doodt vermaskert met des werelts ydelheyt afghedaen door Geeraerdt Van Wolschaten.” This is another edition of No. IX. of the original wood-cuts, here engraved on copper. The text is the same as that of 1654, with the addition of seven leaves, including a cut of Death leading all ranks of men. In that of the Pedler the artist has introduced some figures in the distance of the original soldier. Among other variations the costume of the time of William III. is sometimes very ludicrously adopted, especially in the frontispiece, where the author is represented writing at a desk, and near him two figures of a man in a full bottom wig, and a woman with a mask and a perpendicular cap in several stories, usually called a Fontange, both having skeleton faces. At bottom, the mark [monogram]. This edition was printed at Antwerp by Jan Baptist Jacobs, without date, but the privilege has that of 1698. 12mo.

IX. “Imagines Mortis, or the Dead Dance of Hans Holbeyn, painter of King Henry the VIII.” This title is on a copper-plate within a border, and accompanied with nineteen etchings on copper, by Nieuhoff Piccard,[Pg 131] a person who will be more particularly adverted to hereafter. They consist of, 1. The emblem of Mortality. 2. The temptation. 3. The expulsion from Paradise. 4. Adam digging, Eve spinning. 5. Concert of Deaths. 6. The Infant. 7. The new married couple. 8. The Duke. 9. The Advocate. 10. The Abbot. 11. The Monk. 12. The Abbess. 13. The Soldier. 14. The Merchant. 15. The Pedler. 16. The Fool. 17. The Blind Man. 18. The Old Woman. 19. The Old Man. The designs, with some occasional variations, correspond with those in the original wood-cuts. The plates of these etchings must have passed into the hands of some English printsellers, as broken sets of them have not long since been seen, one only of which, namely, that of the Temptation, had these lines on it:

“All that e’er had breath
Must dance after Death.”

with the date 1720. Several were then numbered at bottom with Arabic numerals.

X. “Schau-platz des Todes, oder Todten Tanz, von Sal. Van Rusting Med. Doct. in Nieder-Teutscher-Spracke nun aber in Hoch Teutscher mit nothigen Anmerchungen heraus gegeben von Johann Georg. Meintel Hochfurstl Brandenburg-Onoltzbachischen pfarrer zu Petersaurach.” Nurnberg, 1736. 8vo. Or, “The Theatre of Death, or Dance of Death, by Sol. Van Rusting, doctor of medicine, in Low German language, but now in High German, with necessary notes by John George Meintel in the service of his Serene Highness of Brandenburg, and parson of Petersaurach.” It is said to have been originally published in 1707, which is very probable, as Rusting, of whom very little is recorded, was born about 1650. In the early part of his life he practised as an army surgeon. He was a great admirer and follower of the doctrines of Balthasar Bekker in his “Monde enchanté.” There are editions in Dutch only, 1735 and 1741. 12mo. the plates being[Pg 132] copies. In the above-mentioned edition by Meintel there is an elaborate preface, with some account of the Dance of Death, and its editions, but replete with the grossest errors, into which he has been misled by Hilscher, and some other writers. His text is accompanied with a profusion of notes altogether of a pious and moral nature.

Rusting’s work consists of thirty neat engravings, of which the following are copied from the Lyons wood-cuts. 1. The King, much varied. 2. The Astrologer. 3. The Soldier. 4. The Monk. 5. The Old Man. 6. The Pedler. The rest are, on the whole, original designs, yet with occasional hints from the Lyons cuts; the best of them are, the Masquerade, the Rope-dancer, and the Skaiters. The frontispiece is in two compartments; the upper one, Death crowned, sitting on a throne, on each side of him a Death trumpeter; the lower, a fantastic Dance of seven Deaths, near a crowned skeleton lying on a couch.

XI. “Le triomphe de la Mort.” A Basle, 1780, folio. This is the first part of a collection of the works of Hans Holbein, engraved and published by M. Chretien de Mechel, a celebrated artist, and formerly a printseller in the above city. It has a dedication to George III. followed by explanations in French of the subjects, in number 46, and in the following order; No. 1. A Frontispiece, representing a tablet of stone, on one side of which Holbein appears behind a curtain, which is drawn aside by Death in order to exhibit to him the grand spectacle of the scenes of human life which he is intended to paint; this is further designated by a heap of the attributes of greatness, dignities, wealth, arts, and sciences, intermixed with Deaths’ heads, all of which are trampled under foot by Death himself. At bottom, Lucan’s line, “Mors sceptra ligonibus æquat.” The tablet is surmounted by a medallion of Holbein, supported by two genii, one of whom decorates the portrait with flowers, whilst another[Pg 133] lets loose a butterfly, and a third is employed in blowing bubbles. On the tablet itself is a second title, “Le triomphe de la mort, gravé d’apres les dessins originaux de Jean Holbein par Chrn. de Mechel, graveur à Basle, MDCCLXXX.” This frontispiece has been purposely inverted for the present work. The other subjects are: No. 2. The Temptation. 3. Expulsion from Paradise. 4. Adam digging, Eve spinning. 5. The Pope. 6. The Cardinal. 7. The Duke. 8. The Bishop. 9. The Canon. 10. The Monk. 11. The Abbot. 12. The Abbess. 13. The Preacher. 14. The Priest. 15. The Physician. 16. The Astrologer. 17. The Emperor. 18. The King. 19. The Empress. 20. The Queen. 21. The Duchess. 22. The Countess. 23. The New-married Couple. 24. The Nun. 25. The Nobleman. 26. The Knight. 27. The Gentleman. 28. The Soldier. 29. The Judge. 30. The Counsellor. 31. The Advocate. 32. The Merchant. 33. The Pedler. 34. The Shipwreck. 35. The Wine-carrier. 36. The Plowman. 37. The Miser. 38. The Robber. 39. The Drunkard. 40. The Gamblers. 41. The Old Man. 42. The Old Woman. 45. The Blind Man. 44. The Beggar. 45. The Infant. 46. The Fool.

M. Mechel has added another print on this subject, viz. the sheath of a dagger, a design for a chaser. It is impossible to exceed the beauty and skill that are manifested in this fine piece of art. The figures are, a king, queen, warrior, a young woman, a monk, and an infant, all of whom most unwillingly accompany Death in the dance. The despair of the king, the dejection of the queen, accompanied by her little dog, the terror of the soldier who hears the drum of Death, the struggling of the female, the reluctance of the monk, and the sorrow of the poor infant, are depicted with equal spirit and veracity. The original drawing is in the public library at Basle, and ascribed to Holbein. There is a general agreement between these engravings and the original[Pg 134] wood-cuts. Twenty-three are reversed. In No. 13 the jaw-bone in the hand of Death is not distinct. In No. 16 a cross is added, and in No. 17 two heads.

Mr. Coxe, in his Travels in Switzerland, has given some account of the drawings copied as above by M. de Mechel, in whose possession he saw them. He states that they were sketched with a pen, and slightly shaded with Indian ink. He mentions M. de Mechel’s conjecture that they were once in the Arundel collection, and infers from thence that they were copied by Hollar, which, however, from what has been already stated on the subject of Hollar’s print of the Soldier and Death, as well as from other variations, could not have been the case. Mr. Coxe proceeds to say that four of the subjects in M. de Mechel’s work are not in the drawings, but were copied from Hollar. It were to be wished that he had specified them. The particulars that follow were obtained by the compiler of the present dissertation from M. de Mechel himself when he was in London. He had not been able to trace the drawings previously to their falling into the hands of M. de Crozat,[123] at whose sale, about 1771, they were purchased by Counsellor Fleischmann of Strasburg, and M. de Mechel having very emphatically expressed his admiration of them whilst they were in the possession of M. Fleischmann, that gentleman very generously offered them as a present to him. M. de Mechel, however, declined the offer, but requested they might be deposited in the public library at Basle, among other precious remains of Holbein’s art. This arrangement, however, did not take place, and it happened in the mean time that two nephews of Prince Gallitzin, minister from Russia to the court of Vienna, having occasion[Pg 135] to visit M. Fleischmann, then much advanced in years, and his memory much impaired, prevailed on him to concede the drawings to their uncle, who, on learning from M. de Mechel what had originally passed between himself and M. Fleischmann, sent the drawings to him, with permission to engrave and publish them, which was accordingly done, after they had been detained two years for that purpose. They afterwards passed into the Emperor of Russia’s collection of fine arts at Petersburg.

It were greatly to be wished that some person qualified like Mr. Ottley, if such a one can be found, would take the trouble to enter on a critical examination of these drawings in their present state, with a view to ascertain, as nearly as possible, whether they carry indisputable marks of Holbein’s art and manner of execution, or whether, as may well be suspected, they are nothing more than copies, either by himself or some other person, from the original wood engravings.

M. de Mechel had begun this work in 1771, when he had engraved the first four subjects, including a frontispiece totally different from that in the volume here described. There are likewise variations in the other three. He was extremely solicitous that these should be cancelled.

XII. David Deuchar, sometimes called the Scottish Worlidge, who has etched many prints after Ostade and the Dutch masters, published a set of etchings by himself, with the following printed title: “The Dances of Death through the various stages of human life, wherein the capriciousness of that tyrant is exhibited in forty-six copper-plates, done from the original designs, which were cut in wood and afterwards painted by John Holbein in the town house at Basle, to which is prefixed descriptions of each plate in French and English, with the scripture text from which the designs were taken. Edinburgh, MDCCLXXXVIII.” Before this[Pg 136] most inaccurate title are two engraved leaves, on one of which is Deuchar’s portrait, in a medallion, supported by Adam and Eve holding the forbidden fruit. Over the medallion, the three Fates, the whole within an arch before a pediment. On each side, a plain column, supporting a pyramid, &c. On the other leaf a copy of the engraved title to M. de Mechel’s work with the substitution of Deuchar’s name. After the printed title is a portrait, as may be supposed, of Holbein, within a border containing six ovals of various subjects, and a short preface or account of that artist, but accompanied with some very inaccurate statements. The subjects are inclosed, like Hollar’s, within four different borders, separately engraved, three of them borrowed, with a slight variation in one, from Diepenbeke, the fourth being probably Deuchar’s invention. The etchings of the Dance of Death are forty-six in number, accompanied with De Mechel’s description and English translation. At the end is the emblematical print of mortality, but not described, with the dagger sheath, copied from De Mechel. Thirty of these etchings are immediately copied from Hollar, No. X. having the distance altered. The rest are taken from the spurious wood copies of the originals by [monogram] with variation in No. XVIII.; and in No. XXXIX. and XLIII. Deuchar has introduced winged hour-glasses. These etchings are very inferior to those by Hollar. The head of Eve in No. III. resembles that of a periwigged Frenchman of the time of Louis XIV. but many of the subjects are very superior to others, and intitled to much commendation.

XIII. The last in this list is “Der Todtentanz ein gedicht von Ludwig Bechstein mit 48 kupfern in treuen Conturen nach H. Holbein. Leipzig. 1831,” 12mo.; or, “Death’s Dance, a poem by Ludwig Bechstein, with forty-eight engravings in faithful outlines from H. Holbein.” These very elegant etchings are by Frenzel,[Pg 137] inspector of the gallery of engravings of the King of Saxony at Dresden. The poem, which is an epic one, relates entirely to the power of Death over mankind.

It is necessary to mention that the artist who made the designs for the Lyons Dance of Death is not altogether original with respect to a few of them. Thus, in the subject of Adam digging and Eve spinning, he has partly copied an ancient wood engraving that occurs in some of the Horæ printed by Francis Regnault at Paris. In the subject of the Queen, and on that of the Duke and Duchess, he has made some use of those of Death and the Fool, and Death and the Hermit, in the old Dance at Basle. On the other hand, he has been imitated, 1. in “La Periere Theatre des bons engins. 1561.” 24mo. where the rich man bribing the judge is introduced at fo. 66. 2. The figure of the Swiss gentleman in “Recueil de la diversité des habits.” Paris, 1567. 12mo. is copied from the last print in the Lyons book. 3. From the same print the Death’s head has been introduced in an old wood engraving, that will be more particularly described hereafter. 4. Brebiette, in a small etching on copper, has copied the Lyons plowman. 5. Mr. Dance, in his painting of Garrick, has evidently made use of the gentleman who lifts up his sword against Death. The copies of the portrait of Francis I. have been already noticed.



[Pg 138]


Further examination of Holbein’s title.—Borbonius.—Biographical notice of Holbein.—Painting of a Dance of Death at Whitehall by him.


It may be necessary in the next place to make some further enquiry respecting the connection that Holbein is supposed to have had at any time with the subject of the Dance of Death.

The numerous errors that have been fallen into in making Holbein a participator in any manner whatever with the old Basle Macaber Dance, have been already noticed, and are indeed not worth the trouble of refuting. It is wholly improbable that he would interfere with so rude a piece of art; nor has his name been recorded among the artists who are known to have retouched or repaired it. The Macaber Dance at Basle, or any where else, is, therefore, with respect to Holbein, to be altogether laid aside; and if the argument before deduced from the important dedication to the edition of the justly celebrated wood-cuts published at Lyons in 1538 be of any value, his claim to their invention, at least to those in the first edition, must also be rejected.[124] There is indeed but very slight evidence, and none contemporary, that he painted any Dance of Death at Basle. The indefinite statements of Bishop Burnet and M. Patin, together with those of the numerous and[Pg 139] careless travellers who have followed blind leaders, and too often copied each other without the means or inclination of obtaining correct information, are deserving of very little attention. The circumstance of Holbein’s having painted a Dance of Peasants somewhere in the above city, in conjunction with the usual mistake of ascribing to him the old Macaber Dance, seems to have occasioned the above erroneous statements as to a Dance of Death by his pencil. It is hardly possible that Zuinger, almost a contemporary, when describing the Dance of Peasants and other paintings by Holbein at Basle would have omitted the mention of any Dance of Death:[125] but even admitting the former existence of such a painting, it would not constitute him the inventor of the designs in the Lyons work. He might have imitated or copied those designs, or the wood-cuts themselves, or perhaps have painted subjects that were different from either.

We are now to take into consideration some very clear and important evidence that Holbein actually did paint a Dance of Death. This is to be found in the Nugæ of Borbonius in the following verses:

De morte picta à Hanso pictore nobili.
Dum mortis Hansus pictor imaginum exprimit,
Tanta arte mortem retulit, ut mors vivere
Videatur ipsa: et ipse se immortalibus
Parem Diis fecerit, operis hujus gloria.[126]

It has been already demonstrated that these lines could not refer to the old painting of the Macaber Dance at the Dominican convent, whilst, from the important dedication to the edition of the wood-cuts first published at Lyons in 1538, it is next to impossible that that work could then have been in Borbonius’s[Pg 140] contemplation. It appears from several places in his Nugæ that he was in England in 1535, at which time Holbein drew his portrait in such a manner as to excite his gratitude and admiration in another copy of verses.[127] This was probably the chalk drawing still preserved in the fine collection of portraits of the eminent persons in the court of Henry VIII. formerly at Kensington, and thence removed to Buckingham House, and which has been copied in an elegant wood-cut, that first appeared in the edition of the Paidagogeion of Borbonius, Lyons, 1536, and afterward in two editions of his Nugæ. It is inscribed NIC. BORBONIVS VANDOP. ANNO ÆTATIS XXXII. 1535. He returned to Lyons in 1536, and it is known that he was there in 1538, when he probably wrote the complimentary lines in Holbein’s Biblical designs a short time before their publication, either out of friendship to the painter, or at the instance of the Lyons publisher with whom he was certainly connected.

Now if Borbonius, during his residence at Lyons, had been assured that the designs in the wood-cuts of the Dance of Death were the production of Holbein, would not his before-mentioned lines on that subject have been likewise introduced into the Lyons edition of it, or at least into some subsequent editions, in none of which is any mention whatever made of Holbein, although the work was continued even after the death of that artist? The application, therefore, of Borbonius’s lines must be sought for elsewhere; but it is greatly to be regretted that he has not adverted to the place where the painting, as he seems to call it, was made.

Very soon after the calamitous fire at Whitehall in 1697, which consumed nearly the whole of that palace, a person calling himself T. Nieuhoff Piccard, probably belonging to the household of William the Third, and a[Pg 141] man who appears to have been an amateur artist, made the etchings in the article IX. already described in p. 130. Copies of them were presented to some of his friends, with manuscript dedications to them. Three of these copies have been seen by the author of this Dissertation, and as the dedications differ from each other, and are of very considerable importance on the present occasion, the following extracts from them are here translated and transcribed:

To Mynheer Heymans.

“Sir,—The costly palace of Whitehall, erected by Cardinal Wolsey, and the residence of King Henry VIII. contains, among other performances of art, a Dance of Death, painted by Holbein in its galleries, which, through an unfortunate conflagration, has been reduced to ashes; and even the little work which he has engraved with his own hand, and which I have copied as near as possible, is so scarce, that it is known only to a few lovers of art. And since the court has thought proper, in consideration of your singular deserts, to cause a dwelling to be built for you at Whitehall, I imagined it would not be disagreeable to you to be made acquainted with the former decorations of that palace. It will not appear strange that the artist should have chosen the above subject for ornamenting the royal walls, if we consider that the founder of the Greek monarchy directed that he should be daily reminded of the admonition, ‘Remember, Philip, that thou art a man.’ In like manner did Holbein with his pencil give tongues to these walls to impress not only the king and his court, but every one who viewed them with the same reflection.”

He then proceeds to describe each of the subjects, and concludes with some moral observations.

In another copy of these etchings the dedication is to

[Pg 142]“The high, noble, and wellborn Lord William Benting, Lord of Rhoon, Pendreght, &c.”

“Sir,—In the course of my constant love and pursuit of works of art, it has been my good fortune to meet with that scarce little work of Hans Holbein neatly engraved on wood, and which he himself had painted as large as life in fresco on the walls of Whitehall. In the copy which I presume to lay before you, as being born in the same palace, I have followed the original as nearly as possible, and considering the partiality which every one has for the place of his birth, a description of what is remarkable and curious therein and now no longer existing on account of its destruction by a fatal fire, must needs prove acceptable, as no other remains whatever have been left of that once so famous court of King Henry VIII. built by Cardinal Wolsey, than your own dwelling.”

He then repeats the story of Philip of Macedon, and the account of the subjects of his etchings.

At the end of this dedication there is a fragment of another, the beginning of which is lost. The following passages only in it are worthy of notice. “The residence of King William.” “I flatter myself with a familiar acquaintance with Death, since I have already lived long enough to seem to be buried alive, &c.” In other respects, the same, in substance, as the preceding.

It is almost needless to advert to M. Nieuhoff Piccard’s mistake in asserting that Holbein made the engravings which he copied; but it would have been of some importance if, instead of his pious ejaculations, he had described all the subjects that Holbein painted on the walls of the galleries at Whitehall. He must have used some edition of the wood-cuts posterior to that of 1545, which did not contain the subjects of the German[Pg 143] soldier, the fool, and the blind man, all of which he has introduced. It is possible, however, that he has given us all the subjects that were then remaining, the rest having become decayed or obliterated from dampness and neglect, and even those which then existed would soon afterwards perish when the remains of the old palace were removed. His copies are by no means faithful, and seem to be rather the production of an amateur than of a regular artist. For his greater convenience, he appears to have preferred using the wood engravings instead of the paintings; and it is greatly to be regretted that we have no better or further account of them, especially of the time at which they were executed. The lives of Holbein that we possess are uniformly defective in chronological arrangement. There seems to be a doubt whether the Earl of Arundel recommended him to visit England; but certain it is that in the year 1526 he came to London with a letter of that date addressed by Erasmus to Sir Thomas More, accompanied with his portrait, with which More was so well satisfied that he retained him at his house at Chelsea upwards of two years, until Henry VIII. from admiration of his works, appointed him his painter, with apartments at Whitehall. In 1529 he visited Basle, but returned to England in 1530. In 1535 he drew the portrait of his friend Nicholas Bourbon or Borbonius at London, probably the before-mentioned crayon drawing at Buckingham House, or some duplicate of it. In 1538 he painted the portrait of Sir Richard Southwell, a privy counsellor to Henry VIII. which was afterwards in the gallery of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.[128] About this time the magistrates of the city of Basle settled an annuity on him, but conditionally that he should return in two years to his native place and[Pg 144] family, with which terms he certainly did not comply, preferring to remain in England. In the last-mentioned year he was sent by the king into Burgundy to paint the portrait of the Duchess of Milan, and in 1539 to Germany to paint that of Anne of Cleves. In some household accounts of Henry VIII. there are payments to him in 1538, 1539, 1540, and 1541, on account of his salary, which appears to have been thirty pounds per annum.[129] From this time little more is recorded of him till 1553, when he painted Queen Mary’s portrait, and shortly afterwards died of the plague in London in 1554.

In the absence of positive evidence it may surely be allowed to substitute probable conjecture; and as it cannot be clearly proved that Holbein painted a Dance of Death at Basle, may not the before-mentioned verses of Borbonius refer to his painting at Whitehall, and which the poet must himself have seen? It is no objection that Borbonius remained a year only in England, when his portrait was painted by his friend Holbein in 1535, or that the verses did not make their appearance till 1538, for they seem rather to fix the date of the painting, if really belonging to it, between those years; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that Borbonius would hold some intercourse with the painter, even after leaving England, as is indeed apparent from other compliments bestowed on him in his Nugæ, the contents of which are by no means chronologically arranged, and many of the poems known to have been written long before their publication. The lines in question might have been written any where, and at any time, and this may be very safely stated until the real time in which the Whitehall painting was made shall be ascertained.

In one of Vanderdort’s manuscript catalogues of the pictures and rarities transported from St. James’s to[Pg 145] Whitehall, and placed there in the newly erected cabinet room of Charles I. and in which several works by Holbein are mentioned, there is the following article: “A little piece where Death with a green garland about his head, stretching both his arms to apprehend a Pilate in the habit of one of the spiritual Prince Electors of Germany. Copied by Isaac Oliver from Holbein.”[130] There cannot be a doubt that this refers to the subject of the Elector, as painted by Holbein in the Dance of Death at Whitehall, proving at the same time the identity of the painting with the wood-cuts, whatever may be the inference.

Sandrart, after noticing a remarkable portrait of Henry VIII. at Whitehall, states, that “there yet remains in that palace another work by Holbein that constitutes him the Apelles of the time.”[131] This is certainly very like an allusion to a Dance of Death.

It is by no means improbable that Mathew Prior may have alluded to Holbein’s painting at Whitehall, as it is not likely that he would be acquainted with any other.

Our term of life depends not on our deed,
Before our birth our funeral was decreed,
Nor aw’d by foresight, nor misled by chance,
Imperious death directs the ebon lance,
Peoples great Henry’s tombs, and leads up Holbein’s Dance.
Ode to the Memory of George Villiers.



[Pg 146]


Other Dances of Death.


Having thus disposed of the two most ancient and important works on the subject in question, others of a similar nature, but with designs altogether different, and introduced into various books, remain to be noticed, and such are the following:

I. “Les loups ravissans fait et composé par maistre Robert Gobin prestre, maistre es ars licencie en decret, doyen de crestienté de Laigny sur Marne au dyocese de Paris, advocat en court d’eglise. Imprimé pour Anthoine Verard a Paris, 4to.” without date, but about 1500. This is a very bitter satire, in the form of a dream, against the clergy in general, but more particularly against Popes John XXII. and Boniface VIII. A wolf, in a lecture to his children, instructs them in every kind of vice and wickedness, but is opposed, and his doctrines refuted, by an allegorical personage called Holy Doctrine. In a second vision Death appears to the author, accompanied by Fate, War, Famine, and Mortality. All classes of society are formed into a Dance, as the author chooses to call it, and the work is accompanied with twenty-one very singular engravings on wood, executed in a style perhaps nowhere else to be met with. The designs are the same as those in the second Dance of the Horæ, printed by Higman for Vostre, No. I. page 61.

II. “A booke of Christian prayers, collected out of[Pg 147] the ancient writers, &c.” Printed by J. Day, 1569. 4to. Afterwards in 1578, 1581, 1590, and 1609. It is more frequently mentioned under the title of “Queen Elizabeth’s prayer-book,” a most unsuitable title, when it is recollected how sharply this haughty dame rebuked the Dean of Christchurch for presenting a common prayer to her which had been purposely ornamented with cuts by him.[132] This book was most probably compiled by the celebrated John Fox, and is accompanied with elegant borders in the margins of every leaf cut in wood by an unknown artist whose mark is [monogram], though they have been most unwarrantably ascribed to Holbein, and even to Agnes Frey, the wife of Albert Durer, who is not known with any certainty to have practised the art of engraving. At the end is a Dance of Death different from every other of the kind, and of singular interest, as exhibiting the costume of its time with respect to all ranks and conditions of life, male and female.

These are the characters. “The Emperor, the King, the Duke, the Marques, the Baron, the Vicount, the Archbishop, the Bishop, the Doctor, the Preacher, the Lord, the Knight, the Esquire, the Gentleman, the Judge, the Justice, the Serjeant at law, the Attorney, the Mayor, the Shirife, the Bailife, the Constable, the Physitian, the Astronomer, the Herauld, the Sergeant at arms, the Trumpetter, the Pursevant, the Dromme, the Fife, the Captaine, the Souldier, the Marchant, the Citizen, the Printers (in two compartments), the Rich Man, the Aged Man, the Artificer, the Husbandman, the Musicians (in two compartments), the Shepheard, the Foole, the Beggar, the Roge, of Youth, of Infancie.” Then the females. “The Empresse, the Queene, the Princes, the Duchesse, the Countesse, the Vicountesse,[Pg 148] the Baronnesse, the Lady, the Judge’s Wife, the Lawyer’s Wife, the Gentlewoman, the Alderman’s Wife, the Marchantes Wife, the Citizen’s Wife, the Rich Man’s Wife, the Young Woman, the Mayde, the Damosell, the Farmar’s Wife, the Husbandman’s Wife, the Countriwoman, the Nurse, the Shepheard’s Wife, the Aged Woman, the Creeple, the Poore Woman, the Infant, the (female) Foole.” All these are designed in a masterly manner, and delicately engraved. The figures of the Deaths occasionally abound in much humour, and always with appropriate characters. The names of the unknown artists were worthy of being recorded.

III. “Icones mortis, sexaginta imaginibus totidemque inscriptionibus insignitæ versibus quoque Latinis et novis Germanicis illustratæ. Norimbergæ Christ. Lockner, 1648, 8vo.”[133]

IV. “Rudolph Meyers S: Todten dantz ergantz et und heraus gegeben durch Conrad Meyern Maalern in Zurich, im jahr 1650.” On an engraved title page, representing an angel blowing a trumpet, with a motto from the Apocalypse. Death or Time holds a lettered label with the above inscription or title. In the back ground groups of small figures allusive to the last judgment. Then follows a printed title “Sterbenspiegel das ist sonnenklare vorstellung menschlicher nichtigkeit durch alle Stand und Geschlechter: vermitlest 60 dienstlicher kupferblatteren lehrreicher uberschrifften und beweglicher zu vier stimmen auszgesetzter Todtengesangen, vor disem angefangen durch Rudolffen Meyern S. von Zurich, &c. Jetzaber zu erwekung nohtwendiger Todsbetrachtung verachtung irdischer eytelkeit; und beliebung seliger ewigkeit zuend gebracht und verlegt durch Conrad Meyern Maalern in Zurich und daselbsten bey ihme zufinden. Getruckt zu Zürich bey Johann Jacob Bodmer, MDCL.” 4to. that is: The Mirror[Pg 149] of Death—that is—a brilliant representation of human nothingness in all ranks and conditions, by means of 60 appropriate Copperplates, spiritual superscriptions, and moving songs of Death, arranged for four voices, formerly commenced by Rudolph Meyer of Zurich, &c. but now brought to an end and completed, for the awaking of a necessary consideration of death, a contempt of earthly vanity, and a love of blissful eternity, by Conrad Meyer of Zurich, of whom they are to be had. Printed at Zurich, by John Jacob Bodmer, MDCL.

The subjects are the following:—1. The Creation. 2. The Fall. 3. Expulsion from Paradise. 4. Punishment of Man. 5. Triumph of Death. 6. An allegorical frontispiece relating to the class of the Clergy. 6. The Pope. 7. The Cardinal. 8. The Bishop. 9. The Abbot. 10. The Abbess. 11. The Priest. 12. The Monk. 13. The Hermit. 14. The Preacher. 15. An allegorical frontispiece to the class of Rulers and Governors. 15. The Emperor. 16. The Empress. 17. The King. 18. The Queen. 19. The Prince Elector. 20. The Earl and Countess. 21. The Knight. 22. The Nobleman. 23. The Judge. 24. The Steward, Widow, and Orphan. 25. The Captain. 26. An allegorical frontispiece to the Lower Classes. 26. The Physician. 27. The Astrologer. 28. The Merchant. 29. The Painter and his kindred: among these the old man is Dietrich Meyern; the painter resembles the portrait of Conrad Meyern in Sandrart, and the man at the table is probably Rudolph Meyern. 30. The Handcraftsman. 31. The Architect. 32. The Innkeeper. 33. The Cook. 34. The Ploughman. 35. The Man and Maid Servant. 36. The old Man. 37. The old Woman. 38. The Lovers. 39. The Child. 40. The Soldier. 41. The Pedler. 42. The Highwayman. 43. The Quack Doctor. 44. The Blind Man. 45. The Beggar. 46. The Jew. 47. The Usurer. 48. The Gamesters. 49. The Drunkards. 50. The [Pg 150]Gluttons. 51. The Fool. 52. The Certainty of Death. 53. The Uncertainty of Death. 54. The Last Judgment. 55. Christ’s Victory. 56. Salvation. 57. True and False Religion.

The text consists chiefly of Death’s apostrophe to his victims, with their remonstrances, verses under each subject, and various other matters. At the end are pious songs and psalms set to music. This work was jointly executed by two excellent artists, Rodolph and Conrad Meyer or Meyern, natives of Zurich. The designs are chiefly by Rodolph, and the etchings by Conrad, consisting of sixty very masterly compositions. The grouping of the figures is admirable, and the versatile representations of Death most skilfully characterized. Many of the subjects are greatly indebted to the Lyons wood engravings.

In 1657 and 1759 there appeared other editions of the latter, with this title, “Die menschliche Sterblichkeit under dem titel Todten Tanz in LXI original-kupfern, von Rudolf und Conrad Meyern beruhmten kunstmahlern in Zurich abermal herausgegeben, nebst neven, dazu dienenden, moralischen versen und veber schriften.” That is, “Human mortality, under the title of the Dance of Death, in 61 original copper prints of Rudolf and Conrad Meyern, renowned painters at Zurich, to which are added appropriate moral verses and inscriptions.” Hamburg and Leipsig, 1759, 4to. The prolegomena are entirely different from those in the other edition, and an elaborate preface is added, giving an account of several editions of the Dance of Death. Instead of the Captain, No. 25, the Ensign is substituted, and the Cook is newly designed. Some of the numbers of the subjects are misplaced. The etchings have been retouched, and on many the date of 1637 is seen, which had no where occurred in the first edition here described.

In 1704 copies of 52 of these etchings were published[Pg 151] at Augsburg, under the title of “Tripudium mortis per victoriam super carnem universæ orbis terræ erectum. Ab A. C. Redelio S. C. M. T. P.” on a label held by Death as before. Then the German title “Erbaulicher Sterb-Spiegel dast ist sonnen-klahre vorstellung menschlicher nichtigkeit durch alle stande und geschlechter: vermittelst schoner kupffern, lehr-reicher bey-schrifften und hertz-beweglich angehangter Todten-lieder ehmahls herauss gegeben durch Rudolph und Conrad Meyern mahlern in Zurch Anjetzo aber mit Lateinischen unterschrifften der kupffer vermehret und aussgezieret von dem Welt-beruhmten Poeten Augustino Casimiro Redelio, Belg. Mech. Sac. Cæs. Majest. L. P. Augsburg zu finden bey Johann Philipp Steudner. Druckts, Abraham Gugger. 1704.” 4to. That is, “An edifying mirror of mortality, representing the nullity of man through all stations and generations, by means of beautiful engravings in copper, instructive inscriptions, and heart-moving lays of Death, as an appendix to the work formerly edited by Rudolph and Conrad Meyern of Zurich, but now published with Latin inscriptions, and engravings augmented and renewed by the worldly renowned poet Augustin Casimir Redel, &c.”

In this edition the Pope and all the other religious characters are omitted, probably by design. The etchings are very inferior to the fine originals, and without the name of the artist. The dresses are frequently modernised in the fashion of the time, and other variations are occasionally introduced.

V. “Den Algemeynen dooden Spiegel van Pater Abraham à Sancta Clara,” i. e. The universal mirror of Death of Father Abraham à Sancta Clara. On a frontispiece engraved on copper, with a medallion of the author, and various allegorical figures. Then the printed title, “Den Algemeynen Dooden spiegel ofte de capelle der Dooden waer in alle Menschen sich al lacchende oft al weenende op recht konnen beschouwen verciert mer[Pg 152] aerdige historien, Siu-rycke gedichten ende sedenleer-ende Beeldt-schetsen op gestelt door den eerweerdigen Pater Abraham à Sancta Clara Difinitor der Provincie van het order der ongeschoende Augustynen ende Predickant van syne Keyserlycke Majesteyt Leopoldus. Getrouwelyck overgeset vyt het hoogh-duyts in onse Nederduytsche Taele. Tot Brussel, by de Wed. G. Jacobs tegen de Baert-brugge in de Druckerye, 1730.” 12mo. i. e. “The universal mirror of Death taken from the chapel of the dead; in which all men may see themselves properly, whether laughing or weeping, ornamented with pretty stories, spirited poems, and instructive prints, arranged by Father Abraham à Sancta Clara, of the Augustinian order, and preacher to his Imperial Majesty Leopold, and faithfully translated out of High Dutch into our Netherlandish language.”

The work consists of sixty-seven engravings on wood within borders, and of very indifferent execution in all respects; the text a mixture of prose and poetry of a religious nature, allusive to the subjects, which are not uniformly a dance of Death. The best among them are the Painter, p. 45; the Drunkard, p. 75; the dancing Couple, Death playing the Flageolet, p. 103; the Fowler, p. 113; the hen-pecked Husband, p. 139; the Courtezan, p. 147; the Musician, p. 193; the Gamester, p. 221; and the blind Beggar, p. 289.

VI. “Geistliche Todts-Gedanchen bey allerhand semahlden und Tchildereyn in vabildung Interschiedlichen geschlechts, alters, standes, und wurdend perschnen sich des Todes zucrinneren ans dessen lehrdie tugende zuüben und die Tundzu meyden Erstlich in kupfer entworffen nachmaler durch sittliche erdrtherung und aberlegung unter Todten-farben in vorschem gebracht, dardurch zumheyl der seelen im gemuth des geneighten lesers ein lebendige forcht und embsige vorsorg des Todes zu erwecken. Cum permissu superiorum. Passau Gedrucht bey Frederich Gabriel Mangold, hochfurst,[Pg 153] hof buchdruckern, 1753. Lintz, verlegts Frantz Anton Ilger, Burgerl, Buchhandlern allda.” Folio. In English, “The Spiritual Dance of Death in all kinds of pictures and representations, whereby persons of every age, sex, rank, and dignity, may be reminded of Death, from which lesson they may exercise themselves in virtue, and avoid sin. First put upon copper, and afterwards, through moral considerations and investigations brought to light in Death’s own colours, thereby for the good of the souls of the well inclined readers to awaken in them a lively fear and diligent anticipation of Death.”

The subjects are: 1. The Creation. 2. Temptation. 3. Expulsion. 4. Punishment. 5. A charnel house, with various figures of Death, three in the back-ground dancing. 6. The Pope. 7. Cardinal. 8. Bishop. 9. Abbot. 10. Canon. 11. Preacher. 12. Chaplain. 13. Monk. 14. Abbess. 15. Nun. 16. Emperor. 17. Empress. 18. King. 19. Queen. 20. Prince. 21. Princess. 22. Earl. 23. Countess. 24. Knight. 25. Nobleman. 26. Judge. 27. Counsellor. 28. Advocate. 29. Physician. 30. Astrologer. 31. Rich man. 32. Merchant. 33. Shipwreck. 34. Lovers. 35. Child. 36. Old man. 37. Old woman. 38. Carrier. 39. Pedler. 40. Ploughman. 41. Soldier. 42. Gamesters. 43. Drunkards. 44. Murderer. 45. Fool. 46. Blind man. 47. Beggar. 48. Hermit. 49. Corruption. 50. Last Judgment. 51. Allegory of Death’s Arms, &c.

The designs and some of the engravings are by M. Rentz, for the most part original, with occasional hints from the Lyons wood-cuts.

Another edition with some variation was printed at Hamburg, 1759, folio.

VII. In the Lavenburg Calendar for 1792, are 12 designs by Chodowiecki for a Dance of Death. These are: 1. The Pope. 2. The King. 3. The Queen. 4. The General. 5. The Genealogist. 6. The Physician.[Pg 154] 7. The Mother. 8. The Centinel. 9. The Fish Woman. 10. The Beggar. 11. The fille de joye and bawd. 12. The Infant.

VIII. A Dance of Death in one of the Berne Almanacks, consisting of the 16 following subjects. 1. Death fantastically dressed as a beau, seizes the city maiden. 2. Death wearing a Kevenhuller hat, takes the housemaid’s broom from her. 3. Death seizes a terrified washerwoman. 4. He takes some of the apple-woman’s fruit out of her basket. 5. The cellar maid or tapster standing at the door of an alehouse is summoned by death to accompany him. 6. He lays violent hands upon an abusive strumpet. 7. In the habit of an old woman he lays hold of a midwife with a newly born infant in her hands. 8. With a shroud thrown over his shoulder he summons the female mourner. 9. In the character of a young man with a chapeau bras he brings a urinal for the physician’s inspection. 10. The life-guardsman is accompanied by Death also on horseback and wearing an enormous military hat. 11. Death with a skillet on his head plunders the tinker’s basket. 12. Death in a pair of jack-boots leads the postilion. 13. The lame beggar led by Death. 14. Death standing in a grave pulls the grave digger towards him by the leg. 15. Death seated on a plough with a scythe in his left hand, seizes the farmer, who carries several implements of husbandry on his shoulders. 16. The fraudulent inn-keeper in the act of adulterating his liquor in the cask, is throttled by Death who carries an ale vessel at his back. These figures are cut on wood in a free and masterly manner, by Zimmerman, an artist much employed in the decoration of these calendars. The prints are accompanied with dialogues between Death and the respective parties.

IX. “Freund Heins Erscheinungen in Holbeins manier von J. R. Schellenberg Winterthur, bey Heinrich Steiner und Comp. 1785, 8vo.” That is—“Friend Heins [Pg 155]appearance in the manner of Holbein, by J. R. Schellenberg.” The preface states that from the poverty of the German language in synonymous expressions for the allegorical or ideal Death, the author has ventured to coin the jocose appellation of Friend Hein, which will be understood from its resemblance to Hain or Hayn, a word signifying a grove. The sagacity of the German reader will perhaps discover the analogy. The subjects are 24 in number, as follow:

1. Love interrupted. The lovers are caught by Death in a net, and in no very decent attitude.

2. Suicide. A man shoots himself with a pistol, and falls into the arms of Death.

3. Death in the character of a beau visits a lady at her toilet.

4. The Aeronaut. The balloon takes fire, and the aeronaut is precipitated.

5. Death’s visit to the school. He enters at a door inscribed SILENTIUM, and puts the scholars to flight.

6. Bad distribution of alms.

7. Expectation deluded. Death disguised as a fine lady lays hands upon a beau, who seems to have expected a very different sort of visitor.

8. Unwelcome officiousness. Death feeding an infant with poison, the nurse wringing her hands in despair.

9. The dissolution of the monastery. The Abbot followed by his monks receives the fatal summons in a letter delivered to him by Death.

10. The company of a friend. An aged man near a grave wrings his hands. Death behind directs his attention to heaven.

11. The lottery gambler. Death presents him with the unlucky ticket.

12. The woman of Vienna and the woman of Rome. Death seizes one, and points to the other.

13. The Usurer. Death shuts him into his money chest.

[Pg 156]14. The Glutton. Death seizes him at table, and forcibly pours wine down his throat.

15. The Rope-dancer. Death mounted on an ass, and fantastically apparelled, enters the circle of spectators, and seizes the performer by one of his legs.

16. The lodge of secrecy (freemasonry). Death introduces a novice blindfold to the lodge.

17. The recruiting Officer. Death enlists some country fellows, a fiddler preceding.

18. Berthold Swartz. Death ignites the contents of the mortar, and blows up the monk. In the usual representations of this story the Devil is always placed near the monk.

19. The Duel. A man strikes with a sword at Death, who is lifting up the valves of a window.

20. The plunder of the falling-trap. Death demolishes a student by throwing a bookcase filled with books upon him.

21. Silence surrendered. Death appears to a schoolmistress. The children terrified, escape.

22. The privilege of the strong. Death lays violent hands on a lady, whom her male companions in vain endeavour to protect.

23. The apothecary. Death enters his shop, and directs his attention to the poor patients who are coming in.

24. The Conclusion. Two anatomists joining hands are both embraced by Death.

The best of these subjects are Nos. 4, 13, 14, 15, and 18. The text is a mixture of prose and verse.

X. “The English Dance of Death, from the designs of Thomas Rowlandson, with metrical illustrations by the author of Doctor Syntax.” 2 vols. 8vo. 1815-1816. Ackermann.

In seventy-two coloured engravings. Among these the most prominent and appropriate are, the last Chase; the Recruit; the Catchpole; the Death-blow; the Dramshop; the Skaiters; the Duel; the Kitchen; the [Pg 157]Toastmaster; the Gallant’s downfall; and the fall of four in hand. The rest are comparatively feeble and irrelevant, and many of the subjects ill-chosen, and devoid of that humour which might have been expected from the pencil of Rowlandson, whose grotesque predominates as usual in the groups.

XI. “Death’s Doings, consisting of numerous original compositions in prose and verse, the friendly contributions of various writers, principally intended as illustrations of 24 plates designed and etched by R. Dagley, author of “Select gems from the antique,” &c.” 1826. 8vo.

From the intrinsic value and well deserved success of this work, a new edition was almost immediately called for, which received many important additions from the modest and ingenious author. Among these a new frontispiece, from the design of Adrian Van Venne, the celebrated Dutch poet and painter, is particularly to be noticed. This edition is likewise enriched with numerous elegant contributions, both in prose and verse, from some of the best writers of the age.

XII. A modern French Dance of Death, under the title of “Voyage pour l’Eternité, service général des omnibus accélérés, depart à tout heure et de tous les point du globe.” Par J. Grandville. No date, but about 1830. A series of nine lithographic engravings, including the frontispiece. Oblong 4to. These are the subjects:

1. Frontispiece. Death conducting passengers in his omnibus to the cemetery of Père la Chaise.

2. “C’est ici le dernier relai.” Death as a postilion gives notice to a traveller incumbered with his baggage, &c.

3. “Vais-je bien? ... vous avancez horriblement.” Death enters a watchmaker’s shop, and shews his hour-glass to the master and his apprentice.

4. “Monsieur le Baron, on vous demande.—Dites que je n’y suis pas.” Death having entered the [Pg 158]apartment, the valet communicates his summons to his gouty master lying on a couch.

5. “Soyez tranquille, j’ai un garçon qui ne se trompe jamais.” The apothecary addresses these words to some cautious patients whilst he fills a vessel which they have brought to his shop. Death, as an apprentice in another room, pounds medicines in a mortar.

6. “Voila, Messieurs, un plat de mon metier.” A feast. Death as a waiter enters with a plate of poisonous fruit.

7. “Voulez vous monter chez moi, mon petit Monsieur, vous n’en serez pas fâché, allez.” Death, tricked out as a fille de joye with a mask, entices a youth introduced by a companion.

8. “—Pour une consultation, Docteur, j’en suis j’vous suis ...” Death in the character of an undertaker, his hearse behind, invites an old man to follow him.

9. “Oui, Madame, ce sera bien la promenade la plus delicieuse! une voiture dans le dernier goût! un cheval qui fend l’air, et le meilleur groom de France.” Death, habited as a beau, conducts a lady followed by her maid to a carriage in waiting.

XIII. The British Dance of Death, exemplified by a series of engravings from drawings by Van Assen, with explanatory and moral essays. Printed by and for George Smeeton, Royal Arcade, Pall Mall. 8vo. no date. With a frontispiece designed by Geo. Cruikshank, representing a crowned sitting Death, holding a scythe in one hand, and with the other leaning on a globe. This is circular in the middle. Over it two small compartments of Death striking an infant in the cradle, and a sick man. At bottom, two others of Death demolishing a glutton and a drunkard. A short preface states that the work is on the plan of “the celebrated designs of Holbein,” meaning of course the Lyons work, but to which it has not the smallest resemblance, and refers to Lord Orford for the mention of the Basle dance, which,[Pg 159] as having two or sometimes three figures only, it does resemble. It then states that the late Mr. Van Assen had no intention of publishing these designs, which now appear in compliance with the wishes of many of his friends to possess them. They are very neatly engraved, and tinted in imitation of the original drawings, but are wholly destitute of that humour which might have been expected from the pencil of the ingenious inventor, and which he has manifested on many other occasions. The subjects are the following: 1. The Infant. 2. Juvenile piety. 3. The Student. 4. The Sempstress. 5. The musical Student. 6. The Dancer. 7. The female Student. 8. The Lovers. 9. The industrious Wife. 10. The Warrior. 11. The Pugilists. 12. The Glutton. 13. The Drunkard. 14. The Watchman. 15. The Fishwoman. 16. The Physician. 17. The Miser. 18. Old Age. Death with his dart is standing near all these figures, but does not seem to be noticed by any of them.

XIV. A Dance of Death in Danish rimes is mentioned in Nyerup’s “Bidragh til den Danske digtakunst historie.” 1800. 12mo.

XV. John Nixon Coleraine, an amateur, and secretary to the original Beef Stake Club, etched a dance of Death for ladies’ fans. He died only a few years ago. Published by Mr. Fores, of Piccadilly, who had the copper-plates, but of which no impressions are now remaining.



[Pg 160]


Dances of Death, with such text only as describes the subjects.


I. Six small circles on a single sheet, engraved on copper by Israel Van Meckenen. 1. Christ sitting on his cross. 2. Three skulls on a table. 3. Death and the Pope. 4. Death riding on a lion, and the Patriarch. 5. Death and the Standard-bearer. 6. Death and the Lady. At top “memento mori,” at bottom “Israhel V. M.”

II. A Dance of Death, engraved on copper, by Henry Aldegrever. 1. Creation of Eve. 2. Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. 3. Expulsion from Paradise. 4. Adam digging, Eve spinning. 5. Death and the Pope. 6. Death and the Cardinal. 7. Death and the Bishop. 8. Death and the Abbot. All these have the date 1541, and with some variations follow the Lyons woodcuts. They have scriptural texts in Latin. 12mo. The whole were afterwards copied in a work by Kieser, already described, p. 121.

III. A Dance of Death, consisting of eight subjects, engraved on copper by an unknown artist, whose mark is [monogram]. 1. Death beating a drum, precedes a lady and gentleman accompanied by a little dog. 2. Death playing on a stickado, precedes a lady and gentleman dancing back to back, below an hour-glass. 3. Death, with an hour-glass in his right hand, lays his left on the shoulder of a gentleman taking hold of a lady with his right hand, and carrying a hawk with his left.[Pg 161] 4. Death crowned with a garland, and holding an hour-glass in his left hand, stands between a lady and gentleman joining hands. 5. Death, with a fool’s cap and hood, a dagger of lath, and a bladder, holds up an hour-glass with his right hand; with his left he seizes the hand of a terrified lady accompanied by a gentleman, who endeavours to thrust away the unwelcome companion. 6. Another couple led by Death. 7. Death with a cap and feathers holds an hour-glass in his right hand, and with his left seizes a lady, whom a gentleman endeavours to draw away from him. All have the date 1562. 12mo. Size, three inches by two. They are described also in Bartsch, Peintre Graveur, ix. 482, and have been sometimes erroneously ascribed to Aldegrever.


Larger Image


IV. A Dance of Death, extremely well executed on wood, the designs of which have been taken from a set of initial letters, that will hereafter be particularly described. They are upright, and measure two inches by one and a half. Each subject is accompanied with two German verses.

V. On the back of the title page to “Die kleyn furstlich Chronica,” Strasb. 1544, 4to. are three subjects that appear to be part of a series. 1. Death and the Pope, who has a book and triple crosier. Death kneels to him whilst he plays on a tabor and drum. 2. Death and the King. Death blows a trumpet. 3. Death shoots an arrow at a warrior armed with sword and battle-axe. All these figures are accompanied with German verses, and are neatly engraved on wood.

VI. A series of single figures, etched with great spirit by Giovanni Maria Mitelli. They are not accompanied by Death, but hold dialogues with him in Italian stanzas. The characters are, 1. The Astrologer. 2. The Doctor of universal science. 3. The Hunter. 4. The Mathematician. 5. The Idolater. They are not mentioned in Bartsch, nor in any other list of the[Pg 162] works of engravers. It is possible that there are more of them.

VII. The five Deaths, etched by Della Bella. 1. A terrific figure of Death on a galloping horse. In his left hand a trumpet, to which a flag, agitated by the wind, is attached. In the back ground, several human skeletons, variously employed. 2. Death carrying off an infant in his arms. In the back-ground, the church-yard of the Innocents at Paris. 3. Death walking away with a young child on his back. In the distance, another view of the above cemetery. 4. Death carrying off a female on his shoulders, with her head downwards, followed at a distance by another Death holding a corpse in his arms. 5. Death dragging a reluctant old man towards a grave, in which another Death, with an hour-glass in his hand, awaits him. All these are extremely fine, and executed in the artist’s best time. There is a sixth of the series, representing Death throwing a young man into a well, but it is very inferior to the others. It was begun by Della Bella a short time before his death, and finished by his pupil Galestruzzi, about 1664. Della Bella likewise etched a long print of the triumph of Death.

VIII. A single anonymous French engraving on copper, 14½ by 6½, containing three subjects. 1. Death and the soldier. 2. Death standing with a pruning knife in his right hand, and a winged hour-glass in his left. Under him are three prostrate females, one plays on a violin; the next, who represents Pride, holds a peacock in one hand and a mirror in the other; the third has a flower in her left hand. 3. Death and the lady. He holds an hour-glass and dart, and she a flower in her right hand. Under each subject are French verses. This may perhaps be one only of a set.

IX. A German Dance of Death, in eight oblong engravings on copper, 11 by 8½, consisting of eight sheets[Pg 163] and twenty-five subjects, as follow. 1. A fantastic figure of a Death, with a cap and feathers, in the attitude of dancing and playing on a flute. He is followed by another dancing skeleton carrying a coffin on his shoulder. 2. Pope. 3. Emperor. 4 Empress. 5. Cardinal. 6. King. 7. Bishop. 8. Duke or General. 9. Abbot. 10. Knight. 11. Carthusian. 12. Burgomaster. 13. Canon. 14. Nobleman. 15. Physician. 16. Usurer. 17. Chaplain. 18. Bailiff or Steward. 19. Churchwarden. 20. Merchant. 21. Hermit. 22. Peasant. 23. Young Man. 24. Maiden. 25. Child. This is a complete set of the prints, representing the Lubeck painting, already described in p. 43. In the translation of the inscriptions, as given by Dr. Nugent, two more characters are added at the end, viz. the Dancing Master and the Fencing Master. On the spectator’s left hand of No. 1. of these engravings, is a column containing the following inscription in German, in English as follows: “Silence, fool-hardy one, whoever thou art, who, with needless words, profanest this holy place. This is no chapel for talking, but thy sure place is in Death’s Dance. Silence then, silence, and let the painting on these silent walls commune with thee, and convince thee that man is and will be earth:” and on Nos. 4 and 5, the words “Zu finden in Lubeck by Christian Gotfried Donatius.”

X. The following entry is in the Stationers’ books:

28 b. vo Januarij [1597.]
Tho. Purfoote, sen.}Entered their c. Mr. Dix and Wm. M. The
Tho. Purfoote, jun.roll of the Daunce of Death, with pictures
  and verses upon the same  VId.

XI. In the catalogue of the library of R. Smith, secretary of the Poultry Compter, which was sold by auction in 1682, is this article “Dance of Death in the cloyster of Paul’s, with figures, very old.” Probably a single sheet.

[Pg 164]XII. “The Dance of Death;” a single sheet, engraved on copper, with the following figures. In the middle, Death leading the king; the beggar hand in hand with the king; Death leading the old man, followed by a child; the fool; the wise man, as an astrologer, led by Death. On the spectator’s left hand, Death bringing a man before a judge; with the motto, “The greatest judge that sits in honour’s seat, must come to grave, where’t boots not to intreate.” A man and woman in a brothel, Death behind; with the motto, “Leave, wanton youth, thou must no longer stay; if once I call all mortals must obey.” On the opposite side, the Miser and Death; the motto, “Come, worldling, come, gold hath no power to save, leave it thou shalt, and dance with me to grave.” Death and the Prisoner; the motto, “Prisoner arise, ile ease thy fetterd feet, and now betake thee to thy winding sheet.” In the middle of the print sits a minstrel on a stool formed of bones placed on a coffin with a pick-axe and spade. He plays on a tabor and pipe; with this motto, “Sickness, despaire, sword, famine, sudden death, all these do serve as minstrells unto Death; the beggar, king, fool, and profound, courtier and clown all dance this round.” Under the above figures is a poem of sixty-six lines on the power of Death, beginning thus:

Yea, Adam’s brood and earthly wights which breath now on the earth,
Come dance this dance, and mark the song of this most mighty Death.
Full well my power is known and seen in all the world about,
When I do strike of force do yeeld both noble, wise, and stout, &c.

Printed cullored and sould by R. Walton at the Globe and Compasses at the West end of St. Paules church turning down towards Ludgate.

XIII. A large anonymous German engraving on copper, in folio. In the middle is a circular Dance of Death, with nine females, from the Empress to the Fool. In the four corners, two persons kneeling before[Pg 165] a crucifix; saints in heaven; the temptation; and the infernal regions. At top, a frame with these verses:

Vulneris en nostri certam solamque medelam
En data divina præmia larga manu.
Der Todt Christi Zunicht hat gmacht
Den Todt und Sleben wider bracht.

At bottom in a similar frame:

Per unius peccatum Mors intravit in mundum.
Den Todt und ewig hellisch pein
Hat veruhr sagt die Sund allein.

This is within a broad frame, containing a Dance of Death, in twelve ovals. The names of the characters are in German: 1. The Pope. 2. Emperor. 3. King. 4. Cardinal. 5. Bishop. 6. Duke. 7. Earl. 8. Gentleman. 9. Citizen. 10. Peasant. 11. Soldier and Beggar. 12. Fool and Child. Under each subject is an appropriate inscription in Latin and German. In the middle at top, a Death’s head and bones, an hour-glass and a dial. In the middle at bottom, a lamp burning on a Death’s head, and a pot of holy water with an aspergillum. On the sides, in the middle, funereal implements.

XIV. Heineken, in his “Dictionnaire des Graveurs,” iii. 77, mentions a Dance of Death engraved about 1740 by Maurice Bodenehr of Friburg, but without any further notice.

XV. Another very large print, 2 feet by 1½, in mezzotinto, the subject as in No. 10. but the figures varied, and much better drawn. At bottom, “Joh. El. Ridinger excud. Aug. Vindel.”

XVI. Newton’s Dances of Death. Published July 12, 1796, by Wm. Holland, No. 50, Oxford Street, consisting of the following grotesque subjects engraved on copper. The size 6 inches by 5. 1. Auctioneer. 2. Lawyer. 3. Old Maid on Death’s back. 4. Gamblers. 5. Scolding Wife. 6. Apple-woman. 7. Blind Beggar.[Pg 166] 8. Distressed Poet and Bailiff. 9. Undertaker. 10. Sleeping Lady. 11. Old Woman and her Cats. 12. Gouty Parson feeding on a tythe pig. 12. Same subject differently treated. 13. Sailor and Sweetheart. 14. Physician, Gravedigger, and Death dancing a round. 15. Market-man. 16. Doctor, sick Patient, and Nurse. 17. Watchman. 18. Gravedigger putting a corpse into the grave. 19. Old maid reading, Death extinguishes the candle. 20. Gravedigger making a grave. 21. Old Woman. 22. Barber. 23. Lady and Death reflected in the mirror. 24. Waiter. 25. Amorous Old Man and Young Woman. 26. Jew Old Clothes-man. 27. Miser. 28. Female Gin-drinker.

XVII. The Dance of Death modernised. Published July 13, 1800, and designed by G. M. Woodward, Berners’ Street, Oxford Street. Contains the following caricatures. Size 5 by 4½.

1. King. “Return the diadem and I’ll follow you.”

2. Cardinal. “Zounds, take care of my great toe, or I shall never rise higher than a cardinal.”

3. Bishop. “I cannot go, I am a bishop.”

4. Old Man. “My good friend, I am too old, I assure you.”

5. Dancing-master. “I never practised such an Allemande as this since I have been a dancing-master.”

6. Alderman. “If you detain me in this way my venison will be quite cold.”

7. Methodist Preacher. “If you wo’nt take I, I’ll never mention you or the Devil in my sarmons as long as I lives.”

8. Parson. “I can’t leave my company till I’ve finish’d my pipe and bottle.”

9. Schoolmaster. “I am only a poor schoolmaster, and sets good examples in the willage.”

10. Miser. “Spare my money, and I’ll go contented.”

11. Politician. “Stay till I have finished the [Pg 167]newspaper, for I am told there is great intelligence from the continent.”

12. Press-gang Sailor. “Why d— me I’m one of your apprentices.”

13. Beggar. “This is the universal dance from a king to a beggar.”

14. Jockey. “I assure you I am engaged at Newmarket.”

15. Undertaker. “A pretty dance this for an undertaker.”

16. Gouty Man. “Buzaglo’s exercise was nothing to this.”

17. Poet. “I am but a poor poet, and always praised the ode to your honour written by the late King of Prussia.”

18. Physician. “Here’s fine encouragement for the faculty.”

19. Lawyer. “The law is always exempt by the statutes.”

20. Old Maid. “Let me but stay till I am married, and I’ll ask no longer time.”

21. Fine Lady. “Don’t be so boisterous, you filthy wretch. I am a woman of fashion.”

22. Empress. “Fellow, I am an empress.”

23. Young Lady. “Indeed, Sir, I am too young.”

24. Old Bawd. “You may call me old bawd, if you please, but I am sure I have always been a friend to your worship.”

XVIII. Bonaparte’s Dance of Death. Invented, drawn, and etched by Richard Newton, 7 by 5.

1. Stabb’d at Malta. 2. Drown’d at Alexandria. 3. Strangled at Cairo. 4. Shot by a Tripoline gentleman. 5. Devoured by wild beasts in the desert. 6. Alive in Paris.



[Pg 168]


Books in which the subject is occasionally introduced.


To offer any thing in the shape of a perfect list of these, would be to attempt an impossibility, and therefore such only as have come under the author’s immediate inspection are here presented to the curious reader. The same remark will apply to the list of single prints that follows.

There is a very singular book, printed, as supposed, about 1460, at Bamberg, by Albert Pfister. It is in German, and a sort of moral allegory in the shape of complaints against Death, with his answers to these accusations. It is very particularly described from the only known perfect copy in the royal library at Paris, by M. Camus, in vol. ii. of “Memoires de l’institut. national des sciences et arts: litterature et beaux arts,” p. 6 et seq. It contains five engravings on wood, the first of which represents Death seated on a throne. Before him stands a man with an infant to complain that Death has taken the mother, who is seen wrapped in a shroud upon a tomb. The second cut represents Death also on a throne with the same person as before, making his complaint, accompanied by several other persons at the feet of Death, sorrowfully deposing the attributes of their respective conditions, and at the head of them a Pope kneeling with one knee on the ground. The third cut has two figures of Death, one of which, on foot, mows down several boys and girls; the other is on[Pg 169] horseback, and pursues some cavaliers, against whom he shoots his arrows. The fourth cut is in two compartments, the upper representing, as before, a man complaining to Death seated on a throne with a crown on his head. Below, on the spectator’s left hand, is a convent whence several monks are issuing towards a garden encircled with hurdles, in which is a tree laden with fruit by the side of a river; a woman is seen crowning a child with a chaplet, near whom stands another female in conversation with a young man. M. Camus, in the course of his description of this cut, has fallen into a very ludicrous error. He mistakes the very plain and obvious gate of the garden, for a board, on which, he says, several characters are engraved which may be meant to signify the arts and sciences, none of which are competent to protection against the attacks of Death. These supposed characters, however, are nothing more than the flowered hinges, ring or knocker, and lock of the door, which stands ajar. The fifth cut is described as follows, and probably with greater accuracy than in M. Camus, by Dr. Dibdin, from a single leaf of this very curious work in the Bibliotheca Spenceriana, vol. i. p. 104, accompanied with a copy of part of it only. “Above the figures there seen sits the Almighty upon a throne, with an attendant angel on each side. He is putting the forefinger of his left hand into the centre of his right, and upon each of the hands is an eye, denoting, I presume, the omniscience of the Deity.” The fac-simile cut partly corresponds with M. Camus’s description of Death, and the complainant before Christ seated on a throne in a heaven interspersed with stars. The above fourth cut among these is on a single leaf in the possession of the author, which had Dr. Dibdin seen, he would not have introduced M. Camus’s erroneous account of it, who has also referred to Heineken’s Idée, &c. p. 276, where it certainly is not in the French edition of 1771. 8vo.

[Pg 170]In the celebrated Nuremberg Chronicle, printed in that city, 1493, large folio, there is at fo. cclxiiii. a fine wood-cut of three Deaths dancing hand in hand, another playing to them on a haut-boy. Below is a skeleton rising from a grave. It is inscribed IMAGO MORTIS.

In the “Stultifera navis” of Sebastian Brant, originally printed in German at Basle and Nuremberg, 1494, are several prints, finely cut on wood, in which Death is introduced. In an edition printed at Basle, 1572, 12mo. with elegant wood engravings, after the designs of Christopher Maurer, and which differ very materially from those in the early editions, there is a cut of great merit to the verses that have for their title, “Qui alios judicat.” It represents a man on his death bed; and as the poet’s intention is to condemn the folly of those who, judging falsely or uncharitably of others, forget that they must die themselves, Death is introduced as pulling a stool from under a fool, who sits by the bed-side of the dying man. In the original cut the fool is tumbling into the jaws of hell, which, as usual, is represented by a monstrous dragon.

In the “Calendrier des Bergers,” Paris, 1500, folio, at sign. g. 6, is a terrific figure of Death on the pale horse; and at sign. g. 5. Death in a cemetery, with crosses and monuments; in his left hand the lid of a coffin in which his left foot is placed. These cuts are not in the English translation.

“Ortulus Rosarum,” circa 1500, 12mo. A wood-cut of Death bearing a coffin on his shoulder, leads a group consisting of a pope, a cardinal, &c.

In the dialogue “Of lyfe and death,” at the end of “the dialoges of creatures moralysed,” probably printed abroad without date or printer’s name soon after 1500, are two engravings in wood, one representing Death appearing to a man with a falcon on his fist, the other Death with his spade leading an emperor, a king, and a[Pg 171] duke. The latter is not found in the Latin editions of this work, and has probably formed a part of some very old Dance of Death.

In an edition of “Boetius de consolatione,” Strasburg, 1501, folio, is a figure of Death on a lean horse throwing his dart at a group of warriors.

In the “Freidanck,” Strasburg, 1508, 4to, near the end is a wood-cut of a garden, in which two men and two women are feasting at a table. They are interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Death, who forcibly seizes one of the party, whilst the rest make their escape.

In the “Mortilogus” of Conrad Reitter, Prior of Nordlingen, printed at Augsbourg by Erhard Oglin and Geo. Nadler, 1508, 4to. there is a wood-cut of Death in a church-yard, holding a spade with one hand and with the other showing his hour-glass to a young soldier; and another of Death shooting an arrow at a flying man.

In “Heures à l’usaige de Sens,” printed at Paris by Jean de Brie, 1512, 8vo. the month of December in the calendar is figured by Death pulling an old man towards a grave; a subject which is, perhaps, nowhere else to be found as a representation of that month. It is certainly appropriate, as being at once the symbol of the termination of the year and of man’s life.

In the “Chevalier de la Tour,” printed by Guillaume Eustace, Paris, 1514, folio, there is an allegorical cut, very finely engraved on wood, at fo. xxii. nearly filling the page. The subject is the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, the gate of which exhibits a regular entrance, with round towers and portcullis. Behind this gate is seen the forbidden tree, at the bottom of which is the Devil, seemingly rejoicing at the expulsion, with an apple in his hand. Near the gate stands the angel with his sword, and a cross on his head. Between[Pg 172] him and the parties expelled is a picturesque figure of Death with a scythe ready for action.

“Horæ ad usum Romanum,” printed for Geoffrey Tory of Tours, 1525. Before the Vigiliæ Mortuorum is a wood-cut of a winged Death holding a clock in one hand; with the other he strikes to the ground and tramples on several men and women. Near him is a tree with a crow uttering CRAS CRAS. In another edition, dated 1527, is a different cut of a crowned figure of Death mounted on a black mule and holding a scythe and hour-glass. He is trampling on several dead bodies, and is preceded by another Death, armed also with a scythe, whilst a third behind strikes the mule, who stops to devour one of the prostrate figures. Above is a crow.

In a beautiful Officium Virg. printed at Venice, 1525, 12mo. is a vignette of Death aiming an arrow at a group consisting of a pope, cardinal, &c. Another Death is behind, on the spectator’s left.

In “Heures de Notre Dame mises en reyne, &c.” par Pierre Gringoire, 1527, 8vo. there is a cut at fo. lx. before the vigilles de la mort, of a king lying on a bier in a chapel with tapers burning, several mourners attending, and on the ground a pot of holy water. A hideous figure of Death holding a scythe in one hand and a horn in the other, tramples on the body of the deceased monarch.

In a folio missal for the use of Salisbury, printed at Paris by Francis Regnault, 1531, there is a singular cut prefixed to the Officium Mortuorum, representing two Deaths seizing a body that has the horrible appearance of having been some time in its grave.

In a Flemish metrical translation of Pope Innocent III.’s work, “De vilitate conditionis humanæ,” Ghend, 1543, 12mo. there is a wood-cut of Death emerging from hell, armed with a dart and a three-pronged fork,[Pg 173] with which he attacks a party taking their repast at a table.

In the cuts to the Old Testament, beautifully engraved on wood by Solomon or le petit Bernard, Lyons, 1553, 12mo. Death is introduced in the vision of Ezekiel, ch. xxxvii. In this work the expulsion from Paradise is imitated from the same subject in the Lyons wood-cuts.

In “Hawes’s History of Graund Amoure and la bel Pucell, called the Pastime of Pleasure,” printed by R. Tottel, 1555, 4to. are two prints; the first exhibits a female seated on a throne, in contemplation of several men and animals, some of whom are lying dead at her feet; behind the throne Death is seen armed with a dart, which he seems to have been just making use of: there is no allusion to it in the text, and it must have been intended for some other work. The second print has two figures of Death and a young man, whom he threatens with a sort of mace in his right hand, whilst he holds a pickaxe with his left.

“Imagines elegantissimæ quæ multum lucis ad intelligendos doctrinæ Christianæ locos adferre possunt, collectæ à Johann Cogelero verbi divini ministro, Stetini.” Viteberg, 1560, 12mo. It contains a wood-print, finely executed, of the following subject. In the front Death, armed with a hunting-spear, pushes a naked figure into the mouth of hell, in which are seen a pope and two monks. Behind this group, Moses, with a pair of bulls’ horns, and attended by two Jews, holds the tables of the law. In the distance the temptation, and the brazen serpent.

A German translation of the well known block book, the “Ars Moriendi,” was printed at Dilingen, 1569, 12mo. with several additional engravings on wood. It is perhaps the last publication of the work. On the title-page is an oval cut, representing a winged boy sleeping on a scull, and Death shooting an arrow at him. The[Pg 174] first cut exhibits a sort of Death’s dance, in eight small compartments. 1. A woman in bed just delivered of a child, with which Death is running away. 2. A man sitting at a table, Death seizes him behind, and pulls him over the bench on which he is sitting. 3. Death drowning a man in a river. 4. Flames of fire issue from a house, Death tramples on a man endeavouring to escape. 5. Two men fighting, one of whom pierces the other with his sword. The wounded man is seized by Death, the other by the Devil. 6. A man on horseback is seized by Death also mounted behind. 7. Death holds his hour-glass to a man on his death-bed. 8. Death leading an aged man to the grave. At the end of this curious volume is a singular cut, intitled “Symbolum M. Joannis Stotzinger Presbyteri Dilingensis.” It exhibits a young man sitting at a table, on which is a violin, music books, and an hour-glass. On the table is written RESPICE FINEM. Near him his guardian angel holding a label, inscribed ANGELVS ASTAT. Behind them Death about to strike the young man with his dart, and over him MORS MINATVR. At the end of the table Conscience as a female, whom a serpent bites, with the label CONSCIENTIA MORDET, and near her the Devil, with the label DIABOLVS ACCVSAT. Above is the Deity looking down, and the motto DEVS VIDET.

“Il Cavallero Determinado,” Antwerp, 1591, 4to. A translation from the French romance of Olivier de la Marche, with etchings by Vander Borcht. The last print represents Death, armed with a coffin lid as a shield, attacking a knight on horseback. In several of the other prints Death is represented under the name of Atropos, as president in tournaments. In other editions the cuts are on wood by the artist with the mark [monogram].

In the margins of some of the Horæ, printed by Thielman Kerver, there are several grotesque figures of Death, independently of the usual Dance.

In many of the Bibles that have prints to the [Pg 175]Revelations, that of Death on the pale horse is to be noticed.

In Petrarch’s work “de remediis utriusque fortunæ,” both in the German and Latin editions, there are several cuts that relate materially to the subject. It may be as well to mention that this work has been improperly ascribed to Petrarch.

In many of the old editions of Petrarch’s works which contain the triumphs, that of Death is usually accompanied with some terrific print of Death in a car drawn by oxen, trampling upon all conditions of men from the pope to the beggar.

“Guilleville, Pelerin de la vie humaine.” The pilgrim is conducted by Abstinence into a refectory, where he sees many figures of Death in the act of feeding several persons sitting at table. These are good people long deceased, who during their lives have been bountiful to their fellow-creatures. At the end, the pilgrim is struck by Death with two darts whilst on his bed.

Death kicking at a man, his wife, and child. From some book printed at Strasburg in the 16th century.

Death, as an ecclesiastic, sitting on the ground and writing in a book. Another Death holding an inscribed paper in one hand, seizes with the other a man pointing to a similar paper. The Deity in a cloud looking on. From the same book.

“Mors,” a Latin comedy, by William Drury, a professor of poetry and rhetoric in the English college at Douay. It was acted in the refectory of the college and elsewhere, and with considerable applause, which it very well deserved. There is as much, and sometimes more, wit and humour in it than are found in many English farces. It was printed at Douay, 1628, 12mo. with two other Latin plays, but not of equal interest.

A moral and poetical Drama, in eleven scenes, intitled, “Youth’s Tragedy, by T. S.” 1671 and 1707, 4to. in which the interlocutors are, Youth, the Devil,[Pg 176] Wisdom, Time, Death, and the Soul. It is miserable stuff.

“La Historia della Morte,” Trevigi, 1674, 4to. four leaves only. It is a poem in octave stanzas. The author, wandering in a wood, is overwhelmed with tears in reflecting on the approach of Death and his omnipotent dominion over mankind. He is suddenly accosted by the king of terrors, who is thus described:

Un ombra mi coperse prestamente
Che mi fece tremar in cotal sorte
Ell’era magra, e longa in sua figura,
Che chi la vede perde gioco, e festa,
Dente d’acciaio haveva in bocca oscura,
Corna di ferro due sopra la testa
Ella mi fe tremar dalla paura, &c.

The work consists of a long dialogue between the parties. The author enquires of Death if he was born of father and mother. Death answers that he was created, by Jesus Christ, “che e signor giocondo,” with the other angels; that after Adam’s sin he was called Death. The author tells him that he seems rather to be a malignant spirit, and presses for some further information. He is referred to the Bible, and the account of David’s destroying angel:

Quando Roma per me fu tribulata
Gregorio videmi con suo occhio honesto
Con una spada ch’era insanguinata
Al castel de Sant Angelo chiamato
Da l’hora in qua cosi fu appellato.

This corresponds with the usual story, that during a plague Gregory saw an angel hovering over the castle, who, on the Pope’s looking up to him, immediately sheathed his flaming sword. More questions are then propounded by Death, particularly as to the use of his horns and teeth, and the curiosity of the author is most condescendingly gratified.

Bishop Warburton and Mr. Malone have referred to[Pg 177] old Moralities, in which the fool escaping from the pursuit of Death is introduced. Ritson has denied the existence of any such farces, and he is perhaps right with respect to printed ones; but vestiges of such a drama were observed several years ago at the fair of Bristol by the present writer. See the notes to Measure for Measure, Act iii. sc. 1, and to Pericles, Act iii. sc. 2.

In “Musart Adolescens Academicus sub institutione Salomonis,” Duaci, 1633, 12mo. is an engraving on copper of a modern Bacchus astride upon a wine cask drawn by two tigers. In one hand he holds a thyrsus composed of grapes and vine leaves, and in the other a cup or vase, from which a serpent springs, to indicate poison. Behind this Bacchus Death is seated, armed with his scythe and lying in wait for him. The motto, “Vesani calices quid non fecere,” a parody on the line, “Fecundi calices quem non fecere disertum?” Horat. lib. i. epist. v. 1. 19.

In “Christopher Van Sichem’s Bibels’ Tresoor,” 1646, 4to. there is a wood-cut of Death assisting Adam to dig the ground, partly copied from the subject of “the Curse,” in the work printed at Lyons.

In “De Chertablon, maniere de se bien preparer à la mort, &c.” Anvers, 1700, 4to. there is an allegorical print in which a man is led by his guardian angel to the dwelling of Faith, Hope, and Charity, but is violently seized by Death, who points to his last habitation, in the shape of a sepulchral monument.

In Luyken’s “Onwaardige wereld,” Amst. 1710, 12mo. are three allegorical engravings relating to this subject.

In a very singular book, intitled “Confusio disposita rosis rhetorico-poeticis fragrans, sive quatuor lusus satyrico morales, &c. authore Josepho Melchiore Francisco a Glarus, dicto Tschudi de Greplang.” Augsburg, 1725, 12mo. are the following subjects. 1. The world[Pg 178] as Spring, represented by a fine lady in a flower-garden, Death and the Devil behind her. 2. Death and the Devil lying in wait for the miser. 3. Death and the Devil hewing down the barren fig-tree. 4. A group of dancers at a ball interrupted by Death. 5. Death striking a lady in bed attended by her waiting maid. 6. Death gives the coup-de-grace to a drunken fellow who had fallen down stairs. 7. Death mounted on a skeleton-horse dashes among a group of rich men counting their gold, &c. 8. A rich man refused entrance into heaven. He has been brought to the gate in a sedan chair, carried by a couple of Deaths in full-bottom periwigs.

In Luyken’s “Vonken der lief de Jezus,” Amst. 1727, 12mo. are several engravings relating to the subject. In one of them Death pours a draught into the mouth of a sick man in bed.

In Moncrief’s “March of Intellect,” 1830, 18mo. scene a workhouse, Death brings in a bowl of soup, a label on the ground, inscribed “Death in the pot.” An engraving in wood after Cruikshank.

In Jan Huygen’s “Beginselen van Gods koninryk,” Amst. 1738, 12mo. with engravings by Luyken, a dying man attended by his physician and friends; Death at the head of the bed eagerly lying in wait for him.

In one of the livraisons of “Goethe’s Balladen und Romanzen,” 1831, in folio, with beautiful marginal decorations, there is a Dance of Death in a church-yard, accompanied with a description, of which an English translation is inserted in the “Literary Gazette” for 1832, p. 731, under the title of “The Skeleton Dance,” with a reference to another indifferent version in the “Souvenir.”

The well-known subjects of Death and the old man with the bundle of sticks, &c. and Cupid and Death in many editions of Æsopian fables.



[Pg 179]


Books of emblems and fables.—Frontispieces and title-pages, in some degree connected with the Dance of Death.




It is very seldom that in this numerous and amusing class of books a subject relating to Death, either moral or of a ludicrous nature does not occur. It may be sufficient to notice a few of them.

“La Morosophie de Guillaume de la Perriere,” 1553, 12mo.

“Emblemes ou devises Chretiennes,” par Georgette de Montenaye, 1571, 4to.

“Le Imprese del S. Gab. Symeoni.” Lyons, 1574, 4to.

“Enchiridion artis pingendi, fingendi et sculpendi. Auth. Justo Ammanno, Tig.” Francof. 1578, 4to. This is one of Jost Amman’s emblematical books in wood, and contains at the end a figure of Death about to cut off two lovers with his scythe, Cupid hovering over them.

“Apologi creaturarum.” Plantin, 1590, 4to. with elegant etchings by Marc Gerard. It has one subject only of Death summoning a youth with a hawk on his fist to a church-yard in the back-ground.

Reusner’s “aureolorum emblematum liber singularis,”[Pg 180] Argentorati, 1591, 12mo. A print of Death taking away a lady who has been stung by a serpent; designed and engraved by Tobias Stimmer.

“De Bry Proscenium vitæ humanæ,” Francof. 1592 and 1627, 4to. This collection has two subjects: 1. Death and the Young Man. 2. Death and the Virgin.

“Jani Jacobi Boissardi Emblematum liber, a Theodoro de Bry sculpta.” Francof. 1593. Contains one print, intitled “Sola virtus est funeris expers.” The three Fates, one of whom holds a tablet with SIC VISVM SVPERIS. Death attending with his hour-glass. Below, crowns, sceptres, and various emblems of human vanity. On the spectator’s left, a figure of Virtue standing, with sword and shield.

“De Bry Emblemata.” Francof. 1593, 4to. The last emblem has Death striking an old man, who still clings to the world, represented as a globe.

“Rolandini variar. imaginum, lib. iii.” Panormi, 1595, 12mo.

“Alciati Emblemata,” one of the earliest books of its kind, and a favourite that has passed through a great many editions.

“Typotii symbola divina et humana Pontificum Imperatorum, Regum, &c.” Francofurti, 1601, folio.

“Friderich’s Emblems,” 1617, 8vo. Several engravings on the subject.

“Das erneurte Stamm-und Stechbuchlein.” By Fabian Athyr. Nuremberg, 1654. Small obl. 4to.

“Mannichii Emblemata.” Nuremberg, 1624, 4to.

“Minne Beelden toe-ghepast de Lievende Jonckheyt,” Amst. 1635, 12mo. The cuts on the subject are extremely grotesque and singular.

“Sciographia Cosmica.” A description of the principal towns and cities in the world, with views engraved by Paul Furst, and appropriate emblems. By Daniel Meisner: in eight parts. Nuremberg, 1637. Oblong[Pg 181] 4to. In the print of the town of Freyburg, Death stands near an old man, and holds a clock in one hand. In that of the city of Toledo Death accompanies a female who has a mirror in her hand.

In the same work, at vol. A. 4, is a figure of Death trampling on Envy, with the motto, “Der Todt mach dem Neyd ein ende.” At A. 39, Death intercepting a traveller, the motto, “Vitam morti obviam procedit.” At A. 74, Death standing near a city, the motto, “Tros Tyriusve mihi nullo discrimine habetur.” At C. 9, a man and woman in the chains of matrimony, which Death dissolves by striking the chain with a bone, the motto, “Conjugii vinculum firmissimum est.” At C. 30, Death about to mow down a philosopher holding a clock, the motto, “Omnis dies, omnis hora, quam nihil sumus ostendit.” At E. 32, Death standing in the middle of a parterre of flowers, holding in one hand a branch of laurel, in the other a palm branch, the motto, “Ante mortem nullus beatus est.” At E. 35, Death shooting with a cross-bow at a miser before his chest of money, the motto, “Nec divitiis nec auro.” At E. 44, Death seizes a young man writing the words, “sic visum superis” on a tablet, the motto, “Viva virtus est funeris expers.” At G. 32, Death pursues a king and a peasant, all on horseback, the motto, “Mors sceptra ligonibus æquat.” At G. 66, a woman looking in a mirror sees Death, who stands behind her reflected, the motto, “Tota vita sapientis est meditatio mortis.” At H. 66, a company of drunkards. Death strikes one of them behind when drinking, the motto, “Malus inter poculo mos est.” At H. 80, Death cuts down a genealogical tree, with a young man and woman, the motto, “Juventus proponit, mors disponit.”

“Conrad Buno Driestandige Sinnbilder,” 1643. Oblong 4to.

“Amoris divini et humani antipathia.” Antw. 1670. 12mo.

[Pg 182]“Typotii Symbola varia diversorum principum sacrosanctæ ecclesiæ et sacri Imperii Romani.” Arnheim, 1679. 12mo.

In Sluiter’s “Somer en winter leven,” Amst. 1687, 12mo. is a figure of Death knocking at the door of a house and alarming the inhabitants with his unexpected visit. The designer most probably had in his recollection Horace’s “Mors æquo pede pulsat pauperum tabernas regumque turres.”

“Euterpe soboles hoc est emblemata varia, &c.” with stanzas in Latin and German to each print. No date. Oblong 4to. The engravings by Peter Rollo. Republished at Paris, with this title, “Le Centre de l’amour, &c.” A Paris chez Cupidon. Same form, and without date. This edition has several additional cuts.

“Rollenhagii nucleus Emblematum.” The cuts by Crispin de Passe.

In Herman Krul’s “Eerlyche tytkorting, &c.” a Dutch book of emblems, 4to. n. d. there are some subjects in which Death is allegorically introduced, and sometimes in a very ludicrous manner.

Death enters the study of a seated philosopher, from whose mouth and breast proceed rays of light, and presents him with an hour-glass. Below a grave, over which hangs one foot of the philosopher. A. Venne invent. Obl. 5½ by 4½.

“Catz’s Emblems,” in a variety of forms and editions, containing several prints relating to the subject.

“Oth. Vænii Emblemata Horatiana.” Several editions, with the same prints.

“Le Centre de l’Amour decouvert soubs divers emblesmes galans et facetieux. A Paris chez Cupidon.” Obl. 4to. without date. One print only of a man sitting in a chair seized by Death, whilst admiring a female, who, not liking the intrusion, is making her escape. The book contains several very singular subjects, accompanied by Latin and German subjects. It occurs also[Pg 183] under the title of “Euterpæ soboles hoc est emblemata varia eleganti jocorum mistura, &c.”

“Fables nouvelles par M. de la Motte.” 4to. edition. Amsterd. 1727, 12mo.

“Apophthegmata Symbolica, &c.” per A. C. Redelium Belgam. Augspurg, 1700. Oblong 4to. Death and the soldier; Death interrupting a feast; Death and the miser; Death and the old man; Death drawing the curtain of life, &c. &c.

“Choice emblems, divine and moral.” 1732. 12mo.



“Arent Bosman.” This is the title to an old Dutch legend of a man who had a vision of hell, which is related much in the manner of those of Tundale and others. It was printed at Antwerp in 1504, 4to. The frontispiece has a figure of Death in pursuit of a terrified young man, and may probably belong to some other work.

On a portion of the finely engraved wood frontispiece to “Joh. de Bromyard Summa predicantium.” Nuremberg, 1518, folio. Death with scythe and hour-glass stands on an urn, supported by four persons, and terrifies several others who are taking flight and stumbling over each other.

“Schawspiel Menchliches Lebens.” Frankfort, 1596, 4to. Another edition in Latin, intitled, “Theatrum vitæ humanæ,” by J. Boissard, the engravings by De Bry. At the top of the elegant title or frontispiece to this work is an oblong oval of a marriage, interrupted by Death, who seizes the bridegroom. At bottom a similar oval of Death digging the grave of an old man who is looking into it. On one side of the page, Death striking an infant in its cradle; on the other, a merchant about to ship his goods is intercepted by Death.

[Pg 184]On the title-page to a German jeu d’esprit, in ridicule of some anonymous pedant, there is a wood-cut of Death mounted backwards on an ass, and near him a fool hammering a block of some kind on an anvil. The title of this satirical morsel is “Res Mira. Asinus sex linguarum jucundissimis anagrammatismis et epigrammatibus oneratus, tractionibus, depositionibus, et fustuariis probè dedolatus, hero suo remissus, ac instar prodromi præmissus, donec meliora sequantur, Asininitates aboleantur, virique boni restituantur: ubi etiam ostenditur ab asino salso intentata vitia non esse vitia. Ob variam ejus jucunditatem, suavitatem et versuum leporem recusus, anno 1625.” The address to the reader is dated from Giessen, 19th June, 1606, and the object of the satire disguised under the name of Jonas Melidæus.

“Les Consolations de l’ame fidelle contre les frayeurs de la mort, par Charles Drelincourt.” Amsterdam, 1660. 8vo.

“Deugden Spoor De Vijfte Der-Eeringe Aen de Medicijas met sampt Monsieur Joncker Doctor Koe-Beest ende alle sijne Complicen.” Death introduces an old man to a physician who is inspecting a urinal. 12mo.

Death leading an old man with a crutch, near a charnel-house, inscribed MEMENTO MORI. At top these verses:

Il faut sans diferer me suivre
Tu dois être prèt a partir
Dieu ne t’a fait si longtemps vivre
Que pour l’aprendre à bien mourir.

A Amsterdam chez Henri Desbordes. Another print, with the same design. “Se vendent à Londres par Daniel Du Chemin.” On a spade, the monogram [monogram] 8vo.

“Reflexions sur les grands hommes.” In the [Pg 185]foreground various pranks of Death. In the distance, a church-yard with a regular dance, in a circle, of men, women, and Deaths, two of the latter sitting on a monument and playing on a violin and violoncello. Engraved by A. D. Putter. 12mo.

“La Dance Macabre, or Death’s Duell,” by W. C. i. e. Colman. Printed by Wm. Stansby, no date, 12mo. It has an elegantly engraved frontispiece by T. Cecill, with eight compartments, exhibiting Death with the pope, the emperor, the priest, the nobles, the painter, the priest, and the peasant. The poem, in six line stanzas, is of considerable merit, and entirely moral on the subject of Death, but it is not the Macaber Dance of Lydgate. At the end, the author apologizes for the title of his book, which, he says, was injuriously conferred by Roger Muchill upon a sermon of Dr. Donne’s, and adds a satirical epistle against “Muchill that never did good.” There certainly was a sermon by Donne, published by Muchill or Michel, with the title of “Death’s Duell.”

There appears to have been another edition of this book, the title-page only of which is preserved among Bagford’s collections among the Harl. MSS. No. 5930. It has the same printed title, with the initials W. C. and the name of W. Stansby. It is also without date. This frontispiece is on a curtain held by two winged boys. At the top, a figure of Death, at bottom another of Time kneeling on a globe. In the right-hand corner, which is torn, there seems to have been a hand coupé with a bracelet as a crest; in the left, a coat of arms with a cross boutonné arg. and sable, and four mullets, arg. and sable. On each side, four oval compartments, with the following subjects. 1. A pope, a cardinal, and four bishops. 2. Several monks and friars. 3. Several magistrates. 4. A schoolmaster reading to his pupils. 5. An emperor, a king, a queen, a duke, a duchess, and a male attendant. 6. A group of noblemen or [Pg 186]gentlemen. 7. A painter painting a figure of Death, in the back ground a woman who seems to be purchasing articles of dress. 8. Two men with spades, one of them digging. This very beautiful print is engraved by T. Cecil. On the top of each of the above compartments, Death holds a string with both his hands.

“Theatrum omnium miserarum.” A theatre filled with a vast number of people. In the centre, an obelisk on a pedestal, behind which is a small stage with persons sitting. In the foreground, Death holding a cord, with which three naked figures are bound, and another Death with a naked figure in a net. Between these figures symbols of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. 4to.

“Les Consolations de l’Ame fidelle contre les frayeurs de la mort.” Death holds his scythe over a group of persons, consisting of an old man and a child near a grave, who are followed by a king, queen, and a shepherd, with various pious inscriptions. 8vo.

“La maniere de se bien preparer à la mort, par M. de Chertablon.” Anvers, 1700, 4to.

In an engraved frontispiece, a figure of Time or Death trampling upon a heap of articles expressive of worldly pomp and grandeur, strikes one end of his scythe against the door of a building, on which is inscribed “STATVTVM EST OMNIBVS HOMINIBVS. SEMEL MORI. Hebr. ix.”

At the bottom, within a frame ornamented with emblems of mortality, a sarcophagus with the skeleton of a man raised from it. Two Deaths are standing near, one of whom blows a trumpet, the other points upward with one hand, and holds a scythe in the other. On one side of the sarcophagus are several females weeping; on the other, a philosopher sitting, who addresses a group of sovereigns, &c. who are looking at the skeleton.

“Palingenii Zodiacus Vitæ.” Rotterdam, 1722.[Pg 187] 12mo. Death seizes a sitting figure crowned with laurel, perhaps intended for Virtue, who clings to a bust of Minerva, &c.

Death leading a bishop holding his crosier. He is preceded by another Death as a bellman with bell and lanthorn. Above, emblems of mortality over a label, inscribed “A Vision.” 12mo.

Scene, a church-yard. Death holding an hour-glass in one hand levels his dart at a young man in the habit of an ecclesiastic, with a mask in his hand. “Worlidge inv. Boitard sculp.” The book unknown. 8vo.

Three figures of Death uncovering a circular mirror, with a group of persons dying, &c. At bottom, INGREDIMVR. CVNCTI. DIVES. CVM. PAUPERE. MIXTVS. J. Sturt sculp.

Death touching a globe, on which is inscribed VANITY, appears to a man in bed. “Hayman inv. C. Grignion sc.” 8vo.

To a little French work, intitled “Spectriana,” Paris, 1817, 24mo. there is a frontispiece on copper representing the subject of one of the stories. A figure of Death incumbered with chains beckons to an armed man to follow him into a cave.



[Pg 188]


Single prints connected with the Dance of Death.



(N. B. The right and left hands are those of the spectator. The prints on wood are so specified.)


An ancient engraving, in the manner of Israel Van Meckenen. Death is playing at chess with a king, who is alarmed at an impending check-mate. A pope, cardinal, bishop, and other persons are looking on. Above are three labels. Bartsch x. 55. No. 32.

Albert Durer’s knight preceded by Death, and followed by a demon, a well-known and beautiful engraving.

A very scarce and curious engraving, representing the interior of a brothel. At the feet of a bed a man is sitting by a woman almost naked, who puts her hand into his purse, and clandestinely delivers the money she takes from it to a fellow standing behind one of the curtains. On the opposite side is a grinning fool making significant signs with his fingers to a figure of Death peeping in at a window. This singular print has the mark L upon it, and is something in the manner of Lucas Van Leyden, but is not mentioned in Bartsch’s catalogue of his prints. Upright 7½ by 5½.

A small etching, very delicately executed, and ascribed to Lucas Van Leyden, whose manner it certainly [Pg 189]resembles. At a table on the left a family of old and young persons are assembled. They are startled by the appearance of a hideous figure of Death with a long beard and his head covered. Near him is a young female, crowned with a chaplet of flowers, holding in her hand a scull, Death’s head, and hour-glass, and which the father of the family turns round to contemplate. Above is an angel or genius shooting an arrow at the family, and as it were at random. At top on the right is the letter L, and the date 1523. See Bartsch, vol. vii. p. 435. Oblong, 5½ by 4.

A small upright print of Death with a spade on his shoulder, and leading an armed soldier. The mark L below on a tablet. Not mentioned by Bartsch.

A small circular engraving, of several persons feasting and dancing. Death lies in wait behind a sort of canopy. Probably a brothel scene, as part of the story of the prodigal son. The mark is L. Not noticed by Bartsch.

A reverse of this engraving, marked S.

An engraving on wood of Death presenting an hour-glass, surmounted by a dial, to a soldier who holds with both his hands a long battle-axe. The parties seem to be conversing. With Albert Durer’s mark, and the date 1510. It has several German verses. See Bartsch, vii. 145, No. 132.

A wood print of Death in a tree pointing with his right hand to a crow on his left, with which he holds an hour-glass. At the foot of the tree an old German soldier holding a sword pointed to the ground. On his left, another soldier with a long pike. A female sitting by the side of a large river with a lap-dog. The mark of Urs Graaf [monogram] and the date 1524 on the tree. Upright, 8 by 4½.

Death as a buffoon, with cap, bauble, and hour-glass, leading a lady. The motto, OMNEM IN HOMINE [Pg 190] VENVSTATEM MORS ABOLET. With the mark and date [monogram] 1541. Bartsch, viii. 174.

An engraving of Adam and Eve near the tree of life, which is singularly represented by Death entwined with a serpent. Adam holds in one hand a flaming sword, and with the other receives the apple from Eve, who has taken it from the serpent’s mouth. At top is a tablet with the mark and date [monogram] 1543. A copy from Barthol. Beham. Bartsch, viii. 116.

Death seizing a naked female. A small upright engraving. The motto, OMNEM IN HOMINE VENVSTATEM MORS ABOLET. With the mark and date [monogram] 1546. Bartsch, viii. 175.

A small upright engraving, representing Death with three naked women, one of whom he holds by the hair of her head. A lascivious print. The mark [monogram] on a label at bottom. Bartsch, viii. 176, who calls the women sorceresses.

A small upright engraving of Death holding an hour-glass and dial to a soldier with a halberd. At top, the mark and date [monogram] 1532. Bartsch, viii. 276.

An upright engraving of Death seizing a soldier, who struggles to escape from him. Below, an hour-glass. In a corner at top, the mark [monogram].

An upright engraving of Death trampling upon a vanquished soldier, who endeavours to parry with his sword a blow that with one hand his adversary aims at him, whilst with the other he breaks the soldier’s spear. In a corner at top, the mark [monogram]. A truly terrific print, engraved also by [monogram]. Bartsch, viii. 277.

A naked female seized by a naked man in a very indecent manner. Death who is behind seizes the man whose left hand is placed on a little boy taking money[Pg 191] out of a bag. The motto, HO: MORS VLTIMA LINEA RERVM, with the mark and date [monogram] 1529. See Bartsch, viii. 176.

Near the end of an English Primer, printed at Paris, 1538, 4to. is a small print of Death leading a pope, engraved with great spirit on wood, but it has certainly not formed part of a series of a Dance of Death.

An upright engraving of a pair of lovers interrupted by Death with scythe and hour-glass, with the mark and date [monogram] 1550. Not in Bartsch.

A small wood print of a gentleman conducting a lady, whose train is held up by Death with one hand, whilst he holds up an hour-glass with the other. In a corner below, the supposed mark of Jost de Negher, [monogram]. Upright, 2 by 1¾.

A German anonymous wood print of the prodigal son at a brothel, a female fool attending. Death unexpectedly appears and takes him by the hand, whilst another female is caressing him. Oblong, 4½ by 4.

An upright engraving on wood, 14 by 11, of a naked female on a couch. Death with a spade and hour-glass approaches her. With her left hand she holds one corner of a counterpane, Death seizing the other, and trampling upon it. Under the counterpane, and at the foot of the couch is a dead and naked man grasping a sword in one hand. There is no indication of the artist of this singular print.

An upright wood engraving, 14½ by 11, of a whole-length naked female turning her head to a mirror, which she holds behind her with both hands. Death, unnoticed, with an hour-glass, enters the apartment; before him a wheel. On the left at bottom a blank tablet, and near the woman’s left foot a large wing.

An engraving on wood by David Hopfer of Death and the Devil surprizing a worldly dame, who admires herself in a mirror. Oblong, 8 inches by 5½.

[Pg 192]An upright engraving of a lady holding in one hand a bunch of roses and in the other a glove. Death behind with his hour-glass; the motto, OMNEM IN HOMINE VENVSTATEM MORS ABOLET. and the mark F. B. Bartsch, ix. 464.

A wood print of Death seizing a child. On the left, at top, is a blank tablet. Upright, 2½ by 2.

A small oblong anonymous engraving of a naked female asleep on a couch. A winged Death places an hour-glass on her shoulder. A lascivious print.

An ancient anonymous wood print: scene, a forest. Death habited as a woodman, with a hatchet at his girdle and a scythe, shoots his arrows into a youth with a large plume of feathers, a female and a man lying prostrate on the ground; near them are two dead infants with amputated arms; the whole group at the foot of a tree. In the back-ground, a stag wounded by an arrow, probably by the young man. 4to. size.

A small wood-cut of Death seizing a child. Anonymous, in the manner of A. Durer. 2¼ by 1⅞.

A very old oblong wood-cut, which appears to have been part of a Dutch or Flemish Macaber Dance. The subjects are, Death and the Pope, with “Die doot seyt,” “die paens seyt,” &c. and the Cardinal with “Die doot seyt,” and “Die Cardinael seyt.” There have been verses under each character. 9½ by 6½.

A small wood print of a tree, in which are four men, one of whom falls from the tree into a grave at the foot of it. Death, as a woodman, cuts down the tree with a hatchet. In the back-ground, another man fallen into a grave.

A figure of Death as a naked old man with a long beard. He leans on a pedestal, on which are placed a scull and an hour-glass, and with his left hand draws towards him a draped female, who holds a globe in her left hand. At the bottom of the print, MORS OMNIA [Pg 193] MVTAT, with the unknown monogram [monogram]. Upright, 5 inches by 2¾. It is a very rare print on copper, not mentioned by Bartsch.

A small anonymous wood print of Death playing on a vielle, or beggar’s lyre.

An ancient anonymous copper engraving of Death standing on a bier, and laying hands upon a youth over whom are the words, “Ach got min sal ich,” and over Death, “hie her by mich.” Both inscriptions on labels. Bartsch, x. p. 54, No. 30.

An allegorical engraving on copper by Cuerenhert, after Martin Heemskirk, 1550. A naked man bestrides a large sack of money, on which a figure or statue of Hope is standing. Death with one hand levels his dart at the terrified man, and holds a circle in the other. The money is falling from the sack, and appears to have demolished the hour-glass of Death. Upright, 11 inches by 8. At bottom, these lines:

Maer als hemdie eininghe doot comt voer ogen
Dan vint hii hem doer üdele hope bedrogen.

There is a smaller copy of it.

A circular engraving, two inches diameter, of a pair of lovers in a garden. The lady is playing on a harp, her companion’s lute is on the ground. They are accompanied by a fool, and Death behind is standing with a dart in his hand ready for aim at the youthful couple.

A very large engraving on wood tinted in chiaroscuro. It represents a sort of triumphal arch at the top of which is a Death’s head, above, an hour-glass between two arm bones, that support a stone; evidently borrowed from the last cut of the arms of Death in the Lyons wood-cuts. Underneath, the three Fates between obelisks crowned with Deaths’ heads and crosses, with the words ΜΝΗΜΟΝΕΥΕ ΑΠΟΨΥΧΕΙΝ and ITER AD VITAM. In the middle, a circle with eight compartments, in which are skeleton heads of a pope, an [Pg 194]emperor, &c. with mottoes. In the extremity of the circle, the words “Post hoc autem judicium statutum est omnibus hominibus semel mori.” The above obelisks are supported by whole length figures of Death, near which are shields with BONIS BONA and MALIS MALA. On the pedestals that support the figures of Death are shields inscribed MEMENTO MORI and MEMORARE NOVISSIMA. Underneath the circle, a sort of table monument with Death’s head brackets, and on its plinth a sceptre, cardinal’s cross, abbot’s crozier, a vessel with money, and two books. Between the brackets, in capitals:


And underneath in italics:

Primum quidem durum, quia scio me moriturum.
Secundum vero plango, quia moriar, et nescio quando.
Tertium autem flebo, quia nescio ubi manebo.

In a corner at bottom, “Ill. D. Petro Caballo J. C. Poutrém Relig. D. Steph. ordinisq. milit. Ser. M. D. Hetr: Auditori mon: Joh. Fortuna Fortunius Inven. Seni..... MDLXXXVIII.” It is a very fine print, engraved with considerable spirit.



A very beautiful engraving by John Wierix, of a large party feasting and dancing, with music, in a garden. Death suddenly enters, and strikes a young female supported by her partner. At bottom, “Medio, lusu, risuque rapimur æternum cruciandi.” Oblong, 6½ by 4½.

Its companion—Death, crowned with serpents, drags away a falling female, round whom he has affixed his chain, which is in vain held back by one of the party who supplicates for mercy. At bottom these lines:

[Pg 195]Divitibus mors dura venit, redimita corona
Anguifera, et risus ultimo luctus habet.

On the top of the print, “O mors quam amara est memoria tua homini pacem habenti in substantiis suis, etc.” Eccl. cap. xli.

An allegorical print by one of the Wierxes, after H. Van Balen. The Virgin Mary and a man are kneeling before and imploring Christ, who is about to strike a bell suspended to the branch of a tree, the root of which Death cuts with an axe, whilst the Devil assists in pulling at it with a rope. Upright, 4½ by 3½.

Time holding a mirror to two lovers, Death behind waiting for them. At bottom, “Luxuries predulce malum cui tempus, &c.” Engraved by Jerom Wierx. Oblong, 12 by 8.

An allegorical engraving by Jerom Wierx, after Martin De Vos, with four moral stanzas at bottom, beginning “Gratia magna Dei cælo demittitur alto.” A figure of Faith directs the attention of a man, accompanied with two infants, to a variety of worldly vanities scattered in a sun-beam. On the right, a miser counting his gold is seized and stricken by Death. At top, four lines of Latin and Dutch. Oblong, 13 by 10.

A rare etching, by Rembrant, of a youthful couple surprized by Death. Date, 1639. Upright, 4¼ by 3.

Rembrant’s “Hour of Death.” An old man sitting in a tent is visited by a young female. He points to a figure of Death with spade and hour-glass. Upright, 5¼ by 3½.

An engraving by De Bry. In the middle, an oblong oval, representing a marriage, Death attending. On the sides, grotesques of apes, goats, &c. At bottom, S. P. and these lines:

Ordo licet reliquos sit præstantissimus inter
Conjugium, heu nimium sæpe doloris habet.

Oblong, 5½ by 2¼.

[Pg 196]Its companion—Death digging a grave for an old man, who looks into it. Psal. 49 and 90.

An engraving by Crispin de Pas of Death standing behind an old man, who endeavours, by means of his money spread out upon a table, to entice a young female, who takes refuge in the arms of her young lover. At bottom, the following dialogue.

Nil aurei? nil te coronati juvant?
Argenteis referto bulga nil movet?

Varios quid at Senex amores expetis:
Tumulum tuæ finemque vitæ respice.

Quid aureorum me beabit copia.
Amore si privata sim dulcissimo.

Its companion—Death with his hour-glass stands behind an old woman, who offers money to a youth turning in disdain to his young mistress. At bottom, these lines:

Facie esse quid mihi gratius posset tua
Ipsius haud Corinthi gaza divitis.

Formam quid ah miselle nudam respicis
Cum plus beare possit auri copia.

At tu juventa quid torquêre frustra anus
Quin jam sepulchri instantis es potius memor.

Both oblong, 6 by 4.

An engraving by Bosse of a queen reposing on a tent bed, Death peeps in through the curtains, another Death stands at the corner of the bed, whilst a female with a shield, inscribed PIETAS, levels a dart at the queen. Underneath, these verses:

[Pg 197]Grand Dieu je suis donc le victime
Qu’une vengeance legitime
Doit immoler à tes autels
Je n’ay point de repos qui n’augmente ma peine
Et les tristes objets d’une face inhumaine
Me sont autant de coups mortels.

Oblong, 4½ by 3.

An engraving by John Sadeler, after Stradanus, of an old couple, with their children and grandchildren, in the kitchen of a farm-house. Death enters, fantastically crowned with flowers and an hour-glass, and with a bagpipe in his left hand. Round his right arm and body is a chain with a hook at the extremity. He offers his right hand to the old woman, who on her knees is imploring him for a little more delay. In the back-ground, a man conducted to prison; beggars receiving alms, &c. At bottom, these lines:

“Pauperibus mors grata venit; redimita corona
Florifera, et luctus ultima risus habet.”

On the top of the print, “O mors bonum est judicium tuum homini indigenti, et qui minoratur viribus defecto ætate, &c.” Eccl. cap. xli. Oblong, 11 by 8½.

An exceedingly clever etching by Tiepolo of a group of various persons, to whom Death, sitting on the ground and habited grotesquely as an old woman, is reading a lecture. Oblong, 7 by 5½.

A small circle, engraved by Le Blond, of Death appearing to the astrologer, copied from the same subject in the Lyons wood-cuts.

A print, painted and engraved by John Lyvijus of two card players quarrelling. Death seizes and strikes at them with a bone. Below,

Rixas atque odia satagit dispergere serpens,
Antiquus, cuncta at jurgia morte cadunt.

Oblong, 10 by 7½.

[Pg 198]An engraving by Langlois. Death with a basket at his shoulder, on which sits an owl, and holding with one hand a lantern, seizes the dice of a gambler sitting at a table with his winnings spread before him. At top, these verses:

Alarme O le pipeur, chassez, chassez le moy,
Je ne veux pas jouer a la raffle avec toy.

La Mort.

A la raffle je joue avec toutes personnes
Toutes pieces je prends, tant meschantes que bonnes.

At bottom, a dialogue between the gambler and Death, in verse, beginning “J’ay ramenè ma chance il n’y a plus reméde.” Upright, 10 by 7½.

A print by De Gheyn, but wanting his name, of an elegantly attired lady, with a feather on her head, and a fan mirror in her hand. She is accompanied by Death handsomely attired, with a similar feather, and holding an hour-glass. At bottom,

Qui genio indulges, media inter gaudia morti
Non dubiæ certum sis memor esse locum.

Upright, 8 by 5½.

Hollar’s etching in Dugdale’s Monasticon and his history of St. Paul’s, from the old wood-cut in Lydgate’s Dance of Macaber, already described, and an outline copy in Mr. Edwards’s publication of Hollar’s Dance of Death.

Death and two Misers, 11¾ by 10. Engraved by Michael Pregel, 1616. At bottom, six Latin lines, beginning “Si mihi divitiæ sint omnes totius orbis.”

An oblong allegorical print, 14 by 10½. Death and Time at war with man and animals. In the foreground, Death levels three arrows at a numerous group of mortals of all ranks and conditions, who endeavour, in every possible way, to repel his attack. In the[Pg 199] back-ground, he shoots a single arrow at various animals. It is a very rare and beautiful engraving by Bolsverd, after Vinck-boons, dated 1610. At bottom, six lines in Latin, by J. Semmius, beginning “Cernis ut imperio succumbant omnia Mortis.”

An oblong print, 18½ by 13, intitled, “Alle mans vrees,” i. e. “Every man’s terror,” and engraved by Cornelius Van Dalen, after Adrian Van Venne. It exhibits Death armed with a spade, and overturning and putting to flight a variety of persons. At bottom, four stanzas of Dutch verses, beginning “Dits de vrees van alle man.”

A large allegorical oblong engraving, 18½ by 13, by Peter Nolpe, after Peter Potter. On the left, a figure of religion, an angel hovering over her with a crown and palm branch. She points to several figures bearing crosses, and ascending a steep hill to heaven. On the right, the Devil blowing into the ear of a female, representing worldly vanity. In the middle, Death beating a drum to a man and woman dancing. In the back-ground, several groups of people variously employed, and a city in flames.

An anonymous Venetian engraving of Death striking a lady sitting at a table covered with various fruits, a lute, &c. She falls into the arms of her lover or protector. Oblong, 9½ by 7.

A print, after Martin Heemskirk, of Charon ferrying over souls. On the right, a winged Death supporting an emperor about to enter the fatal boat. Below, four lines, beginning “Sed terris debentur opes, quas linquere fato.”

An oblong engraving, 14 by 12, after John Cossiers. On the right, Death entering at a door, seizes a young man. In the middle, a music-master teaching a lady the lute, Death near them holding a violin and music-book. On the left, in another apartment, Death in a dancing attitude, with a double bagpipe, leads an aged[Pg 200] man with a rosary in his left hand, and leaning on a staff with his right. At bottom, three stanzas of French verses, beginning “La Mort qui n’a point d’oreilles.”

A very small wood print, that seems to have belonged to some English book, about 1600. It represents Death behind a female, who sees his reflected image in a mirror which she holds, instead of her own. 1½ by 1½.

The Devil’s Ruff shop, into which a young gallant introduces his mistress, whose ruff one of the Devils is stiffening with a poking-stick. Death, with a ruff on his neck, waits at the door, near which is a coffin. This very curious satirical print, after Martin De Vos, is covered with inscriptions in French and Dutch. Oblong, 11½ by 8.

A small anonymous engraving of two Deaths hand in hand; the one holds a flower, the other two serpents; a man and woman also hand in hand; the latter holds a flower in her hand; they are preceded by a little boy on a cock-horse and a girl with a doll. Underneath, four lines, beginning “Quid sit, quid fuerit, quid tandem aliquando futurus.”

An anonymous engraving of a young gallant looking up to an image of Hope placed on a bag of money, near which plate, jewels, and money lie scattered on the ground. Death enters at a door, holding a circle in one hand and a dart with the other, in a menacing attitude. At bottom, these Latin lines:

Namque ubi Mors trucibus supra caput adstitit armis,
Hei quam tunc nullo pondere nummus erit.

The same in Dutch. Upright, 8½ by 6. This print was afterwards copied in a reduced form into a book of emblems, with the title, “Stulte hoc nocte repetent animam tuam,” with verses in Latin, French, and German.

A small anonymous wood engraving of five Deaths[Pg 201] dancing in a circle; the motto, DOODEN DANS OP LESTEM, i. e. the last Dance of Death.

A very clever etching of a winged and laurelled Death playing on the bagpipe and making his appearance to an old couple at table. The man puts off his cap and takes the visitor by the hand, as if to bid him welcome. Below, two Dutch lines, beginning “Maerdie hier sterven, &c.” At top, on the left, “W. V. Valckert, in. fe. 1612.” Oblong, 8½ by 6½.

A very complicated and anonymous allegorical print, with a great variety of figures. In the middle, Death is striking with a sledge-hammer at a soul placed in a crucible over a sort of furnace. A demon with bellows is blowing the fire, and a female, representing the world, is adding fuel to it. In various parts of the print are Dutch inscriptions. Oblong, 10½ by 6.

Two old misers, a man and a woman. She weighs the gold, and he enters it in a book. Death with an hour-glass peeps in at one window, and the Devil at another. On the left, stands a demon with a book and a purse of money. On the right, in a corner, I. V. BRVG: F. “Se vend chez Audran rue S. Jaques aux deux piliers d’or.” An upright mezzotint, 11½ by 8½.

Two old misers, a man and a woman. He holds a purse, and she weighs the money. Death behind lies in wait for them. Below, a French stanza, beginning “Fol en cette nuit on te redemande ton ame,” and the same in Latin. Below, “J. Meheux sculp. A Paris chez Audran rue St. Jaques aux deux pilliers d’or.” An upright mezzotint, 10 by 7½.

An oval engraving in a frame of slips of trees. Death pulling down a fruit tree; a hand in a cloud cutting a flower with a sickle. Motto, “Fortior frango, tenera meto.” Upright, 6½ by 4.

An anonymous engraving of a lady sitting at her toilet. She starts at the reflected image of Death standing behind her, in her looking glass. Her lover[Pg 202] stands near her in the act of drawing his sword to repel the unwelcome visitor. Upright, 7¼ by 6½. To some such print or painting, Hamlet, holding a scull in his hand, evidently alludes in Act v. Sc. 1. “Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come.”

A print of the tree of knowledge, the serpent holding the apple in his mouth. Below, several animals, as in the usual representations of Paradise. On one side a youth on horseback with a hawk on his fist; on the other, Death strikes at him with his dart. On the right, at bottom, the letters R. P. ex. and these verses:

Nor noble, valiant, youthfull or wise, have
The least exemption from the gloomy grave.

Upright, 6 by 4.

A large oblong engraving, on copper, 22 by 17. On the left, is an arched cavern, from which issue two Deaths, one of whom holds a string, the end of which is attached to an owl, placed as a bird decoy, on a pillar in the middle of the print. Under the string, three men reading. On the left, near a tree, is a ghastly sitting figure, whose head has been flayed. On the opposite side below, a musical group of three men and a woman. In the back-ground, several men caught in a net; near them, Death with a hound pursuing three persons who are about to be intercepted by a net spread between two trees. In the distance, a vessel with a Death’s head on the inflated sail. On the top of the arched cavern, a group of seven persons, one of whom, a female, points to the interior of an urn; near them a flying angel holding a blank shield of arms. In the middle of the print, at bottom, some inscription has been erased.

A print, intitled “Cursus Mundi.” A woman holds, in one hand, a broken vessel with live coals; in the other, a lamp, at which a little boy is about to light a[Pg 203] candle. Death appears on the left. At bottom, a Latin inscription stating that the picture was painted by William Panneels, the scholar of Rubens, in 1631, and that it is in the palace of Anselm Casimir, archbishop of Mentz. Upright, 9½ by 6½.

A small anonymous engraving of Death sitting on a large fractured bass-viol, near which, on the ground, is a broken violin.

An elegant small and anonymous engraving of a young soldier, whom Death strikes with his dart whilst he despoils him of his hat and feather. At bottom, six couplets of French verses, beginning “Retire toy de moy O monstre insatiable.” Upright, 3¾ by 2¾.

A small anonymous engraving of a merchant watching the embarkation of his goods, Death behind waiting for him. Motto from Psalm 39, “Computat et parcit nec quis sit noverit, hæres, &c.” Upright, 3¼ by 1½.

Its companion—Death striking a child in a cradle. Job 14. “Vita brevis hominum variis obnoxia curis, &c.” These were probably part of a series.

An anonymous engraving of a man on his death-bed. On one side, the vision of a bishop saint in a cloud; on the other, Death has just entered the room to receive his victim. Oblong, 5½ by 2½.

An anonymous engraving of a woman sitting under a tree. Sin, as a boy, with PECCATVM inscribed on his forehead, delivers a globe, on which a serpent is entwined, to Death. At bottom, “A muliere initium factum est peccati et per illam omnes morimur. Eccl. C. XXV.

A small anonymous engraving of Death interrupting a Turkish sultan at table. In the back ground, another Turk contemplating a heap of sculls.

A mezzotint by Gole, of Death appearing to a miser, treading on an hour-glass and playing on the violin. In the back-ground, a room in which is Death seizing a young man. The floor is covered with youthful instruments[Pg 204] of recreation. This subject has been painted by Old Franks and Otho Vænius. Upright, 9 by 6½. Another mezzotint of the same subject by P. Schenck is mentioned by Peignot, p. 19. It is inscribed “Mortis ingrata musica.”

A very singular, anonymous, and unintelligible engraving of a figure that seems intended for a blacksmith, who holds a large hammer in his hand. On his right, two monks, and behind him, Death folding his arms to his breast. Below, writing implements, &c. Upright, 4 by 3.

The triumphal car of Time drawn by genii, and accompanied by a pope, cardinal, emperor, king, queen, &c. At the top of the car, Death blows a trumpet, to which a banner is suspended, with “Je trompe tout le monde.” In the back-ground a running fountain, with “Ainsi passe la gloire du monde.” An anonymous upright engraving, 4 by 2½.

A very neat engraving by Le Blon of several European coins. In the centre, a room in which Death strikes at two misers, a man and a woman sitting at a table covered with money. On the table cloth, “Luc. 12 ca.”

Its companion—Death and the Miser. The design from the same subject in the Lyons wood-cuts. A label on the wall, with “Luc. 12.” Oblong, 6½ by 3½.

A German anonymous print, apparently from a book of emblems, representing Death waiting with a scythe to cut off the following persons: 1. A lady. 2. A gentleman. 3. An advocate. 4. A soldier: and, 5. A preacher. Each has an inscription. 1. Ich todt euch alle (I kill you all). 2. Ich erfrew euch alle (I rejoice you all). 3. Ich eruhr euch alle (I honour you all). 4. Ich red fur euch alle (I speak for you all). 5. Ich fecht fur euch alle (I fight for you all). 6. Ich bett fur euch alle (I pray for you all). With verses at bottom, in Latin and German. Oblong, 5¼ by 4.

[Pg 205]An anonymous engraving of a naked youth who with a sword strikes at the head of Death pursuing another youth. Oblong, 9½ by 5½.

An upright engraving, 5½ by 4, representing a young man on horseback holding a hawk on his fist, and surrounded by various animals. Death holding an hour-glass, strikes at him with his dart. Behind, the tree of knowledge, with the serpent and apple. At bottom, on the right, are the initials T. P. ex.

An engraving of the Duke of Savoy, who, attended by his guards, receives petitions from various persons. Before him stands in a cloud the angel of Death, who points towards heaven. At bottom, on the left, “Delphinus pinxit. Brambilla del. 1676,” and on the right, “Nobilis de Piene S. R. C. Prim. cælator f. Taur.” Oblong, 10½ by 7½.

An engraving by De Gheyn, intitled, “Vanitas, idelheit.” A lady is sitting at a table, on which is a box of jewels and a heap of money. A hideous female Death strikes at her with a flaming dart, which, at the same time, scatters the leaves of a flower which she holds in her left hand. Upright, 9 by 7.

A very small circular wood-cut, apparently some printer’s device, representing an old and a young man, holding up a mirror, in which is reflected the figure of Death standing behind them, with the motto, “Beholde your glory.”

An anonymous print of Death and the miser. Death seizes his money, which he conveys into a dish. Upright, 3½ by 2½. It is a copy from the same subject in the Lyons wood-cuts.



An anonymous modern copy of Death and the bridegroom, copied from the Lyons wood-cuts, edition 1562.

[Pg 206]An etching of Death, with an hour-glass in one hand and a cane in the other, entering a room where a poor poet has been writing, and who would willingly dispense with the visit. At bottom “And when Death himself knocked at my door, ye bad him come again; and in so gay a tone of careless indifference did ye do it, that he doubted of his commission. There must certainly be some mistake in this matter, quoth he.” The same in Italian. This is one of Patch’s caricatures after Ghezzi. Upright, 16½ by 12.

A print intitled “Time’s lecture to man,” with eight stanzas in verse, beginning “Why start you at that skeleton.” It consists of three divisions. At top a young man starts at the appearance of time and death. Under the youth “Calcanda semel via lethi.” At each extremity of this division is a figure of Death sitting on a monument. The verses, in double columns, are placed between two borders with compartments. That on the right a scull crowned with a mitre; an angel with a censer; time carrying off a female on his back; Death with an infant in his arms; Death on horseback with a flag; Death wrestling with a man. The border on the left has a scull with a regal crown; an angel dancing with a book; Death carrying off an old man; Death leading a child; Death with a naked corpse; Death digging a grave. At bottom “Sold by Clark and Pine, engravers, in Castle Yard, near Chancery Lane, T. Witham, frame-maker, in Long Lane, near West Smithfield, London.” With a vignette of three Deaths’ heads. 13 by 9½.

There is a very singular ancient gem engraved in “Passeri de Gemmis Astriferis,” tom. ii. p. 248. representing a skeleton Death standing in a car drawn by two animals that may be intended for lions; he holds a whip in his hand, and is driving over other skeletons. It is covered with barbarous and unintelligible words in Greek characters, and is to be classed among those[Pg 207] gems which are used as amulets or for magical purposes. It seems to have suggested some of the designs that accompany the old editions of Petrarch’s Triumph of Death.

A folio mezzotint of J. Daniel von Menzel, an Austrian hussar. Behind him is a figure of Death with the hussar’s hat on his head, by whom he is seized. There are some German verses, and below

Mon amis avec moi à la danse
C’est pour vous la juste recompense.

The print is dated 1744.

A Dutch anonymous oblong engraving on copper, 10½ by 10, intitled “Bombario, o dood! te schendig in de nood.” Death leads a large group of various characters. At bottom verses beginning “De Boertjes knappen al temaal.” On each side caricatures inscribed Democritus and Heraclitus. It is one of the numerous caricatures on the famous South Sea or Mississippi bubble.

An engraving, published by Darly, entitled “Macaronies drawn after the life.” On the left a macaroni standing. On the floor dice and dice-box. On a table cards and two books. On the right, Death with a spade, leaning on a sarcophagus, inscribed “Here lies interred Dicky Daffodil, &c.” Oblong, 9 by 6.

A very clever private etching by Colonel Turner, of the Guards, 1799, representing, in the foreground, three Deaths dancing in most grotesque attitudes. In the distance several groups of skeletons, some of whom are dancing, one of them beating a drum. Oblong, 5½ by 3½.

A small engraving by Chodowiecki. Death appears to a medical student sitting at a table; underneath these lines,

De grace epargne moi, je me fais medecin,
Tu recevras de moi la moitié des malades.

[Pg 208]Upright, 3½ by 2. This is not included in his Dance of Death.

The same slightly retouched, with German verses.

A small engraving, by Chodowiecki, of Death approaching a dying man attended by his family and a physician. Oblong, 2½ by 2.

A modern engraving, intitled “An emblem of a modern marriage.” Death habited as a beau stands by a lady, who points to a monument inscribed “Requiescat in pace.” Above a weeping Cupid with an inverted torch. At bottom

... No smiles for us the Godhead wears,
His torch inverted and his face in tears.

Drawn by M. H. from a sketch cut with a diamond on a pane of glass. Published according to act of parliament, June 15, 1775.

A modern caricature intitled “A patch for t’other eye.” Death is about to place a patch on the right eye of an old general, who has one already on the other. His hat and truncheon lie on the ground, and he is drawing his sword for the purpose of opposing the intention of his grim adversary, exclaiming at the same time, “Oh G—d d—n ye, if that’s your sport, have at ye.” Upright, 8 inches by 7.

A small engraving by Chr. de Mechel, 1775, of an apothecary’s shop. He holds up a urinal to a patient who comes to consult him, behind whom Death is standing and laying hands upon him. Below these verses:

Docteur, en vain tu projettes
De prononcer sur cette eau,
La mort rit de tes recettes
Et conduit l’homme au tombeau.

Oblong, 4 by 3.

An anonymous and spirited etching of Death obsequiously and with his arms crossed entering a room[Pg 209] in which is a woman in bed with three infants. With uplifted arms she screams at the sight of the apparition. Below in a corner the husband, accompanied with four other children. Upright, 11 by 10½.

“The lawyer’s last circuit.” He is attacked by four Deaths mounted on skeleton horses. He is placed behind one of them, and all gallop off with him. A road-post inscribed “Road to hell.” Below, the lines from Hamlet, “Where be his quiddits now? his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks, &c.” Published April 25, 1782, by R. Smith, opposite the Pantheon, Oxford Street. Oblong, 10 by 6½.



A modern wood-cut of a drinking and smoking party. Demons of destruction hover over them in the characters of Poverty, Apoplexy, Madness, Dropsy, and Gout. In the bowl on the table is a monstrous head inscribed “Disease.” Behind, a gigantic figure of Death with scythe and hour-glass. Oblong, 3½ by 3.

A Sketch by Samuel Ireland, after Mortimer, in imitation of a chalk drawing, apparently exhibiting an Englishman, a Dutchman, and a Spaniard. Death behind stretching his arms upon all of them. Oblong 10½ by 8.

A wood print intitled “Das betruhte Brautfest.” Death seizes a man looking at a table covered with wedding-cakes, &c. From a modern Swiss almanack. Oblong 6½ by 5½.

A mezzotint of a physician, who attending a sick patient in bed is attacked by a group of Deaths bearing standards, inscribed “Despair,” “l’amour,” “omnia vincit amor,” and “luxury.” Oblong, 11 by 8½.

An etching from a drawing by Van Venne of Death preaching from a charnel-house to a group of people. His text book rests on the figure of a skeleton as a[Pg 210] reading desk. It is prefixed to Mr. Dagley’s “Death’s Doings,” mentioned in p. 157. Oblong, 5½ by 4¼.

Mr. Dagley, in the second edition of his “Death’s Doings,” p. 9, mentions a print of “a man draining an enormous bowl, and Death standing ready to confirm the title of the print, “the last drop.”

An etching by Dagley, after Birch, of Baxter, a famous cricketer, bowled out by Death. Below, his portrait at full length. Oblong, 9 by 7.

“Sketches of the celebrated skeletons, originally designed on the long wall between Turnham-Green and Brentford.” Etchings of various groups; the subjects, billiards, drafts, cards, dice, toss, and pitch. Oblong, 18 by 11.

“Humorous sketches of skeletons engaged in the various sciences of Singing, Dancing, Music, Oratory, Painting, and Sculpture.” Drawn by H. Heathcote Russell as a companion to the skeletons copied from the long wall at Brentford. Published 3d June, 1830. Same size as the preceding print.

A lithographic print of a conjurer pointing with his magic wand to a table on which are cups, a lanthorn, &c. In the back-ground, the Devil running away with a baker, and a group of three dancing Deaths. Below, birds in cages, cards, &c. Oblong, 8 by 6.

A small modern wood-cut of Death seizing a lady at a ball. He is disguised as one of the party. Underneath, “Death leads the dance.”—Young—Night 5.

From “the Christian’s Pocket Magazine.” Oblong, 2½ by 1½.

A design for the ballad of Leonora, by Lady Diana Beauclerc. A spectre, as Death, carrying off a lady on horseback, and striking her with his dart. Other Death-like spectres waiting for her. Oblong, 11¾ by 9.

A small modern engraving of Death presenting a smelling bottle to a fainting butcher with one hand, and with the other fanning him. The motto, “A[Pg 211] butcher overcome with extreme sensibility, is as strangely revived.”

A modern halfpenny wood-cut of several groups, among which is a man presenting an old woman to Death. The motto, “Death come for a wicked woman.”

An oval etching, by Harding, intitled “Death and the Doctor.” Upright, 4½ by 3½.

A modern etching of Death striking a sleeping lady leaning on a table, on which little imps are dancing. At bottom, “Marks fecit.” Oblong, 4 by 3.

An anonymous modern wood-cut of Death seizing a usurer, over whom another Death is throwing a counterpane. Square, 4 by 4.

An etching, intitled “the Last Drop.” A fat citizen draining a punch-bowl. Death behind is about to strike him with his dart. Upright, 8½ by 6½.

In an elegant series of prints, illustrative of the poetical works of Goethe, there is a poem of seven stanzas, intitled “Der Todtentanz,” where the embellishment represents a church-yard, in which several groups of skeletons are introduced, some of them rising, or just raised, from their graves; others in the attitude of dancing together or preparing for a dance. These prints are beautifully etched in outline in the manner of the drawings in the margins of Albert Durer’s prayer-book in the library of Munich.

Prefixed to a poem by Edward Quillinan, in a volume of wood-cuts used at the press of Lee Priory, the seat of Sir Egerton Brydges, intitled “Death to Doctor Quackery,” there is an elegant wood-cut, representing Death hob-and-nobbing with the Doctor at a table.

In the same volume is another wood-cut on the subject of a dance given by the Lord of Death in Clifton Halls. A motley group of various characters are dancing in a circle whilst Death plays the fiddle.

In 1832 was published at Paris “La Danse des[Pg 212] Morts, ballade dediée à Madame la Comtesse de Tryon Montalembert. Paroles et musique de P. Merruau.” The subject is as follows: A girl named Lise is admonished by her mother not to dance on a Saturday, the day on which Satan calls the dead to the infernal Sabbat. She promises obedience, but whilst her mother is napping, escapes to the ball. She forgets the midnight hour, when a company of damned souls, led by Satan, enter the ball-room hand-in-hand, exclaiming “Make way for Death.” All the party escape, except Lise, who suddenly finds herself encircled by skeletons, who continue dancing round her. From that time, on every Saturday at midnight, there is heard under ground, in the church-yard, the lamentation of a soul forcibly detained, and exclaiming “Girls beware of dancing Satan!” At the head of this ballad is a lithographic print of the terrified Lise in Satan’s clutches, surrounded by dancing, piping, and fiddling Deaths.

About the same time there appeared a silly ballad, set to music, intitled “the Cork Leg,” accompanied by a print in which the man with the cork leg falling on the ground drops his leg. It is seized by Death, who stalks away with it in a very grotesque manner.



[Pg 213]


Initial or capital Letters with the Dance of Death.


It is very well known that the use of initial or capital letters, especially with figures of any kind, is not coeval with the invention of printing. It was some time before they were introduced at all, a blank being left, or else a small letter printed for the illuminators to cover or fill up, as they had been accustomed to do in manuscripts; for, although the art of printing nearly put an end to the occupation of that ingenious class of artists, they continued to be employed by the early printers to decorate their books with elegant initials, and particularly to illuminate the first pages of them with beautiful borders of foliage or animals, for the purpose of giving them the appearance of manuscripts.

It has more than once been most erroneously asserted by bibliographers and writers on typography, that Erhard Ratdolt, a printer at Venice, was the first person who made use of initial letters about the year 1477; for instances are not wanting of their introduction into some of the earliest printed books. Among the latter the most beautiful specimen of an ornamented capital letter is the B in the Psalter of 1457, of which Dr. Dibdin has given a very faithful copy in vol. I. p. 107, of the Bibliotheca Spenceriana. This truly elegant letter seems to have been regarded as the only one of its kind; but, in a fragment of an undescribed missal in folio, printed in the same type as the above-mentioned Psalter, there is an equally beautiful initial T, prefixed[Pg 214] to the “Te igitur” canon of the mass. It is ornamented with flowers and foliage, and in both these precious volumes there are many other smaller capitals, but whether printed with the other type, or afterwards stamped, may admit of some doubt. This unique and valuable fragment is in the collection of the present writer.

As the art of printing advanced, the initial letters assumed every possible variety of form, with respect to the subjects with which they were ornamented. Incidents from scripture and profane history, animals of every kind, and the most ludicrous grotesques, constitute the general materials; nor has the Dance of Death been forgotten. It was first introduced into the books printed at Basle by Bebelius and Cratander about the year 1530, and for one or the other of these celebrated printers an alphabet of initial letters was constructed, which, in elegance of design and delicacy of engraving, have scarcely ever been equalled, and certainly never exceeded. Whether they were engraved in relief on blocks of type or printer’s metal, in the manner of wood-cutting, or executed in wood in the usual manner, is a matter of doubt, and likely to remain so. They may, in every point of view be regarded as the chef d’œuvre of ancient block engraving, and to copy them successfully at this time might require the utmost efforts of such artists as Harvey, Jackson, and Byfield.[134]

A proof set of this alphabet, in the possession of the present writer, was shown to M. De Mechel when he was in London, on which occasion he stated that he had seen in the public library of Basle another proof set on a single sheet, with the inscription “Hans Lutzelburger,” who is elsewhere called formschneider, or[Pg 215] block-cutter, of which he has written a memorandum on the leaf containing the first abovementioned set of proofs. M. de Mechel, with great probability, inferred that this person was either the designer or engraver of the alphabet as well as of the cuts to the “Historiées faces de la mort,” on one of which, as already stated, the mark [monogram] is placed;[135] but to whomsoever this mark may turn out to belong, certain it is that Holbein never made use of it.[136] These letters measure precisely 1 inch by ⅞ of an inch, and the subjects are as follow:

A. A group of Deaths passing through a cemetery covered with sculls. One of them blows a trumpet, and another plays on a tabor and pipe.

B. Two Deaths seize upon a pope, on whom a demon fastens, to prevent their dragging him along.

C. An emperor in the clutches of two Deaths, one of whom he resists, whilst the other pulls off his crown.

D. A king thrown to the ground and forcibly dragged away by two Deaths.

E. Death and the cardinal.

F. An empress sitting in a chair is attacked by two Deaths, one of whom lifts up her petticoat.

G. A queen seized by two Deaths, one of whom plays on a fife.

H. A bishop led away by Death.

I. A duke with his hands clasped in despair is seized behind by Death in the grotesque figure of an old woman.

K. Death with a furred cap and mantle, and a flail in his right hand, seizes a nobleman.

L. Death in the habit of a priest with a vessel of holy water takes possession of the canon.

[Pg 216]M. Death behind a physician in his study lays his hand on a urinal which he is inspecting.

N. One Death lays hold on a miser, whilst another carries off his money from a table.

O. Death carries off a terrified monk.

P. Combat between Death and the soldier.

Q. Death very quietly leads away a nun.

R. Death and the fool who strikes at him with his bauble.

S. Exhibits two Deaths, one of whom is in a very licentious action with a female, whilst the other runs off with an hour-glass on his back.

T. A minstrel with his pipe, lying prostrate on the ground, is dragged away by one Death, whilst another pours something from a vessel into his mouth.

V. A man on horseback endeavouring to escape from Death is seized by him behind.

W. Death and the hermit.

X. Death and the Devil among the gamblers.

Y. Death, the nurse, and the infant.

Z. The last Judgment.

But they were not only used at Basle by Bebelius Isingrin and Cratander, but also at Strasburg by Wolfgang Cephaleus, and probably by other printers; because in an edition of Huttichius’s “Romanorum principum effigies,” printed by Cephaleus at Strasburg in 1552, they appear in a very worn and much used condition. In his Greek Bible of 1526, near half the alphabet were used, some of them by different hands.

They were separately published in a very small volume without date, each letter being accompanied with appropriate scriptural allusions taken from the Vulgate Bible.

They were badly copied, and with occasional variations, for books printed at Strasburg by J. Schott about 1540. Same size as the originals. The same initials were used by Henry Stainer of Augsburg in 1530.

[Pg 217]Schott also used two other sets of a larger size, the same subjects with variations, and which occur likewise in books printed at Frankfort about 1550 by Cyriacus Jacob.

Christopher Froschover, of Zurich, used two alphabets with the Dance of Death. In Gesner’s “Bibliotheca Universalis,” printed by him in 1545, folio, he used the letters A. B. C. in indifferent copies of the originals with some variation. In a Vulgate Bible, printed by him in 1544, he uses the A and C of the same alphabet, and also the following letters, with different subjects, viz. F. Death blowing a trumpet in his left hand, with the right seizes a friar holding his beads and endeavouring to escape. O. Death and the Swiss soldier with his battle-axe; and, S. a queen between two Deaths, one of whom leads her, the other holds up her train. The Gesner has also a Q from the same alphabet of Death and the nun. This second alphabet is coarsely engraved on wood, and both are of the same size as the originals.

In Francolin’s “Rerum præclare gestarum, intra et extra mœnia civitatis Viennensis, pedestri et equestri prælio, terra et aqua, elapso Mense Junio Anni Domini MDLX. elegantissimis iconibus ad vivum illustratarum, in laudem et gloriam sere. poten. invictissimique principis et Domini, Domini Ferdinandi electi Roma: imperatoris, &c. Vienna excudebat Raphael Hofhalter,” at fo. xxii. b. the letter D is closely copied in wood from the original, and appears to have been much used. This very rare work is extremely interesting for its large and spirited etchings of the various ceremonies on the above occasion, but more particularly for the tournaments. It is also valuable for the marks of the artists, some of which are quite unknown.

Other copies of them on wood occur in English books, but whether the whole alphabet was copied would be difficult to ascertain. In a Coverdale’s Bible, printed[Pg 218] by James Nicolson in Southwark, the letters A. I. and T. occur. The subject of the A. is that of the fool and Death, from the R. of the originals, with the addition of the fool’s bauble on the ground: the two other letters are like the originals. The size 2 inches by 1½. The same letters, and no others, occur in a folio English Bible, the date of which has not been ascertained, it being only a fragment. The A is found as late as 1618 in an edition of Stowe’s “Survey of London.” In all these letters large white spots are on the back-ground, which might be taken for worm-holes, but are not so. The I occurs in J. Waley’s “table of yeres of kings,” 1567, 12mo.

An X and a T, an inch and ½ square, with the same subjects as in the originals, and not only closely copied, but nearly as well engraved on wood, are in the author’s collection. Their locality has not been traced.

Hollar etched the first six letters of the alphabet from the initials described in p. 214. They are rather larger than the originals, but greatly inferior to them in spirit and effect.

Two other alphabets, the one of peasants dancing, the other of boys playing, by the same artists, have been already described in p. 101, and were also used by the Basle and other printers.

In Braunii Civitates Orbis terrarum, Par. I. No. 37, edit. 1576, there is an H, inch and ½ square. The subject, Death leading a Pope on horseback. It is engraved on wood with much spirit.

In “Prodicion y destierro de los Moriscos de Castilla, por F. Marcos de Guadalajara y Xavier.” Pamplona, 1614, 4to. there is an initial E cut in wood with the subject of the cardinal, varied from that in Lutzenberger’s alphabet.

A Greek Π on wood, with Death leading away the pope, was used by Cephalæus in a Testament.

In “Fulwell’s Flower of Fame,” printed by W. [Pg 219]Hoskins, 1575, 4to. is an initial of Death leading a king, probably belonging to some alphabet.

An S rudely cut on wood with Death seizing two children was used by the English printers, J. Herford and T. Marshe.

An A well cut on wood, representing Death striking a miser, who is counting his money at a table. It occurs at fo. 5 of Quad’s “fasciculus geographicus.” Cologne, 1608, small folio, printed by John Buxemacher.

An R indifferently cut on wood, two inches square. The subject, Death in a grave pulls an old man towards him. A boy making his escape. From some unknown book.

An S indifferently cut on wood, two inches square. Death shovelling two sculls, one crowned, into a grave. On the shovel the word IDEM, and below, the initials of the engraver or designer, I. F. From some unknown book.

An H, an inch and half square, very beautifully cut on wood. The letter is surrounded by a group of people, over whom Death below is drawing a net. It is from some Dutch book of emblems, about 1640.

An M cut on wood in p. 353 of a Suetonius, edited by Charles Patin, and printed 1675, 4to. “Basle typis Genathianis.” The subject is, Death seizing Cupid. Size, 1½ square.

A W, 2⅛ square, engraved on copper, with the initials of Michael Burghers. A large palm tree in the middle, Death with his scythe approaches a shepherd sitting on a bank and tending his flock.

In the second volume of Braun and Hogenberg Civitates orbis terrarum, and prefixed to a complimentary letter from Remaglus Lymburgus, a physician and canon of Liege, there is an initial letter about an inch and a half square, representing a pope and an emperor playing at cards. They are interrupted by Death, who[Pg 220] offers them a cup which he holds in his left hand whilst he points to them with his right. Other figures are introduced. This letter is very finely engraved on wood.

In Vol. II. p. 118 (misprinted 208) of Steinwich’s “Bibliothecæ Ecclesiasticæ.” Colon. Agrip. 1599, folio. There is a single initial letter V only, which may have been part of an alphabet with a Dance of Death. The subject is Death and the queen. The size nearly an inch square.

At fo. 1. of “F. Marco de Guadalajara y Xavier, Memorable expulsion y justissimo destierro de los Moriscos de Espana, Pamplona, 1613, 4to.” there is an initial E, finely drawn and well engraved in wood. The subject has been taken from two cuts in the Lyons Dance of Death, viz. the cardinal and the emperor. From the first, the figures of the cardinal and Death seizing his hat; and from the other, the figures of the kneeling man, and of Death seizing the emperor’s crown, are introduced as a complete group in the above initial letter. Size, 1½ inch square.

In p. 66 of the same work there is another letter that has probably belonged to a set of initials with a Dance of Death. It is an H, and copied from the subject of the bishop taken by Death from his flock, in the Lyons series. It is engraved in a different and inferior style from that last mentioned, yet with considerable spirit. Size, 1½ inch.



[Pg 221]




Rene of Anjou is said to have painted a sort of Death’s Dance at Avignon, which was destroyed in the French revolution.

In one of the wardrobe accounts of Henry VIII. a picture at Westminster is thus described: “Item, a table with the picture of a woman playing upon a lute, and an old manne holding a glasse in th’ one hande and a deadde mannes headde in th’ other hande.” MS. Harl. No. 1419.

A round painting in oil, by or from Hans Holbein. The subject, an old man making love to a young girl. Death pulling him back, hints at the consequences, whilst the absurdity is manifested by the presence of a fool, with cockscomb and bauble, on the other side. Diameter, 15 inches. From the striking resemblance in the features of the old lover to those of Erasmus, there is no doubt that Holbein intended by this group to retort upon his friend, who, on one of the drawings which Holbein had inserted in a copy of Erasmus’s Praise of Folly, now in the public library at Basle, and which represented a fat epicure at table embracing a wench, had written the name of Holbein, in allusion to his well-known intemperance. In the present writer’s possession.

The small painting by Isaac Oliver, from Holbein, formerly at Whitehall, of Death with a green garland, &c. already more particularly described at p. 145.

A small painting in oil, by Old Franks, of a gouty[Pg 222] old miser startled at the unexpected appearance of Death, who approaches him playing on a violin, one of his feet resting on an hour-glass. In the distance, and in another room, Death is seen in conversation with a sitting gentleman. Upright, 7½ by 5½.

The same subject, painted in oil by Otho Vænius, in which a guitar is substituted for the violin. This picture was in the collection of Richard Cosway, Esquire. Upright, 12 by 6, and is now belonging to the present writer.

A Mr. Knowles, a modern artist, is said to have painted a miser counting his hoard, and Death putting an extinguisher over him.

At p. 460 of the memoirs of that most ingenious artist, Charles Alfred Stothard, by his widow, mention is made of an old picture, at Nettlecombe Hall, Somersetshire, belonging to its owner, a clergyman, of a Dance of Death.

Mr. Tyssen, a bookseller at Bristol, is said to possess a will of the 15th century, in which the testator bequeaths a painting of the Dance of Death.



In a beautifully illuminated Psalter, supposed to have been made for Richard II. and preserved among the Cotton MSS. Domit. xvii. is a very singular painting, representing part of the choir of a cathedral, with ten monks sitting in their stalls, and chaunting the service. At the top of these stalls, and behind it, are five grotesque Deaths looking down on the monks. One of the Deaths has a cardinal’s hat, two have baronial crowns on their heads, and those of the remaining two are decorated with a sort of imperial crowns, shaped like the papal tiara. A priest celebrates mass at the altar, before which another priest or monk prostrates himself. What the object of the painter was in the[Pg 223] introduction of these singular figures of Death is difficult to comprehend.



In the manuscript and illuminated copies of the “Romance of the Rose,” the “Pelerin de la vie humaine” and the “Chevalier Deliberé,” representations of Death as Atropos, are introduced.

A very ancient and masterly drawing of Death and the beggar, the outlines black on a blue ground, tinted with white and red. The figures [monogram] at bottom indicate its having been part of a Macaber Dance. Upright, 5¼ by 4. In the author’s possession.

Sir Thomas Lawrence had four very small drawings by Callot that seemed to be part of an intended series of a Dance of Death. 1. Death and the bishop. 2. Death and the soldier. 3. Death and the fool. 4. Death and the old woman.

An extremely fine drawing by Rembrandt of four Deaths, their hands joined in a dance, their faces outwards. One has a then fashionable female cap on his head, and another a cap and feather. Upright, 9½ by 6½. In the author’s possession.

A very singular drawing in pen and ink and bistre. In the middle, a sitting figure of a naked man holding a spindle, whilst an old woman, leaning over a tub on a bench, cuts the thread which he has drawn out. Near the old woman Death peeps in behind a wall. Close to the bench is a woman sitting on the ground mending a piece of linen, a child leaning on her shoulder. On the other side is a sitting female weaving, and another woman in an upright posture, and stretching one of her hands towards a shelf. Oblong, 11¼ by 8. In the author’s possession.

An anonymous drawing in pen and ink of a Death embracing a naked woman. His companion is mounted on the back of another naked female, and holds a dart in each hand. Oblong, 4 by 3¼. In the author’s possession.

[Pg 224]A single sheet, containing four subjects, skilfully drawn with a pen and tinted in Indian ink. 1. An allegorical, but unknown figure sitting on a globe, with a sort of sceptre in his right hand. Death seizes him by his garment with great vigour, and endeavours to pull him from his seat. 2. Two men eating and drinking at a table. Death, unperceived, enters the room, and levels his dart at them. 3. Death seizes two naked persons very amorously situated. 4. Death seizes a miser counting his money. In the author’s possession.

Twenty-four very beautiful coloured drawings by a modern artist from those in the public library at Berne that were copied by Stettler from Kauw’s drawings of the original painting by Nicolas Manuel Deutch. In the author’s possession, together with lithographic copies of them that have been recently published at Berne.[137]

A modern Indian ink drawing of a drunken party of men and women. Death above in a cloud levels his dart at them. Upright, 5¼ by 3½. In the author’s possession.

A spirited drawing in Indian ink of two Deaths as pugilists with their bottle-holders. Oblong, 7 by 4½. In the author’s possession.

A pen and ink tinted drawing, intitled “The Last Drop.” A female seated before a table on which is a bottle of gin or brandy. She is drinking a glass of it, Death standing by and directing his dart at her. In the author’s possession.

Mr. Dagley, in the second edition of his “Death’s Doings,” p. 7, has noticed some very masterly designs chalked on a wall bordering the road from Turnham-Green towards Kew-Bridge. They exhibited figures of Death as a skeleton ludicrously occupied[Pg 225] with gamblers, dancers, boxers, &c. all of the natural size. They were unfortunately swept away before any copies were made to perpetuate them, as they well deserved. It was stated in The Times newspaper that these sketches were made by a nephew of Mr. Baron Garrow, then living in retirement near the spot, but who afterwards obtained a situation in India. These drawings were made in 1819.

Four very clever coloured drawings by Rowlandson, being probably a portion of an unfinished series of a Death’s Dance. 1. The Suicide. A man seated near a table is in the act of discharging a pistol at his head. The sudden and terrific appearance of Death, who, starting from behind a curtain, significantly stares at him through an eye-glass. One of the candles is thrown down, and a wine-glass jerked out of the hand of the suicide, who, from a broken sword and a hat with a cockade, seems intended for some ruined soldier of fashion. A female servant, alarmed at the report of the pistol, rushes into the apartment. Below, these verses:

Death smiles, and seems his dart to hide,
When he beholds the suicide.

2. The Good Man, Death, and the Doctor. A young clergyman reads prayers to the dying man; the females of his family are shedding tears. Death unceremoniously shoves out the physician, who puts one hand behind him, as expecting a fee, whilst with the other he lifts his cane to his nostrils. Below, these lines:

No scene so blest in Virtue’s eyes,
As when the man of virtue dies.

3. The Honey-moon. A gouty old fellow seated on a sopha with his youthful bride, who puts her hand through a window for a military lover to kiss it. A table covered with a desert, wine, &c. Death, stretching over a screen, pours something from a bottle into[Pg 226] the glass which the husband holds in his hand. Below, these verses:

When the old fool has drunk his wine,
And gone to rest, I will be thine.

4. The Fortune-teller. Some females enter the conjurer’s study to have their fortunes told. Death seizes the back of his chair and oversets him. Below, these verses:

All fates he vow’d to him were known,
And yet he could not tell his own.

These drawings are oblong, 9 by 5 inches. In the author’s possession.



A circular carving on wood, with the mark of Hans Schaufelin [monogram], representing Death seizing a naked female, who turns her head from him with a very melancholy visage. It is executed in a masterly manner. Diameter, 4 inches. In the author’s possession.

In Boxgrove church, Sussex, there is a splendid and elaborately sculptured monument of the Lords Delawar; and on the side which has not been engraved in Mr. Dallaway’s history of the county, there are two figures of Death and a female, wholly unconnected with the other subjects on the tomb. These figures are 9½ inches in height, and of rude design. Many persons will probably remember to have seen among the ballads, &c. that were formerly, and are still exhibited on some walls in the metropolis, a poem, intitled “Death and the Lady.” This is usually accompanied with a wood-cut, resembling the above figures. It is proper to mention likewise on this occasion the old alliterative poem in Bishop Percy’s famous manuscript, intitled Death and Liffe, the subject of which is a vision[Pg 227] wherein the poet sees a contest for superiority between “our Lady Dame Life,” and the “ugly fiend, Dame Death.” See “Percy’s Reliques of ancient English poetry,” in the Essay on the Metre of Pierce Plowman’s Vision. Whether there may have been any connexion between these respective subjects must be left to the decision of others. There is certainly some reason to suppose so.



The sculptures at Berlin and Fescamp have been already described.

Among the subjects of tapestry at the Tower of London, the most ancient residence of our kings, was “the Dance of Macabre.” See the inventory of King Henry VIII.’s Guardrobe, &c. in MS. Harl. 1419, fo. 5.

Two panes of glass with a portion of a Dance of Death. 1. Three Deaths, that appear to have been placed at the beginning of the Dance. Over them, in a character of the time of Henry VII. these lines:

... ev’ry man to be contented wt his chaunce,
And when it shall please God to folowe my daunce.

2. Death and the Pope. No verses. Size, upright, 8½ by 7 inches. In the author’s possession. They have probably belonged to a Macaber Dance in the windows of some church.



[Pg 228]


Trois vifs et trois morts.—Negro figure of Death.—Danse aux Avengles.


The first of these subjects, as connected with the Macaber Dance, has been already introduced at p. 31-33; what is now added will not, it is presumed, be thought unworthy of notice.

It is needless to repeat the descriptions that have been given by M. Peignot of the manuscripts in the Duke de la Valliere’s catalogue. The following are some of the printed volumes in which representations of the trois vifs et trois morts occur.

They are to be found in all the editions of the Danse Macabre that have already been described, and in the following Horæ and other service books of the catholic church.

“Horæ ad usum Sarum,” 1495, no place, no printer. 4to. Three Deaths, three horsemen with hawks and hounds. The hermit, to whom the vision appeared, in his cell.

“Heures à l’usaige de Rome.” Paris. Nicolas Higman, for Guil. Eustace, 1506, 12mo.

“Horæ ad usum Traject.” 1513. 18mo.

“Breviarium seu horarium domesticum ad usum Sarum.” Paris, F. Byrckman, 1516. Large folio. Three Deaths and three young men.

“Horæ ad usum Romanum.” Paris. Thielman Kerver, 1522. 8vo. And again, 1535. 4to.

[Pg 229]A Dutch “Horæ.” Paris. Thielman Kerver, 1522. 8vo.

“Heures à l’usage de Paris.” Thielman Kerver’s widow, 1525. 8vo.

“Missale ad usum Sarum.” Paris, 1527. Folio. Three horsemen as noblemen, but without hawks or hounds.

“Enchiridion preclare ecclesie Sarum.” Paris. Thielman Kerver, 1528. 32mo.

“Horæ ad usum fratrum predicatorum ordinis S. Dominici.” Paris. Thielman Kerver, 1529. 8vo.

“Horæ ad usum Romanum.” Paris. Yolande Bonhomme, widow of T. Kerver, 1531. 8vo.

“Missale ad usum Sarum.” Paris. F. Regnault, 1531. Three Deaths only; different from the others.

“Prayer of Salisbury.” Paris. Francois Regnault, 1531, 12mo.

“Horæ ad usum Sarum.” Paris. Widow of Thielman Kerver, 1532. 12mo.

“Heures à l’usage de Paris.” Francois Regnault, 1535. 12mo.

“Horæ ad usum Romanum.” Paris. Gilles Hardouyn, 1537. 18mo. The subject is different from all the others, and very curiously treated.

“Heures à l’usage de Paris.” Thielman Kerver, 1558. 12mo.

“Heures à l’usage de Rome.” Paris. Thielman Kerver, 1573. 12mo.

“Heures à l’usage de Paris.” Jacques Kerver, 1573. 12mo. And again, 1575. 12mo.

In “The Contemplation of Sinners,” printed by Wynkyn de Worde. 4to.

All the above articles are in the collections of the author of this dissertation.

In an elegant MS. “Horæ,” in the Harl. Coll. No. 2917, 12mo. three Deaths appear to a pope, an emperor,[Pg 230] and a king coming out of a church. All the parties are crowned.

At the end of Desrey’s “Macabri speculum choreæ mortuorum,” a hermit sees a vision of a king, a legislator, and a vain female. They are all lectured by skeletons in their own likenesses.

In a manuscript collection of unpublished and chiefly pious poems of John Awdeley, a blind poet and canon of the monastery of Haghmon, in Shropshire, anno 1426, there is one on the “trois vifs et trois morts,” in alliterative verses, and composed in a very grand and terrific style.



In some degree connected with the old painting of the Macaber Dance in the church-yard of the Innocents at Paris, was that of a black man over a vaulted roof, constructed by the celebrated N. Flamel, about the year 1390. This is supposed to have perished with the Danse Macabre; but a copy of the figure has been preserved in some of the printed editions of the dance. It exhibits a Negro blowing a trumpet, and was certainly intended as a personification of Death. In one of the oldest of the above editions he is accompanied with these verses:

Cry de Mort.
Tost, tost, tost, que chacun savance
Main à main venir a la danse
De Mort, danser la convient,
Tous et a plusieurs nen souvient.
Venez hommes femmes et enfans,
Jeunes et vieulx, petis et grans,
Ung tout seul nen eschapperoit,
Pour mille escuz si les donnoit, &c.

Before the females in the dance the figure is repeated with a second “Cry de Mort.”

[Pg 231] Tost, tost, venez femmes danser
Apres les hommes incontinent,
Et gardez vous bien de verser,
Car vous danserez vrayment;
Mon cornet corne bien souvent
Apres les petis et les grans.
Despecte vous legierement,
Apres la pluye vient le beau temps.

These lines are differently given in the various printed copies of the Danse Macabre.

This figure is not to be confounded with an alabaster statue of Death that remained in the church-yard of the Innocents, when it was entirely destroyed in 1786. It had been usually regarded as the work of Germain Pilon, but with greater probability belonged to Francois Gentil, a sculptor at Troyes, about 1540. It was transported to Notre Dame, after being bronzed and repaired, by M. Deseine, a distinguished artist. It was saved from the fury of the iconoclast revolutionists by M. Le Noir, and deposited in the Museum which he so patriotically established in the Rue des petits Augustins, but it has since disappeared. It was an upright skeleton figure, holding in one hand a lance which pointed to a shield with this inscription:

Il n’est vivant, tant soit plein d’art,
Ne de force pour resistance,
Que je ne frappe de mon dart,
Pour bailler aux vers leur pitance.
Priez Dieu pour les trespassés.

It is engraved in the second volume of M. Le Noir’s “Musée des monumens Francais,” and also in his “Histoire des arts en France,” No. 91.



There is a poetical work, in some degree connected with the subject of this dissertation, that ought not to[Pg 232] be overlooked. It was composed by one Pierre Michault, of whom little more seems to be known than that he was in the service of Charles, Count of Charolois, son of Philip le Bon, Duke of Burgundy. It is intitled “La Danse aux Aveugles,” and the object of it is to show that all men are subject to the influence of three blind guides, Love, Fortune, and Death, before whom several persons are whimsically made to dance. It is a dialogue in a dream between the Author and Understanding, and the respective blind guides describe themselves, their nature, and power over mankind, in ten-line stanzas, of which the following is the first of those which are pronounced by Death:

Je suis la Mort de nature ennemie,
Qui tous vivans finablement consomme,
Anichillant à tous humains la vie,
Reduis en terre et en cendre tout homme.
Je suis la mort qui dure me surnomme,
Pour ce qu’il fault que maine tout affin;
Je nay parent, amy, frere ou affin
Que ne face tout rediger en pouldre,
Et suis de Dieu ad ce commise affin,
Que l’on me doubte autant que tonnant fouldre.

Some of the editions are ornamented with cuts, in which Death is occasionally introduced, and that portion of the work which exclusively relates to him seems to have been separately published, M. Goujet[138] having mentioned that he had seen a copy in vellum, containing twelve leaves, with an engraving to every one of the stanzas, twenty-three in number. More is unnecessary to be added, as M. Peignot has elaborately and very completely handled the subject in his interesting “Recherches sur les Danses des Morts.” Dijon, 1826. octavo.



[Pg 233]


Errors of various writers who have introduced the subject of the Dance of Death.


To enumerate even a moiety of these mistakes would almost occupy a separate volume, but it may be as well to notice some of them which are to be found in works of common occurrence.

Travellers.—The erroneous remarks of Bishop Burnet and Mr. Coxe have been already adverted to. See pp. 79, 134, and 138.

Misson seems to regard the old Danse Macabre as the work of Holbein.

The Rev. Robert Gray, in “Letters during the course of a tour through Germany and Switzerland in the year 1791 and 1792,” has stated that Mechel has engraved Rubens’s designs from the Dance of Death, now perishing on the walls of the church-yard of the Predicant convent, where it was sketched in 1431.

Mr. Wood, in his “View of the History of Switzerland,” as quoted in the Monthly Review, Nov. 1799, p. 290, states, that “the Dance of Death in the church-yard of the Predicants has been falsely ascribed to Holbein, as it is proved that it was painted long after the death of that artist, and not before he was born, as the honourable Horace Walpole supposes.” Here the corrector stands in need himself of correction, unless it be possible that he is not fairly quoted by the reviewer.

Miss Williams, in her Swiss tour, 1798, when speaking[Pg 234] of the Basle Dance of Death, says it was painted by Kleber, a pupil of Holbein.

Those intelligent and amusing travellers, Breval, Keysler, and Blainville have carefully avoided the above strange mistakes.

Writers on painting and engraving.—Meyssens, in his article for Holbein in “the effigies of the Painters,” mentions his “Death’s Dance, in the town-hall of Basle, the design whereof he first neatly cut in wood and afterwards painted, which appeared so fine to the learned Erasmus, &c.” English edition, 1694, p. 15.

Felibien, in his “Entretiens sur les vies des Peintres,” follows Meyssens as to the painting in the town-hall.

Le Comte places the supposed painting by Holbein in the fish-market, and in other respects copies Meyssens. “Cabinet des Singularités, &c.” tom. iii. p. 323, edit. 1702, 12mo.

Bullart not only places the painting in the town-hall of Basle, but adds, that he afterwards engraved it in wood. “Acad. des Sciences et des Arts,” tom. ii. p. 412.

Mr. Evelyn, in his “Sculptura,” the only one of his works that does him no credit, and which is a meagre and extremely inaccurate compilation, when speaking of Holbein, actually runs riot in error and misconception. He calls him a Dane. He makes what he terms “the licentiousness of the friars and nuns,” meaning probably Hollar’s sixteen etchings after Holbein’s satire on monks and friars and other members of the Romish church as the persecutors of Christ, and also the “Dance Machabre and Mortis imago,” to have been cut in wood, and one or both of the latter to have been painted in the church of Basle. Mr. Evelyn’s own copy of this work, with several additions in manuscript, is in the possession of Mr. Taylor, a retired and ingenious artist, of Cirencester-place. He probably [Pg 235]intended to reprint it, and opposite the above-mentioned word “Dane,” has inserted a query.

Sandrart places the Dance of Death in the fish-market at Basle, and makes Holbein the painter as well as the engraver. “Acad. artis pictoriæ,” p. 238, edit. 1683, folio.

Baldinucci speaks of twenty prints of the Dance of Death painted by Holbein in the Senate-house of Basle. “Notizie dè professori del disegno, &c.” tom. iii. 313 and 319.

M. Descamps inadvertently ascribes the old Dance of Death on the walls of the church-yard of Saint Peter to the pencil of Holbein. “Vie des Peintres Flamandi,” &c. 1753. 8vo. Tom. i. p. 75.

Papillon, in his account of the Dance of Death, abounds with inaccuracies. He says, that a magistrate of Basle employed him to paint a Dance of Death in the fish-market, near a church-yard; that the work greatly increased his reputation, and made much noise in the world, although it has many anatomical defects; that he engraved this painting on small blocks of wood with unparalleled beauty and delicacy. He supposes that they first appeared in 1530 at Basle or Zuric, and as he thinks with a title and German verses on each print. Now he had never seen any edition so early as 1530, nor any of the cuts with German verses, and having probably been misled on this occasion, he has been the cause of misleading many subsequent writers, as Fournier, Huber, Strutt, &c. He adopts the error as to the mark [monogram] on the thirty-sixth subject belonging to Holbein. He is entirely ignorant of the nature and character of the fool or idiot in No. xliii. whom he terms “un homme lascif qui a levé le devant de sa robbe:” and, to crown the whole, he makes the old Macaber Dance an imitation of that ascribed to Holbein.

De Murr, in tom. ii. p. 535 of his “Bibliothéque de[Pg 236] Peinture, &c.” servilely copies Papillon in all that he has said on the subject, with some additional errors of his own.

The Abbé Fontenai, in the article for Holbein in his “Dictionnaire des Artistes,” Paris, 1776, 8vo. not only makes him the painter of the old Macaber Dance, but places it in the town-house at Basle.

Mr. Walpole, or rather Vertue, in the “Anecdotes of Painting in England,” corrects the error of those who give the old Macaber Dance to Holbein, but inadvertently makes that which is usually ascribed to him to have been borrowed from the other.

Messrs. Huber and Rost make Holbein the engraver of the Lyons wood-cuts, and suppose the original drawings to be preserved in the public library at Basle. They probably allude to the problematical drawings that were used by M. de Mechel, and which are now in Russia. “Manuel des curieux et des amateurs de l’art.” Tom. i. p. 155.

In the “Notices sur les graveurs,” Besancon, 1807, 8vo. a work that has, by some writers, been given to M. Malpé, and by others to the Abbé Baverel, Papillon is followed with respect to the supposed edition of 1530, and its German verses.

Mr. Janssen is more inaccurate than any of his predecessors, some of whom have occasionally misled him. He makes Albert Durer the inventor of the designs, the greater part of which, he says, are from the Dance of Death at Berne. He adopts the edition of 1530, and the German verses. He condemns the title-page of the edition of 1562 for stating an addition of seventeen plates, whereas, says he, there are but five; but the editor meant only that there were seventeen more cuts than in the original, which had only forty-one.

Miscellaneous writers.—Charles Patin, a libeller of the English nation, has made Holbein the engraver on wood of a Dance of Death, which, he says, is “not[Pg 237] much unlike that in the church-yard of the Predicants at Basle, painted, as some say, from the life, by Holbein.” He ought to have known that this work was executed near a century before Holbein was born. “Erasmi stultitiæ laus.” Basileæ, 1676, 8vo. at the end of the list of Holbein’s works.

Martiniere, in his Geographical Dictionary, makes Holbein the inventor of the Macaber Dance at Basle.

Goujet, in his very useful “Bibliothéque Francoise,” tom. x. p. 436, has erroneously stated that the Lyons engravings on wood were by the celebrated artist Salomon Bernard, usually called “Le petit Bernard.” The mistake is very pardonable, as it appears that Bernard chiefly worked in the above city.

M. Compan, in his “Dictionnaire de Danse,” 1787, 12mo. under the article Macabrée, very gravely asserts that the author took his work from the Maccabees, “qui, comme tout le monde scait danserent, et en ont fait epoque pour les morts.” He then quotes some lines from a modern edition of the “Danse Macabre,” where the word Machabées is ignorantly substituted for “Machabre.”

M. Fournier states that Holbein painted a Dance of Death in the fish-market at Basle, reduced it, and engraved it. “Dissertation sur l’imprimerie,” p. 70.

Mr. Warton has converted the imaginary Machabree into a French poet, but corrects himself in his “Hist. of Engl. Poetry.” He supposes the single cut in Lydgate to represent all the figures that were in St. Paul’s cloister. He atones for these errors in referring to Holbein’s cuts in Cranmer’s Catechism, as entirely different in style from those published at Lyons, but which he thinks, are probably the work of Albert Durer, and also in his conjecture that the painter Reperdius might have been concerned in the latter. See “Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser,” vol. ii. 116, &c. In his most elegant and instructive History of English Poetry[Pg 238] he relapses into error when he states that Holbein painted a Dance of Death in the Augustine monastery at Basle in 1543, and that Georgius Æmylius published this Dance at Lyons, 1542, one year before Holbein’s painting at Basle appeared. Hist. Engl. Poetry, vol. ii. p. 364, edit. Price.

The Marquis de Paulmy ascribes the old Macaber Dance at Basle to Holbein, and adds, “le sujet et l’execution en sont aussi singuliers que ridicules.” “Mélanges tirés d’une grande bibliothéque,” tom. Ff. 371.

M. Champollion Figeac in Millin’s “Magazin encyclopedique,” 1811, tom. vi. has an article on an edition of the “Danse Macabre anterieure à celle de 1486.” In this article he states that Holbein painted a fresco Dance of Death at Basle near the end of the 15th century (Holbein was not born till 1498!); that this Dance resembled the Danse Macabre, all the characters of which are in Holbein’s style; that it is still more like the Dance in the Monasticon Anglicanum in a single print; and that the English Dance belongs to John Porey, an author who appears, however, to be unknown to all biographers. We should have been obliged to M. Figeac if he had mentioned where he met with this John Porey, whom he again mentions, but in such a manner as to leave a doubt whether he means to consider him as a poet or a painter. Even M. Millin himself, from whom more accuracy might have been expected, speaks of Holbein’s work as at the Dominican convent at Basle.

The “Nouveau Dictionnaire Historique,” 1789, 8vo. gives the painting on the walls of the cemetery of St. Peter at Basle, to Holbein, confounding the two works as some other French biographical dictionaries have done, especially one that has cited an edition of the Danse Macabre in 1486 as the first of Holbein’s painting, though it immediately afterwards states that artist to have been born in 1498.

[Pg 239]In that excellent work, the “Biographie universelle,” in 42 vols. 8vo. 1811-1828, M. Ponce, under the article “Holbein,” inaccurately refers to “the Dance of Death painted in 1543 on the walls of a cemetery at Basle,” at the same time properly remarking that it was not Holbein’s. He refers to the supposed original drawings of Holbein’s work at Petersburg that were engraved by De Mechel, and concludes his brief note with a reference to a dissertation of M. Raymond in Millin’s “Magazin encyclopedique,” 1814, tom. v. which is nothing more than a simple notice of two editions of the Danse Macabre, described in the present dissertation.

And lastly—The Reviewer of the first edition of the present dissertation prefixed to Mr. Edwards’s engravings or etchings by Wenceslaus Hollar, has displayed considerable ingenuity in his attempt to correct supposed errors, by a lavish substitution of many of his own, some of which are the following:

That the Dance of Death is found in carvings in wood in the choirs of churches. Not a single instance can be produced.

That Hollar’s etchings are on wood.

“Black letter” is corrected to “Black letters.”

That the book would have been more complete if Lydgate’s stanzas had been quoted, in common with others in Piers Plowman. Now all the stanzas of Lydgate are given, and not a single one is to be found in Piers Plowman.

And they most ingeniously and scientifically denominate the skeleton figure of Death “the Gothic monster of Holbein!”

[Pg 240]A short time after the completion of the present Dissertation, the author accidentally became possessed of a recently published German life of Holbein, in which not a single addition of importance to what has been gleaned from preceding writers can possibly be found. It contains a general, but extremely superficial account of the works of that artist, including the Dance of Death, which, as a matter of course, is ascribed to him. As the author, a Mr. Ulrich Hegner, who is said to be a Swiss gentleman and amateur, has not conducted himself with that urbanity and politeness which might have been looked for from such a character, and has thought proper, in adverting to the slight Essay by the present writer, prefixed, at the instance of the late Mr. Edwards, to his publication of Hollar’s etchings of the Dance of Death, to speak of it with a degree of contempt, which, even with all its imperfections, others may think it may not have deserved; the above gentleman will have but little reason to complain should he meet with a somewhat uncourteous retort in the course of the following remarks on his compilation.

Had Mr. Hegner written with a becoming diffidence in his opinions, his work might have commanded and deserved respect, though greatly abounding in error and false conceit. He has undertaken a task for which he has shown himself wholly unqualified, and with much unseemly arrogance, and its usual concomitant, ignorance, has assumed to himself a monopoly of information on the subject which he discusses. His arguments, if worthy of the name, are, generally speaking, of a most weak and flimsy texture. In support of his dogmatical opinion that the original designs for the Lyons Dance of Death exclusively belong to Holbein he has not adduced a single fact. He has not been in possession of a tenth part of the materials that were necessary for the proper investigation of his subject,[Pg 241] nor does he appear to have even seen them. The very best judges of whatever relates to the history and art of engraving are quite satisfied that most of the persons who have written on them, with the exception of Mr. Ottley, and of the modest and urbane Monsieur Peignot, are liable to the charge of extreme inaccuracy and imperfection in their treatment of the Dance of Death, and the list of such writers may now be closed with the addition of Herr Hegner.

Some of his positions are now to be stated and examined.

He makes Holbein the author of a new Dance of Death in the Crozat or Gallitzin drawings in Indian ink which have been already described in the present dissertation, adding that he also engraved them, and suppressing any mention in this place of the monogram on one of the cuts which he elsewhere admits not to belong to Holbein. Soon afterwards, and with very good reason, he doubts the originality of the drawings, which he says M. de Mechel caused to be copied by Rudolph Schellenberg, a skilful artist, already mentioned as the author of a Dance of Death of his own invention; and proceeds to state, that from these copies De Mechel employed some inferior persons in his service to make engravings; advancing all this without the accompaniment of any proof whatever, and in direct contradiction to De Mechel’s authority of having himself engraved them. An apparently bitter enemy to De Mechel, whose posthumous materials, now in the library at Basle, he nevertheless admits to have used for his work, he invidiously enlarges on the discrepancies between his engravings and the Lyons wood-cuts, both in size and manner; and then concludes that they were copied from the wood-cuts, the copyist allowing himself the privilege of making arbitrary variations, especially in the figure of the Eve in the second cut, which, he says, is of the family of Boucher, who, in[Pg 242] spite of Hegner’s opinion, is regarded by better judges as a clever painter. Whether the remarks on any deviations of De Mechel’s prints from the Crozat drawings are just or otherwise can now be decided by comparison only, and Hegner does not appear to have seen them, or at least does not tell us so. His criticisms on the merit of the engravings in De Mechel’s work cannot be justified, for though they may occasionally be faulty, they are very neatly, and many will think beautifully executed.

What Hegner has said respecting the alphabets of initial letters, is at once futile and inaccurate; but his comment on Hans Lutzenberger deserves the severest censure. Adverting to the inscription with the name of this fine artist on one of the sets of the initials, he terms him “an itinerant bookseller, who had bought the blocks and put his name on them;” and this after having himself referred to a print on which Lutzenberger is called FORMSCHNEIDER, i. e. woodcutter: making in this instance a clumsy and dishonest effort to get rid of an excellent engraver, who stands so recorded in opposition to his own untenable system.

The very important and indelible expressions in the dedication to the first known edition of the Lyons wood-cuts, he very modestly terms “a play upon words,” and endeavours to account for the death of the painter by supposing Holbein’s absence in England would warrant the language of the dedication. This is indeed a most desperate argument. Frellon, the publisher and proprietor of the work, must have known better than to have permitted the dedication to accompany his edition had it been susceptible of so silly a construction.

He again adheres to the improbable notion that Holbein engraved the cuts to the Lyons book, and this in defiance of the mark or monogram [monogram] which this painter never used; nor will a single print with [Pg 243]Holbein’s accredited name be found to bear the slightest resemblance to the style of the wood-cuts. Even those in Cranmer’s catechism, which approach the nearest to them, are in a different manner. His earlier engravings on wood, whether in design only, or as the engraver, resemble those by Urs Graaf, who, as well as Holbein, decorated the frontispieces or titles to many of the books printed at Basle. It is not improbable that Urs Graaf was at that time a pupil of Holbein.

Hegner next endeavours to annihilate the painting at Whitehall recorded in Nieuhoff’s etchings and dedications, but still by arguments of an entirely negative kind. He lays much stress on this painting not being specifically mentioned by Sandrart or Van Mander, who were in England; but where does it appear that the latter, during his short stay in this country, had visited Whitehall? Even admitting that both these persons had seen that palace, it is most probable that the fresco painting of the Dance of Death, would, from length of time, dampness of the walls, and neglect, have been in a condition that would not warrant the exhibition of it, and it was, moreover, placed in a gallery which scarcely formed, at that time, a part of Whitehall, and which was, probably, not shown to visitors. It must not, however, be omitted to mention that Sandrart, in p. 239 of his Acad. Pict. states, though ambiguously, that “there was still remaining at Whitehall a work by Holbein that would constitute him the Apelles of his time,” an expression which we may remember had been also applied to Holbein by his friend Borbonius in the complimentary lines on a Dance of Death.

The Herr Hegner has thought fit to speak of Mr. T. Nieuhoff in terms of indecorous and unjust contempt, describing him as “an unknown and unimportant Dutch copper-plate engraver,” and arraigning his evidence as being in manuscript only; as if manuscripts that have never been printed were of no authority.[Pg 244] But where has Hegner discovered that Nieuhoff was a Dutch copper-plate engraver, by which is meant a professed artist; or even though he had been such, would that circumstance vitiate his testimony? In his dedication to Lord William Benting the expressions allusive to his ardent love of the arts, seem to constitute him an amateur attempter of etching; for what he has left us in that way is indeed of a very subordinate character, and unworthy of a professed artist. He appears to have been one of the Dutchmen who accompanied King William to England, and to have had apartments assigned to him at Whitehall. At the end of his dedication to Lord W. Benting, he calls himself an old servant of that person’s father, and subscribes himself “your and your illustrious family’s most obedient and humble servant.”

The identification of William Benting must be left to the sagacity of others. He could not have been the Earl of Portland created in 1689, or he would have been addressed accordingly. He is, moreover, described as a youth born at Whitehall, and then residing there, and whose dwelling consisted of nearly the whole of the palace that remained after the fire.

Again,—We have before us a person living in the palace of Whitehall anterior to its destruction, testifying what he had himself seen, and addressing one who could not be imposed upon, as residing also in the palace. There seems to be no possible motive on the part of Nieuhoff for stating an untruth, and his most clear and unimpeachable testimony is opposed by Hegner’s wild and weak conjectures, and chiefly by the negative argument that a few strangers who visited England in a hasty manner have not mentioned the painting in question at Whitehall, amidst those inaccurate and superficial accounts of England which, with little exception, have been given by foreign travellers. Among these Hegner has selected Patin and Sandrart.[Pg 245] Before adducing the former, he would have done well to have looked at his very imperfect and erroneous account of Holbein’s works, in his edition of the ΜΩΡΙΑΣ ΕΓΚΩΜΙΟΝ of Erasmus; and, with respect to the latter, the stamp of inaccuracy has been long affixed to most of the works he has published. He has mentioned, that being in company with Rubens in a Dutch passage boat “the conversation fell upon Holbein’s book of cuts, representing the Dance of Death; that Rubens gave them the highest encomiums, advising him, who was then a young man, to set the highest value upon them, informing him, at the same time, that he in his youth had copied them.”[139] On this passage Mr. Warton has well remarked that if Rubens styled these prints Holbein’s, in familiar conversation, it was but calling them by the name which the world had given them, and by which they were generally known; and that Sandrart has, in another place, confounded them with the Basle painting.[140]

To conclude,—Juvenal’s “hoc volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas,” may be regarded as Herr Hegner’s literary motto. He has advocated the vague traditions of unauthenticated Dances of Death by Holbein, and has made a most unjustifiable attempt to deprive that truly great artist of the only painting on the subject which really appears to belong to him. Yet, if by fair and candid argument, supported by the necessary proofs, the usual and long standing claim on the part of Holbein can be substantiated, no one will thereby be more highly gratified than the author of this dissertation.



[Pg 246]


P. 59. After No. 17 add “La Danse Macabre.” Paris, Nicole de la Barre, 1523, 4to. with very different cuts, and some characters omitted in former editions.

P. 77, last line of the text. There is a German work intitled “The process or law-suit of Death,” printed, and perhaps written, by Conrad Fyner in 1477; but as it is not noticed in Panzer’s list of German books, no further account of it can be given than that it is briefly mentioned by Joseph Heller, in a German work on the subject of engraving on wood, in which one cut from it is introduced, that exhibits Death conversing with a husbandman who holds a flail in one of his hands. It is probable that the book would be found to contain other figures relating to a Macaber Dance.

P. 112, l. ult. There is another work by Glissenti, intitled “La Morte innamorata.” Venet. 1608, 24mo. with a dedication to Sir Henry Wotton, the English ambassador at Venice, by Elisabetta Glissenti Serenella, the author’s niece; in which, after stating that Sir Henry had seen it represented, she adds, that she had ventured to have it printed for the purpose of offering it to him as a very humble donation, &c. It is a moral, dramatic, and allegorical fable of five acts, in which Man, to avoid Death, who has fallen in love with him, retires with his family to the country of Long Life, where he takes up his abode in the house of the World, by whom and his wife Fraud, who is in strict friendship with Fortune, he is apparently made much of, and calculates on being very happy. Death follows the[Pg 247] Man, and being unknown in the above region, contrives, with the aid of Infirmity, the Man’s nurse, to make him fall sick. The World being tired of his guest, and very desirous to get rid of, and plunder him of his property, under pretence of introducing him to Fortune, and consequent happiness, enters into a plot with Time to disguise Death, who is lodged in the same house with him, as Fortune, and thus to give him possession of the Man, who imagines that he is just about to secure Fortune. Each act of this piece is ornamented with some wood-cut that had been already introduced into the other work of Glissenti.

P. 118, line 32. Ebert, in his “Bibliographisches Lexicon,” Leipsig. 1821, 4to. has mentioned some later editions of Denneker’s engravings. See the article Denecker, p. 972.

P. 126, l. 14. It is not impossible that Hollar may have copied a bust carved in wood, or some other material, by Holbein, as Albert Durer and other great artists are known to have practised sculpture in this manner.

P. 135, l. 25. These four prints are in the author’s possession.

P. 137, l. ult. Other imitations of the Lyons cuts are, 1. A wood engraving of Adam digging and Eve spinning, by Corn. Van Sichem in the “Bibel’s tresor,” Amst. 1646, 4to. 2. The Astrologer, a small circular print on copper by Le Blond. 3. The Bridegroom, an anonymous modern engraving on wood. 4. The Miser, a small modern and anonymous print on copper.

P. 147, l. 19. In the library at Lambeth palace, No. 1049, there is a copy of this book in Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and French, printed by J. Day, 1569, 8vo. It was given by Archb. Tillotson, and from a memorandum in it supposed to have been the Queen’s own copy. The cut of the Queen kneeling was used so[Pg 248] late as 1652, in Benlowes’ Theophila. Some of the cuts have the unexplained mark [monogram].

P. 164, Article xii. This print is a copy, with a few variations, of a much older one engraved on wood, and probably unique, in the very curious collection of single sheets and black letter ballads, belonging to George Daniel, Esquire, of Islington. The figures are executed in a style of considerable merit, and each of them is described in a stanza of four lines. It may probably be the same as No. 1 or No. 2, mentioned in p. 76, or either of Nos. x. or xi. described in p. 163.

P. 226, line 12. Another drawing by Rowlandson, intitled “Death and the Drunkards.” Five topers are sitting at a table and enjoying their punch. Death suddenly enters and violently seizes one of them. Another perceives the unwelcome and terrific intruder, whilst the rest are too intent on their liquor to be disturbed at the moment. It is a very spirited and masterly performance. 11 by 9. In the author’s possession.

P. 239, l. 12. There is likewise in the “Biographie Universelle” an article intitled “Macaber, poete Allemand” by M. Weiss, and it is to be regretted that a writer whose learning and research are so eminently conspicuous in many of the best lives in the work, should have permitted himself to be misled in much that he has said, by the errors of Champollion Figeac in the Magazin Encyclopedique. He certainly doubts the existence of Macaber as a writer, but inclines to M. Van Praet’s Arabic Magbarah. He states, that the English version of the Macaber Dance belongs to John Porey, a poet who remains unknown even to his countrymen, and is inserted in the Monasticon Anglicanum. Now this unknown poet, who is likewise adopted by M. Peignot, is merely the person who contributed Hollar’s plate in the Monasticon, already mentioned in p. 52, and whose coat of arms is at the top of that plate, with the following inscription, “Quo præsentes[Pg 249] et posteri Mortis, ut vidimus, omni Ordini comunis, sint magis memores, posuit IOHANNES POREY.” Mr. Weiss has likewise inadvertently adopted the error that Holbein painted the old Dance of Macaber in the convent of the Augustines at Basle.

Two recently published Dances of Death have come to hand too late to have been noticed in their proper places.

1. “Der Todtentantz. Ein Gedicht von Ludwig Bechstein, mit 48 kupfern in treuen Conturen nach H. Holbein. Leipzig bei Friedrich August Leo, 1831.” 8vo. These prints are executed in a faithful and elegant outline, and accompanied with modern German verses.

2. “Hans Holbein’s Todtentanz in 53 getreu nach den Holz schnitten lithographirten Blattern. Heraus gegeben von J. Schlotthaver k. Professor Mit erklärendem Texte. Munchen, 1832, Auf Rosten des Heraus gegebers.” 12mo. The prints are most accurately and elegantly lithographed in imitation of wood engraving. The descriptions are in German verse, and accompanied with some brief prefatory matter by Dr. H. F. Massmann, which is said to have been amplified in one of the German journals or reviews.



[Pg 250]


I. The frontispiece is a design for the sheath of a dagger, probably made by Holbein for the use of a goldsmith or chaser. The original drawing is in the public library at Basle. See some remarks on it in p. 133.

II. These circular engravings by Israel Van Meckenen are mentioned in p. 160.

III. Copy of an ancient drawing, 1454, of Death and the Beggar. See p. 223.

IV. Figures of Death and the Lady, sculptured on a monument of the Delawars, in Boxgrove church, Sussex. See p. 226.

V. A fac-simile of one of the cuts to a very early edition, printed without date at Troyes by Nicolas le Rouge. It represents the story of the trois morts et trois vifs, and the vision of Saint Macarius. See pp. 33, 34, and 59.

VI. A fac-simile of another cut from the edition of a Danse Macabre, mentioned in No. V.



[Pg 251]


[Pg 252]


[Pg 253]

The Copies have been made by Mr. Bonner from the Cuts belonging to the “Imagines Mortis, Lugduni sub scuto Coloniensi, 1547,” 12mo. and which have been usually ascribed to Holbein.

1. THE CREATION OF ALL THINGS. The Deity is seen taking Eve from the side of Adam. “Formavit Dominus Deus hominem de limo terræ, &c.” Gen. i.

2. THE TEMPTATION. Eve has just received the forbidden fruit from the serpent, who, on the authority of venerable Bede, is here, as well as in most ancient representations of the subject, depicted with a female human face. She holds it up to Adam, and entices him to gather more of it from the tree. “Quia audisti vocem uxoris tuæ, et comedisti de ligno, &c.” Gen. iii.

3. THE EXPULSION FROM PARADISE. Adam and Eve are preceded by Death, who plays on a vielle, or beggar’s lyre, as if demonstrating his joy at the victory he has obtained over man. “Emisit eum Dominum Deus de Paradiso voluptatis, ut operaretur terram de qua sumptus est.” Gen. iii.

4. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE FALL OF MAN. Adam is digging the ground, assisted by Death. In the distance Eve is suckling her first-born and holding a distaff. Whence the proverb in many languages:

When Adam delv’d and Eve span
Where was then the gentleman?

“Maledicta terra in opere tuo, in laboribus comedes cunctis diebus vitæ tuæ, donec revertaris, &c.” Gen. iii.

[Pg 254]5. A CEMETERY, in which several Deaths are assembled, most of whom are playing on noisy instruments of music, as a general summons to mortals to attend them. “Væ, væ, væ habitantibus in terra.” Apoc. viii.

6. THE POPE. He is crowning an Emperor, who kneels before him, two Cardinals attending, one of whom is ludicrously personated by Death. In the back-ground are bishops, &c. Death embraces the Pope with one hand, and with the other leans on a crutch. Two grotesque Devils are introduced into the cut, one of whom hovers over the Pope, the other in the air holds a diploma, to which several seals are appended. “Moriatur sacerdos magnus.” Josue xx.

7. THE EMPEROR. Seated on a throne, and attended by his courtiers, he seems to be listening to, or deciding, the complaint of a poor man who is kneeling before him, against his rich oppressor, whom the Emperor, holding the sword of justice, seems to regard with an angry countenance. Behind him Death lays hands upon his crown. “Dispone domui tuæ, morieris, enim tu, et non vives.” Isaiæ xxxviii.

8. THE KING. He is sitting at his repast before a well-covered table, under a canopy studded with fleurs-de-lis. Death intrudes himself as a cupbearer, and presents the King with probably his last draught. The figure of the King seems intended as a portrait of Francis I. “Sicut et Rex hodie est, et cras morietur; nemo enim ex regibus aliud habuit.” Ecclesiast. x. et Sapient. vii.

9. THE CARDINAL. There is some difficulty in ascertaining the real meaning of the designer of this subject. It has been described as the Cardinal receiving the bull of his appointment, or as a rich man making a purchase of indulgences. The latter interpretation seems warranted by the Latin motto. Death[Pg 255] is twisting off the Cardinal’s hat. “Væ qui justificatis impium pro muneribus, et justitiam justi aufertis ab eo.” Isaiæ v.

10. THE EMPRESS. Gorgeously attired and attended by her maids of honour, she is intercepted in her walk by Death in the character of a shrivelled old woman, who points to an open grave, and seems to say, “to this you must come at last.” “Gradientes in superbia potest Deus humiliare.” Dan. iv.

11. THE QUEEN. She has just issued from her palace, when Death unexpectedly appears and forcibly drags her away. Her jester, in whose habiliments Death has ludicrously attired himself, endeavours in vain to protect his mistress. A female attendant is violently screaming. Death holds up his hour-glass to indicate the arrival of the fatal hour. “Mulieres opulentæ surgite, et audite vocem meam: post dies et annum, et vos conturbemini.” Isaiæ xxxii.

12. THE BISHOP. Quietly resigned to his fate he is led away by Death, whilst the loss of the worthy Pastor is symbolically deplored by the flight and terror of several shepherds in the distance amidst their flocks. The setting sun is very judiciously introduced. “Percutiam pastorem, et dispergentur oves gregis.” Mat. xxvi. Mar. xiv.

13. THE DUKE. Attended by his courtiers, he is accosted in the street for charity by a poor beggar woman with her child. He disdainfully turns aside from her supplication, whilst Death, fantastically crowned with leaves, unexpectedly lays violent hands upon him. “Princeps induetur moerore, et quiescere faciam superbiam potentium.” Ezech. viii.

14. THE ABBOT. Death having despoiled him of his mitre and crosier, drags him away. The Abbot resists with all his might, and is about to throw his breviary[Pg 256] at his adversary. “Ipse morietur, quia non habuit disciplinam, et in multitudine stultitiæ suæ decipietur.”

15. THE ABBESS. Death, grotesquely crowned with flags, seizes the poor Abbess by her scapulary. A Nun at the convent gate, with uplifted hands, bewails the fate of her superior. “Laudavi magis mortuos quam viventes.” Eccles. iv.

16. THE GENTLEMAN. He vainly, with uplifted sword, endeavours to liberate himself from the grasp of Death. The hour-glass is placed on his bier. “Quis est homo qui vivet, et non videbit mortem, eruet animam suam de manu inferi?”

17. THE CANON. Death holds up his hour-glass to him as he is entering a cathedral. They are followed by a noble person with a hawk on his fist, his buffoon or jester, and a little boy. “Ecce appropinquat hora.” Mat. xxvi.

18. THE JUDGE. He is deciding a cause between a rich and a poor man. From the former he is about to receive a bribe. Death behind him snatches his staff of office from one of his hands. “Disperdam judicem de medio ejus.” Amos ii.

19. THE ADVOCATE. The rich client is putting a fee into the hands of the dishonest lawyer, to which Death also contributes, but reminds him at the same time that his glass is run out. To this admonition he seems to pay little regard, fully occupied in counting the money. Behind this group is the poor suitor, wringing his hands, and lamenting that his poverty disables him from coping with his wealthy adversary. “Callidus vidit malum, et abscondit se: innocens pertransiit, et afflictus est damno.” Prover. xxii.

20. THE MAGISTRATE. A Demon is blowing corruption into the ear of a magistrate, who has turned his back on a poor man, whilst he is in close conversation[Pg 257] with another person, to whose story he seems emphatically attentive. Death at his feet with an hour-glass and spade. “Qui obturat aurem suam ad clamorem pauperis, et ipse clamabit, et non exaudietur.” Prover. xxi.

21. THE PREACHER. Death with a stole about his neck stands behind the preacher, and holds a jaw-bone over his head, typifying perhaps thereby that he is the best preacher of the two. “Væ qui dicitis malum bonum, et bonum malum: ponentes tenebras lucem, et lucem tenebras: ponentes amarum in dulce, et dulce in amarum.” Isaiæ v.

22. THE PRIEST. He is carrying the viaticum, or sacrament, to some dying person. Attendants follow with tapers and holy water. Death strides on before, with bell and lanthern, to announce the coming of the priest. “Sum quidem et ego mortalis homo.” Sap. vii.

23. THE MENDICANT FRIAR. He is just entering his convent with his money box and wallet. Death seizes him by the cowl, and forcibly drags him away. “Sedentes in tenebris, et in umbra mortis, vinctos in mendicitate.” Psal. cvi.

24. THE NUN. Here is a mixture of gallantry and religion. The young lady has admitted her lover into her apartment. She is kneeling before an altar, and hesitates whether to persist in her devotions or listen to the amorous music of the young man, who, seated on a bed, touches a theorbo lute. Death extinguishes the candles on the altar, by which the designer of the subject probably intimates the punishment of unlawful love. “Est via quæ videtur homini justa: novissima autem ejus deducunt hominem ad mortem.” Prover. iv.

25. THE OLD WOMAN. She is accompanied by two Deaths, one of whom, playing on a stickado, or[Pg 258] wooden psalter, precedes her. She seems more attentive to her rosary of bones than to the music, whilst the other Death impatiently urges her forward with blows. “Melior est mors quam vita.” Eccle. xxx.

26. THE PHYSICIAN. He holds out his hand to receive, for inspection, a urinal which Death presents to him, and which contains the water of a decrepid old man whom he introduces, and seems to say to the physician, “Canst thou cure this man who is already in my power?” “Medice cura te ipsum.” Luc. iv.

27. THE ASTROLOGER. He is seen in his study, looking attentively at a suspended sphere. Death holds out a skull to him, and seems, in mockery, to say, “Here is a better subject for your contemplation.” “Indica mihi si nosti omnia. Sciebas quod nasciturus esses, et numerum dierum tuorum noveras?” Job xxxviii.

28. THE MISER. Death has burst into his strong room, where he is sitting among his chests and bags of gold, and, seated on a stool, deliberately collects into a large dish the money on the table which the Miser had been counting. In an agony of terror and despair, the poor man seems to implore forbearance on the part of his unwelcome visitor. “Stulte, hac nocte repetunt animam tuam: et quæ parasti, cujus erunt?” Lucæ xii.

29. THE MERCHANT. After having escaped the perils of the sea, and happily reached the wished-for shore with his bales of merchandize; this too secure adventurer, whilst contemplating his riches, is surprised by Death. One of his companions holds up his hands in despair. “Qui congregat thesauros lingua mendacii, vanus et excors est, et impingetur ad laqueos mortis.” Proverb. xxi.

30. THE SHIP IN A TEMPEST. Death is vigorously employed in breaking the mast. The owner of[Pg 259] the vessel is wringing his hands in despair. One man seems perfectly resigned to his impending fate. “Qui volunt ditescere, incidunt in tentationem et laqueum, et cupiditates multas, stultas ac noxias, quæ demergunt homines in exitium et interitum.” 1 ad Tim. vi.

31. THE KNIGHT. After escaping the perils in his numerous combats, he is vanquished by Death, whom he ineffectually resists. “Subito morientur, et in media nocte turbabuntur populi, et auferent violentum absque manu.” Job xxxiv.

32. THE COUNT. Death, in the character of a ragged peasant, revenges himself against his proud oppressor by crushing him with his own armour. On the ground lie a helmet, crest, and flail. “Quoniam cum interierit non sumet secum omnia, neque cum eo descendet gloria ejus.” Psal. xlviii.

33. THE OLD MAN. Death leads his aged victim to the grave, beguiling him with the music of a dulcimer. “Spiritus meus attenuabitur, dies mei breviabuntur, et solum mihi superest sepulchrum.” Job xvii.

34. THE COUNTESS. She receives from an attendant the splendid dress and ornaments with which she is about to equip herself. On a chest are seen a mirror, a brush, and the hour-glass of Death, who, standing behind her, places on her neck a collar of bones. “Ducunt in bonis dies suos, et in puncto ad inferna descendant.” Job xxi.

35. THE NEW-MARRIED LADY. She is accompanied by her husband, who endeavours to divert her attention from Death, who is insidiously dancing before them and beating a tambour. “Me et te sola mors separabit.” Ruth i.

36. THE DUCHESS. She is sitting up, dressed, in her bed, at the foot of which are two Deaths, one of[Pg 260] whom plays on a violin, the other is pulling the clothes from the bed. “De lectulo, super quem ascendisti, non descendes, sed morte morieris.” 4 Reg. i.

37. THE PEDLAR. Accompanied by his dog, and heavily laden, he is proceeding on his way, when he is intercepted by Death, who forcibly pulls him back. Another Death is playing on a trump-marine. “Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et onerati estis.” Matth. xi.

38. THE HUSBANDMAN. He is assisted by Death, who conducts the horses of his plough. “In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane tuo.” Gen. iii.

39. THE CHILD. A female cottager is preparing her family mess, when Death enters and carries off the youngest of her children. “Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore, repletur multis miseriis: qui quasi flos egreditur, et conteritur, et fugit velut umbra.” Job xiv.

40. THE SOLDIER. He is engaged in unequal combat with Death, who simply attacks him with a bone. On the ground lie some of his demolished companions. In the distance, Death is beating a drum, and leading on a company of soldiers to battle. “Cum fortis armatus custodit atrium suum, &c. Si autem fortior eo superveniens vicerit eum, universa ejus arma aufert, in quibus confidebat.” Luc. xi.

41. THE GAMESTERS. Death and the Devil are disputing the possession of one of the gamesters, whom both have seized. Another seems to be interceding with the Devil on behalf of his companion, whilst a third is scraping together all the money on the table. “Quid prodest homini, si universum mundum lucretur, animæ autem suæ detrimentum patiatur?” Mat. xvi.

42. THE DRUNKARDS. They are assembled in a brothel, and intemperately feasting. Death pours[Pg 261] liquor from a flaggon into the mouth of one of the party. “Ne inebriemini vino, in quo est luxuria.” Ephes. v.

43. THE IDEOT FOOL. He is mocking Death, by putting his finger in his mouth, and at the same time endeavouring to strike him with his bladder-bauble. Death smiling, and amused at his efforts, leads him away in a dancing attitude, playing at the same time on a bag-pipe. “Quasi agnus lasciviens, et ignorans, nescit quod ad vincula stultus trahatur.” Prover. vii.

44. THE ROBBER. Whilst he is about to plunder a poor market-woman of her property, Death comes behind and lays violent hands on him. “Domine vim patior.” Isaiæ xxxviii.

45. THE BLIND MAN. Carefully measuring his steps, and unconscious of his perilous situation, he is led on by Death, who with one hand takes him by the cloak, both parties having hold of his staff. “Cæcus cæcum ducit: et ambo in foveam cadunt.” Matt. xv.

46. THE WAGGONER. His cart, loaded with wine casks, has been overturned, and one of his horses thrown down by two mischievous Deaths. One of them is carrying off a wheel, and the other is employed in wrenching off a tie that had secured one of the hoops of the casks. The poor affrighted waggoner is clasping his hands together in despair. “Corruit in curru suo.” 1 Chron. xxii.

47. THE BEGGAR. Almost naked, his hands joined together, and his head turned upwards as in the agonies of death, he is sitting on straw near the gate of some building, perhaps an hospital, into which several persons are entering, and some of them pointing to him as an object fit to be admitted. On the ground lie his crutches, and one of his legs is swathed with a[Pg 262] bandage. A female is looking on him from a window of the building. “Miser ego homo! quis me liberabit de corpore mortis hujus?” Rom. vii.

48. THE LAST JUDGMENT. Christ sitting on a rainbow, and surrounded by a group of angels, patriarchs, &c. rests his feet on a globe of the universe. Below, are several naked figures risen from their graves, and stretching out their hands in the act of imploring judgment and mercy. “Memorare novissima, et in æternum non peccabis.” Eccle. vii.

49. THE ALLEGORICAL ESCUTCHEON OF DEATH. The coat or shield is fractured in several places. On it is a skull, and at top the crest as a helmet surmounted by two arm bones, the hands of which are grasping a ragged piece of stone, and between them is placed an hour-glass. The supporters are a gentleman and lady in the dresses of the times. In the description of this cut Papillon has committed some very absurd mistakes, already noticed in p. 110.






Formavit Dominus Deus hominem de limo terræ, &c. Gen. i.





Quia audisti vocem uxoris tuæ, et comedisti de ligno, &c. Gen. iii.





Emisit eum Dominum Deus de Paradiso voluptatis,
ut operaretur terram de qua sumptus est. Gen. iii.





Maledicta terra in opere tuo, in laboribus comedes cunctis
diebus vitæ tuæ, donec revertaris, &c. Gen. iii.





Væ, væ, væ habitantibus in terra. Apoc. viii.





Moriatur sacerdos magnus. Josue xx.





Dispone domui tuæ, morieris, enim tu, et non vives.
Isaiæ xxxviii.





Sicut et Rex hodie est, et cras morietur; nemo enim ex
regibus aliud habuit. Eccles. x. et Sapient. vii.





Væ qui justificatis impium pro muneribus, et justitiam
justi aufertis ab eo. Isaiæ v.





Gradientes in superbia potest Deus humiliare. Dan. iv.





Mulieres opulentæ surgite, et audite vocem meam:
post dies et annum, et vos conturbemini. Isaiæ xxxii.





Percutiam pastorem, et dispergentur oves gregis.
Mat. xxvi. Mar. xiv.





Princeps induetur moerore, et quiescere faciam
superbiam potentium. Ezech. viii.





Ipse morietur, quia non habuit disciplinam,
et in multitudine stultitiæ suæ decipietur.





Laudavi magis mortuos quam viventes. Eccles. iv.





Quis est homo qui vivet, et non videbit mortem,
eruet animam suam de manu inferi?





Ecce appropinquat hora. Mat. xxvi.





Disperdam judicem de medio ejus. Amos ii.





Callidus vidit malum, et abscondit se: innocens
pertransiit, et afflictus est damno. Prover. xxii.





Qui obturat aurem suam ad clamorem pauperis,
et ipse clamabit, et non exaudietur. Prover. xxi.





Væ qui dicitis malum bonum, et bonum malum: ponentes
tenebras lucem, et lucem tenebras: ponentes amarum
in dulce, et dulce in amarum. Isaiæ v.





Sum quidem et ego mortalis homo. Sap. vii.





Sedentes in tenebris, et in umbra mortis,
vinctos in mendicitate. Psal. cvi.





Est via quæ videtur homini justa: novissima autem
ejus deducunt hominem ad mortem. Prover. iv.





Melior est mors quàm vita. Eccle. xxx.





Medice, cura te ipsum. Luc. iv.





Indica mihi si nosti omnia. Sciebas quod nasciturus esses,
et numerum dierum tuorum noveras? Job xxxviii.





Stulte, hac nocte repetunt animam tuam:
et quæ parasti, cujus erunt? Lucæ xii.





Qui congregat thesauros lingua mendacii, vanus et excors est,
et impingetur ad laqueos mortis. Proverb. xxi.





Qui volunt ditescere, incidunt in tentationem et laqueum,
et cupiditates multas, stultas, ac noxias, quæ demergunt
homines in exitium et interitum. 1 ad Tim. vi.





Subito morientur, et in media nocte turbabuntur populi,
et auferent violentum absque manu. Job xxxiv.





Quoniam cum interierit, non sumet secum omnia,
neque cum eo descendet gloria ejus. Psal. xlviii.





Spiritus meus attenuabitur, dies mei breviabuntur,
et solum mihi superest sepulchrum. Job xvii.





Ducunt in bonis dies suos, et in puncto ad inferna
descendunt. Job xxi.





Me et te sola mors separabit. Ruth i.





De lectulo super quem ascendisti, non descendes,
sed morte morieris. 4 Reg. i.





Venite ad me, omnes qui laboratis, et onerati estis. Matth. xi.





In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane tuo. Gen. iii.





Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore,
repletur multis miseriis: qui quasi flos egreditur,
et conteritur, et fugit velut umbra. Job xiv.





Cum fortis armatus custodit atrium suum, &c.
Si autem fortior eo superveniens vicerit eum,
universa ejus arma aufert, in quibus
confidebat. Luc. xi.





Quid prodest homini, si universum mundum lucretur,
animæ autem suæ detrimentum patiatur? Mat. xvi.





Ne inebriemini vino, in quo est luxuria. Ephes. v.





Quasi agnus lasciviens, et ignorans, nescit quod
ad vincula stultus trahatur. Prover. vii.





Domine, vim patior. Isaiæ xxxviii.





Cæcus cæcum ducit: et ambo in foveam cadunt. Matt. xv.





Corruit in curru suo. 1 Chron. xxii.





Miser ego homo! quis me liberabit de corpore
mortis hujus? Rom. vii.





Memorare novissima, et in æternum non peccabis. Eccle. vii.








G S. 41, 117
[monogram] 93, 97, 98, 100, 111, 113, 114, 215, 235
[monogram] 100
S. 113
[monogram] 113, 114, 115, 116, 127, 130, 136, 174
[monogram] 117
[monogram] 117
[monogram] 118
[monogram] 124
[monogram] 125
[monogram] 125
[monogram] 126
[monogram] 126
[monogram] inv. 126, 129
H. HOLBEIN, inv. 126.
W. 130
[monogram] 130
[monogram] 147, 248
[monogram] 160, 190
[monogram] 184
L 189
[monogram] 189
[monogram] 190
[monogram] 190
[monogram] 191
[monogram] 191
[monogram] 191
[monogram] 193
I. F. 219
[monogram] 223
[monogram] 226


These are the marks erroneously given to Holbein,


And these the marks which really belong to him,

HH.  II H.
HANS HOLBEIN.  [monogram]
[monogram]  [monogram]
[monogram]  [monogram]





Æmylius, Geo. his verses, 84.

Alciatus, his emblems the earliest work of the kind, 180.

Aldegrever, his Dance of Death, 160.

Almanac, a Swiss one, with a Dance of Death, 76, 209.

Alphabets, several curious, 100, 214, 217.

Amman, Jost, a Dance of Death by him, 41.

Ars moriendi, some account of the last edition of it, 173.

Athyr, “Stamm-und Stechbuchlein,” a rare and singular book of emblems, 180.


Baldinucci, a mistake by him corrected, 235.

Basle, destruction of its celebrated painting of the Dance of Death, 39.
engravings of it, 41.

Beauclerc, Lady Diana, her ballad of Leonora, 210.

Bechstein, Ludwig, his edition of the Lyons’ wood-cuts, 136.

Beham, Barthol., his Dance of Death, 190.

Bernard, le petit, his fine wood-cuts to the Old Testament, 173.

Berne almanac, a Dance of Death in one of them, 154.

Bock, Hans, not the painter of the Basle Dance of Death, 39.

Bodenehr, Maurice, a Dance of Death by him, 165.

“Boetius de consolatione,” a figure of Death in an old edition of it, 171.

Bonaparte, Napoleon, a Dance of Death relating to him, 167.

Books in which a Dance of Death is occasionally introduced, 168.

Borbonius, Nicolas, his portrait, 140.
his verses, 92, 94, 139.
in England, 140.

Bosman, Arent, a singular old Dutch legend relating to him, 183.

Bosse, a curious engraving by him, 196.

Boxgrove church in Sussex, sculpture in, 226.

Brant, Sebastian, his stultifera navis, 170.

Bromiard, John De, his “Summa predicantium,” a fine frontispiece to it, 183.

Buno, Conrad, a book of emblems by him, 181.

Burnet, Bishop, his ambiguous account of a Dance of Death at Basle, 79, 138.


Calendrier des Bergers, 170.

Callot, drawings by him of a Dance of Death in the collection of Sir Tho. Lawrence, 223.

Camus, M. de, a ludicrous mistake by him, 169.

Catz’s emblems, 182.

Cavallero determinado, 174.

Centre de l’amour, a singular book of emblems, 182.

Chertablon, “Maniere de se bien preparer à la mort,” 177.

“Chevalier de la tour,” a singular print from this curious romance, 171.

Chodowiecki, his engravings relating to the Dance of Death, 153, 207, 208.

Chorier, his “Antiquités de Vienne,” 48.

Cogeler, “Imagines elegantissimæ, &c.” 173.

Coleraine, I. Nixon, his Dance of Death on a fan, 159.

Colman’s “Death’s duell,” 185.

Compan, M. his mistake about a Dance of Death, 237.

Coppa, a poem ascribed to Virgil, 3.

Cossiers, John, a curious print after him, 199.

Coverdale’s Bible, with initials of a Dance of Death, 217.

Coxe’s travels in Switzerland, some account in them of M. Crozat’s drawings, 134.

Crozat, M. De, account of some supposed drawings by Holbein in his collection, 134.


Dagger, design for the sheath of one by Holbein, 133.

Dagley’s “Death’s doings,” 157, 210, 224.

Dance of Death, a pageant, 5.
Danish one, 159.
known to the ancients, 12.
one at Pompeii, 13.
the term sometimes improperly used, 81.
verses belonging to it, 17.
where sculptured and painted, 17.

Dance, Mr. the painter, his imitation of a subject in the Dance of Death in his portrait of Mr. Garrick, 137.

Dances of Death, with such text only as describes the subject, 160.
anonymous, 161, 162, 163, 164.
at the following places,
Amiens, 47.
Anneberg, 44.
Avignon, 221.
Basle, 36.
Berlin, 48.
Berne, 45.
Blois, 47.
Croydon, 54.
Dijon, 35.
Dresden, 44.
Erfurth, 44.
Fescamp, 47.
Hexham, 53.
Holland, 49.
Italy, 49.
Klingenthal, 42.
Leipsic, 44.
Lubeck, 43.
Lucerne, 46.
Minden, 35.
Nuremberg, 45.
Paris, 14, 33, 35.
Rouen, 47.
Salisbury, 52.
St. Paul’s, 51, 76.
Spain, 50.
Strasburg, 47.
Tower of London, 54.
Vienne, in Dauphiné, 48.
Wortley Hall, 53.

Dancing in temples and churchyards, 5, 6.

Daniel, Mr. an unique print of a Dance of Death in his possession, 248.

Danse aux aveugles, 231.

Death and the Lady, 226.
how personified by the Ancients, 1.
not in itself terrific, 4.
to Dr. Quackery, 211.

De Bry, prints by him, 180, 183, 195.

Dedication to the first edition of the Lyons wood-cuts, 86.
mistakes in it, 87.

De Gheyn, prints by him, 198, 205.

De la Motte’s fables, 183.

Della Bella, 162.

De Murr, his mistake about the Dance of Death, 235

Dennecker, or De Necker, Jobst, Dances of Death by him, 40, 42, 85, 118.

De Pas, Crispin, description of a singular engraving by him, 196.

Descamps, his mistake about the Dance of Death, 235.

Deuchar, David, the Scottish Worlidge, his etchings of the Dance of Death, 135.

Deutch, Nicolas Manuel, the painter of a Dance of Death at Berne, 224.

Devil’s ruff-shop, 200.

De Vos, Martin, print after him of the Devil’s ruff-shop, 200.

Diepenbecke, Abraham, designer of the borders to Hollar’s etchings of the Dance of Death, 125.

Dialogue of life and death, in “Dialogues of creatures moralized,” 170.

Dominotiers, venders of coloured prints for the common people, 77.

Drawings of the Dance of Death, 222.

Druræi Mors, an excellent Latin comedy, 175.

Dugdale, his Monasticon, 129.
his St. Paul’s, 129.

Durer, Albert, some prints by or after him described, 188, 189.


Ear, the seat of memory among the Ancients, 3.
swearing by, 3.

Edwards, Mr. the bookseller, the possessor of Hollar’s etchings of the Dance of Death, 128.

Elizabeth, her prayer-book with a Dance of Death, 147, 247.

Emblems and fables relating to the Dance of Death, 179.

Engravings on wood, the earliest impressions of them not always the best, 85, 90.
commendations of them in books printed in France, Germany, and Italy, 97.

Errors of miscellaneous writers on the Dance of Death, 236.
of travellers concerning it, 233.
of writers on painting and engraving concerning it, 234.

Evelyn, Mr. his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 235.


Fables relating to the Dance of Death, 179.

Faut mourir, le, 26.

Felibien, his mistake about the Dance of Death, 235.

Figeac, Champollion, his account of a Macaber Dance, 238.

Fleischmann, Counsellor, of Strasburg, drawings of a Dance of Death in his possession, 134.

Fontenai, Abbé, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 236.

Fool and Death in old moralities, 177.

Fournier, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 237.

Fox, John, “Book of Christian Prayers,” compiled by him, 147.

Francis I. an importer of fine artists into France, 92.

Francolin, a rare work by him described, 217.

Freidanck, 171.

Friderich’s emblems, 180.

Frontispieces connected with the Dance of Death, described, 183.

Fulbert’s vision of the dispute between the soul and the body, 32.

Fuseli, Mr. his opinion concerning the Dance of Death, 83.

Fyner, Conrad, his process or law-suit of Death.


Gallitzin, Prince, some supposed drawings by Holbein of a Dance of Death in his possession, 134.

Gem, an ancient one, with a skeleton as the representative of Death, 206.

Gerard, Mark, some etchings of fables by him, 179.

Gesner’s Pandectæ, remarks on a passage in that work, 84.

Ghezzi, a figure of Death among his caricatures, 206.

Glarus, Franciscus à, his “Confusio disposita, &c.” noticed as a very singular work, 177.

Glass, painted, with a Dance of Death, 227.

Glissenti, his “Discorsi morali,” 112.
his “Morte inamorata,” 246.

Gobin le gay, a name of one of the shepherds in an old print of the Adoration, 69.

Gobin, Robert, his “loups ravissans,” remarkable for a Dance of Death, 146.

Goethe, a Dance of Death in one of his works, 178, 211.

Gole, a mezzotinto by him of Death and the Miser, 203.

Goujet, his mistake about the Dance of Death at Basle, 233.

Graaf, Urs, a print by him, and his monogram described, 189.

Grandville, “Voyage pour l’eternité,” 157.

Gray, Rev. Robert, his mistake about the Dance of Death at Basle, 233.

Gringoire, Pierre, his “Heures de Notre Dame,” 172.

Grosthead, story from his “Manuel de Péché,” 7.

Guilleville, “Pelerin de la vie humaine,” 175.


Harding, an etching by him of “Death and the Doctor,” 211.

Hawes’s “Pastime of Pleasure,” two prints from it described, 173.

Heemskirk, Martin, a print by him described, 193, 199.

Hegner, his life of Holbein, 240.

Heymans, Mynheer, a dedication to him, 141.

Historia della Morte, a poem so called, 176.

Holbein, a German, life of him by Hegner, 240.
ambiguity with respect to the paintings at Basle ascribed to him, 81.
dance of peasants by him, 80.
engravings by him with his name, 95.
his Bible prints, 94.
his connexion with the Dance of Death, 78, 138.
his death, in 1554, 144.
his name not in the early editions of the Lyons wood-cuts, 92.
lives of him very defective, 143.
more particulars relating to him, 143.
not the painter of the Dance of Death at Basle, 38, 43, 144.
paints a Dance of Death at Whitehall, 141.
satirical painting of Erasmus by him, 221.

Hollar, his copies of the Dance of Death, 125.

Hopfer, David, his print of Death and the Devil, 191.

Horæ, manuscripts of this service book with the Macaber Dance, 60.
printed copies of it with the same, and some similar designs, 72.

Huber and Rust, their mistake concerning Holbein, 236.


Jacques, Maitre, his “le faut mourir,” 26.

Jansen, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 236.

Imitations of and from the Lyons wood-cuts, 137.

Initial letters with a Dance of Death, 213, 214, 217.

Innocent III. Pope, his work “de vilitate conditionis humanæ,” 172.


Karamsin, Nicolai, his account of a Dance of Death, 44.

Kauw, his drawing of a Dance of Death, at Berne, 224.

Kerver, Thielman, his editions of “Horæ,” 174.

Klauber, John Hugh, a painter of a Dance of Death at Basle, 36, 42.


Langlois, an engraving by him described, 198.

Larvæ and lemures, confusion among the ancients as to their respective qualities, 4.

“Last drop,” an etching so intitled, 211.
a drawing of the same subject, 224.

Lavenberg calendar, prints by Chodowiecki in it, 153.

Lawrence, Sir Thomas, drawings by Callot of a Dance of Death in his possession, 223.

“Lawyer’s last circuit,” a caricature print, 209.

Le Blon, a circular print by him described, 197.

Le Comte, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 235.

Lubeck, a Dance of Death there, 163.

Lutzenberger, Hans, the engraver of the Lyons wood-cuts of the Dance of Death, 98.
alphabets by him, 100.
various prints by him, 99.

Luyken’s Emblems, 177, 178.

Lydgate, his Verses to the Macaber Dance, 29, 52.

Lyons, all the editions of the wood-cuts of the Dance of Death published there described, 82, 103.
copies of them by Hollar, 125.
copies of them on copper, 121.
copies of them on wood, 111.
various imitations of some of them, 137.

Lyvijus, John, a print by him of two card players, 197.


Macaber, a word falsely applied as the name of a supposed German poet, 28, 34.
its etymology discussed, 30, 34.

Macaber Dance, 13, 28.
copies or engravings of it as painted at Basle, 40.
destruction of the painting at Basle, 39.
manuscripts in which it is represented, 72.
not painted by Holbein, 38.
printed books, in which it is represented, 55.
representations of it at the following places:—
Amiens, 47.
Anneberg, 44.
Basle, 36.
Berlin, 48.
Berne, 45.
Burgos, 50.
Croydon, 54.
Dijon, 35.
Dresden, 44, 76.
Erfurth, 44.
Hexham, 53.
Holland, 49.
Klingenthal, 42.
Lubeck, 43.
Lucerne, 46.
Minden, 35.
Naples, 49.
Rouen, 47.
Salisbury, 52.
St. Paul’s, 51, 76.
Strasburg, 47.
Tower of London, 54.
Vienne, 48.
Wortley Hall, 53.

Macarius Saint, painting of a legend relating to him, by Orgagna, at the Campo Santo, 32, 33.

Malpé, M., his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 236.

Mannichius, 180.

Manuel de Peché, by Grosthead, 7.

Mapes, Walter de, an allusion by him to a Dance of Death, 24.
vision of a dispute between the soul and the body, ascribed to him, 33.

Marks or monograms of engravers, their uncertainty, 102.

Marmi, Gio. Battista, his “Ritratte della Morte,” 129.

Mechel, Chretien de, 132, 208, 214.

Meckenen, Israel Van, a Dance of Death by him, 160.

Meisner, his “Sciographia Cosmica,” 180.

Melidæus, Jonas, a satirical work under this disguised name, intitled “Res mira,” 184.

Meyers, Rodolph, his Dance of Death, 148.

Meyssens, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 234.

Missal, an undescribed one, in the type of the psalter of 1457, 213.

Misson, the traveller, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 233.

Mitelli, Gio. Maria, a kind of Death’s Dance, by him, 161.

Moncrief, his “March of Intellect,” quoted for a print after Cruikshank, 178.

Montenaye, Georgette de, her emblems, 179.

“Mors,” an excellent Latin comedy, by William Drury, 175.

Mortimer, a sketch by him of Death seizing several persons, 209.

Mortilogus, 171.


Negro figure of Death, 230.

Newton’s Dances of Death, 165.

Nieuhoff, Piccard, 130, 140.

Nuremberg Chronicle, a cut from it described, 170.
a story from it, 6.


Old Franks, a curious painting by him, 204, 221.

Oliver, Isaac, his copy of a painting by Holbein, at Whitehall, 145, 221.

Orgagna, Andrea, his painting at the Campo Santo, 32.

Ortulus Rosarum, 170.

Otho Vænius, a curious painting by him, 204, 222.

Ottley, Mr. his opinion in favour of Holbein as the designer of the Lyons wood-cuts, 88.
proof impressions of the Lyons wood-cuts in his valuable collection, 85.


Palingenius, his “Zodiacus Vitæ,” a frontispiece to this work described, 186.

Panneels, William, a scholar of Rubens, mention of a painting by him, 203.

Papillon, his ludicrous mistakes noticed, 110, 114.

Patin, Charles, a traveller, and a libeller of the English, 79, 138, 237.

Paulmy, Marquis de, his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 238.

Paul’s St., mention of the Dance of Death formerly there, 51, 163.

Peasants, a dance of, painted at Basle, by Holbein, 80.

Peignot, M. author of “Les Danses de Mort,” an interesting work, preface.
his misconception relating to John Porey, 248.

Perriere, his “Morosophie,” 179.

Petrarch, his triumph of Death, 175, 207.
his work “de remediis utriusque fortunæ,” 175.

Pfister, Albert, his “Tribunal Mortis,” 168.

Piccard, Nieuhoff, 130, 140.

Piers Plowman, lines from, 54.

Porey, John, a mistake concerning him corrected, 248.

Potter, P. an allegorical engraving after him, 199.

Prints, single, relating to the Dance of Death, list of, 188.

Prior, Matthew, his lines on the Dance of Death, 145.

Psalter of 1457, a beautiful initial letter in it noticed, 213.
of Richard II., a manuscript in the British Museum, 222.


Rabbi Santo, a Jewish poet, about 1360, 25.

Ratdolt, a Venetian printer, not, as usually supposed, the inventor of initial or capital letters, 213.

Rembrandt, drawing of a Dance of Death by him, 223.
etching by him, 195.

René, of Anjou, painted a Dance of Death, 221.

Reperdius, Geo. an eminent painter at Lyons, 93.

Revelations, prints of the, 175.

Reusner, his emblems, 179.

Rive, Abbé, his bibliography of the Macaber Dance, 75.

Rivoire, his history of Amiens commended, 47.

Roderic, bishop of Zamora, 17, 32.

Rolandini’s emblems, 180.

Rollenhagius’s emblems, 182.

Roll of the Dance of Death, 1597, 163.

Rowlandson’s Dance of Death, 156, 225, 248.

Rusting, Salomon Van, his Dance of Death, 131.


[monogram], some account of this monogram, 115.
its owner employed by Plantin, the famous printer at Antwerp, 116.

Salisbury missal, singular cut in one, 172.

Sallaerts, an artist supposed to have been employed by Plantin the celebrated printer, 115, 116.

Sancta Clara, Abraham, a description of his “universal mirror of Death,” 151.

Sandrart, his notice of a work by Holbein at Whitehall, 145.

Schauffelin, Hans, a carving on wood by him described, 226.

Schellenberg, I. R. a Dance of Death by him, 154.

Schlotthaver, his edition of a Dance of Death, 249.

Silvius, or Sylvius, Antony, an artist at Antwerp, account of a monogram supposed to belong to him, 115.

Skeleton, use made of the human by the ancients, 3.

“Spectriana,” a modern French work, frontispiece to it described, 187.

Stelsius, his edition of a spurious copy of Holbein’s Bible cuts, 97.

Stettler, his drawings of the Macaber Dance of Death at Berne, 224.

“Stotzinger symbolum,” description of a cut so intitled, 174.

Stradanus, an engraving after him described, 197.

Susanna, a Latin play, 18.

Symeoni, “Imprese,” 179.


Tapestry at the Tower of London, 227.

“Theatrum Mortis,” a work with a Dance of Death described, 129.

Tiepolo, a clever etching by him described, 197.

Title-pages connected with the Dance of Death, list of, 183.

Tory, Geoffrey, Horæ printed by him described, 172.

Tower of London, tapestry formerly there of a Dance of Death, 227.

Trois mors et trois vifs, 31, 33, 228.

Turner, Col., a Dance of Death by him, 207.

Turnham Green, some account of chalk drawings of a Dance of Death on a wall there, 210, 224.

Typotii symbola, 180, 182.


Urs Graaf, his engravings noticed, 243.


Vænius, Otho, some of his works mentioned, 182, 204.

Valckert, a clever etching by him described, 201.

Van Assen, a Dance of Death by him, 158.

Van Leyden, Lucas, 189.

Van Meckenen, Israel, his Dance of Death in circles, 160.

Van Sichem, his prints to the Bible, 177.

Van Venne, prints after him, 157, 182, 199, 209.

Verses that accompany the Dance of Death, 17.

Von Menzel, 207.

“Voyage pour l’eternité,” a modern Dance of Death, 157.


Walpole, Mr. his mistake concerning the Dance of Death, 236.

Warton, Mr. his remarks on the Dance of Death, 237.

Weiss, Mr. author of some of the best lives in the “Biographie Universelle,” misled in his article “Macaber” by Champollion Figeac, 249.

Whitehall, fire at, 140.
painting of a Dance of Death there by Holbein, 141.

Wierix, John, some prints by him described, 194, 195.

Williams, Miss, her mistake concerning the Dance of Death at Basle, in her Swiss tour, 233.

Wolschaten, Geeraerdt Van, a Dance of Death by him, 130.

Wood, engravings on, the first impressions of them not always the best, 85.

Wood, Mr. his mistake concerning the Dance of Death in his “View of Switzerland,” 233.


“Youth’s Tragedy,” a moral drama, 1671, 175.


Zani, Abbate, of opinion that Holbein had no concern in the Lyons wood-cuts of the Dance of Death, 98, 101, 138.

Zuinger, his account of paintings at Basle, 139.






[1] Iliad, and after him Virgil, Æn. vi. 278.

[2] Iliad IX. On an ancient gem likewise in Ficoroni’s Gemmæ Antiquæ Litteratæ, Tab. viii. No. 1, a human scull typifies mortality, and a butterfly immortality.

[3] Lib. ii. 78.

[4] Diarium, p. 212.

[5] Lib. xiii. l. 474.

[6] Epist. xxiv.

[7] Apolog. p. 506, 507. edit. Delph. 4to.

[8] Lib. iii.

[9] Leg. Antiq. iii. 84.

[10] Folio clxxxvii.

[11] Folio ccxvii.

[12] Bibl. Reg. 20 B. xiv. and Harl. MS. 4657.

[13] Contest.

[14] Q. Cowick in Yorkshire?

[15] Leader.

[16] Glee.

[17] Called.

[18] A name borrowed from Merwyn, Abbess of Ramsey, temp. Reg. Edgari.

[19] Took.

[20] Leafy.

[21] Place.

[22] Went.

[23] Places.

[24] A falsehood.

[25] Whoever may be desirous of inspecting other authorities for the story, may consult Vincent of Beauvais Speculum Historiale, lib. xxv. cap. 10; Krantz Saxonia, lib. iv.; Trithemii Chron. Monast. Hirsaugensis; Chronicon Engelhusii ap. Leibnitz. Script. Brunsvicens. II. 1082; Chronicon. S. Ægidii, ap. Leibnitz. iii. 582; Cantipranus de apibus; & Cæsarius Heisterbach. de Miraculis; in whose works several veracious and amusing stories of other instances of divine vengeance against dancing in general may be found. The most entertaining of all the dancing stories is that of the friar and the boy, as it occurs among the popular penny histories, of which, in one edition at least, it is, undoubtedly, the very best.

[26] Lib. i. Eleg. iii.

[27] Æn. lib. vi. l. 44.

[28] Millin. Magaz. Encycl. 1813, tom. i. p. 200.

[29] Gori Mus. Florentin. tom. i. pl. 91, No. 3.

[30] Hist. Engl. Poetry, vol. ii. p. 43, edit. 8vo. and Carpentier. Suppl. ad Ducang. v. Machabæorum chorea.

[31] Id. ii. 364.

[32] Hist. des Ducs des Bourgogne, tom. v. p. 1821.

[33] Hist. de René d’Anjou, tom. i. p. 54.

[34] Dulaure. Hist. Physique, &c. de Paris, 1821, tom. ii. p. 552.

[35] Recherches sur les Danses des Morts. Dijon et Paris, 1826, 8vo. p. xxxiv. et seq.

[36] Mercure de France, Sept. 1742. Carpentier. Suppl. ad Ducang. v. Machabæorum chorea.

[37] Bibl. Reg. 8 B. vi. Lansd. MS. 397.

[38] Madrid. 1779, 8vo. p. 179.

[39] Bibl. Med. et Inf. Ætat. tom. v. p. 1.

[40] Recherches sur les Danses de Mort, pp. 79 80.

[41] Passim.

[42] Modern edition of the Danse Macabre.

[43] Journal de Charles VII.

[44] Lansd. MS. No. 397—20.

[45] Peignot Recherches, p. 109.

[46] Mélange d’une Grande Bibliothèque, tom. vii. p. 22.

[47] Bibl. Instruc. No. 3109.

[48] Catal. La Valliere No. 2736—22.

[49] Vasari vite de Pittori, tom. i. p. 183, edit. 1568, 4to.

[50] Baldinucci Disegno, ii. 65.

[51] Morona Pisa Illustrata, i. 359.

[52] Du Breul Antiq. de Paris, 1612, 4to. p. 834, where the verses that accompany the sculpture are given. See likewise Sandrart Acad. Picturæ, p. 101.

[53] Peignot Recherches, xxxvii-xxxix.

[54] Urtisii epitom. Hist. Basiliensis, 1522, 8vo.

[55] Peignot Recherches, xxvi-xxix.

[56] Travels, i. 376.

[57] Travels, i. 138, edit. 4to.

[58] Heinecken Dictionn. des Artistes, iii. 67, et iv. 595. He follows Keysler’s error respecting Hans Bock.

[59] Peintre graveur, ix. 398.

[60] Essai sur l’Orig. de la Gravure, i. 120.

[61] Heinecken Dictionn. des Artistes, i. 222.

[62] Recherches, &c. p. 71.

[63] Heller Geschiche der holtzchein kunst. Bamberg, 1823, 12mo. p. 126.

[64] Basle Guide Book.

[65] Recherches, 11 et seq.

[66] More on the subject of the Lubeck Dance of Death may be found in 1. An anonymous work, which has on the last leaf, “Dodendantz, anno domini MCCCCXCVI. Lubeck.” 2. “De Dodendantz fan Kaspar Scheit, na der utgave fan, 1558, unde de Lubecker fan, 1463.” This is a poem of four sheets in small 8vo. without mention of the place where printed. 3. Some account of this painting by Ludwig Suhl. Lubeck, 1783, 4to. 4. A poem, in rhyme, with wood-cuts, on 34 leaves, in 8vo. It is fully described from the Helms. library in Brun’s Beitrage zu krit. Bearb. alter handschr. p. 321 et seq. 5. Jacob à Mellen Grundliche Nachbricht von Lubeck, 1713, 8vo. p. 84. 6. Schlott Lubikischers Todtentantz. 1701. 8vo. 7. Berkenmeyer, le curieux antiquaire, 8vo. p. 530; and, 8. Nugent’s Travels, i. 102. 8vo.

[67] Biblioth. Med. et inf. ætat. v. 2.

[68] Travels, i. 195.

[69] Recherches, xlii.

[70] Pilkington’s Dict. of Painters, p. 307, edit. Fuseli, who probably follows Fuesli’s work on the Painters. Merian, Topogr. Helvetiæ.

[71] Peignot Recherches, xlv. xlvi.

[72] Rivoire descr. de l’église cathédrale d’Amiens. Amiens, 1806. 8vo.

[73] Recherches, xlvii.

[74] Recherches, xlviii.

[75] Recherches sur les antiquités de Vienne. 1659. 12mo, p. 15.

[76] Dr. Cogan’s Tour to the Rhine, ii. 127.

[77] Travels, iii. 328, edit. 4to.

[78] Survay of London, p. 615, edit. 1618, 4to.

[79] In Tottel’s edition these verses are accompanied with a single wood-cut of Death leading up all ranks of mortals. This was afterwards copied by Hollar, as to general design, in Dugdale’s St. Paul’s, and in the Monasticon.

[80] Annales, p. 596, edit. 1631. folio. Sir Thomas More, treating of the remembrance of Death, has these words: “But if we not only here this word Death, but also let sink into our heartes, the very fantasye and depe imaginacion thereof, we shall parceive therby that we wer never so gretly moved by the beholding of the Daunce of Death pictured in Poules, as we shal fele ourself stered and altered by the feling of that imaginacion in our hertes. And no marvell. For those pictures expresse only ye lothely figure of our dead bony bodies, biten away ye flesh,” &c.—Works, p. 77, edit. 1557, folio.

[81] Heylin’s Hist. of the Reformation, p. 73.

[82] Cotton MS. Vesp. A. xxv. fo. 181.

[83] Leland’s Itin. vol. iv. part i. p. 69.—Meas. for Meas. Act iii. sc. 1.

[84] Hutchinson’s Northumberland, i. 98.

[85] Warton’s H. E. Poetry, ii. 43, edit. 8vo.

[86] And see a portion of Orgagna’s painting at the Campo Santo at Pisa, mentioned before in p. 33.

[87] From the Author’s own inspection.

[88] Recherches, p. 144, and see Catal. La Valliere, No. 295.

[89] Herbert’s typogr. antiq. p. 888.

[90] Traité hist. de la gravure en bois, i. 182, 336.

[91] Letters containing an account of what seemed most remarkable in Switzerland, Italy, &c. by G. Burnet, D. D. Rotterdam, 1686, 8vo. p. 265.

[92] Travels through Germany, &c. i. 138, edit. 4to.

[93] Relations historiques et curieuses de voyages en Allemagne, &c. Amst. 1695, 12mo. p. 124.

[94] See likewise Zuinger, Methodus Academica, Basle, 1577, 4to. p. 199.

[95] Remarks on several parts of Europe, 1738, vol. ii. p. 72.

[96] Peignot places the dance of peasants in the fish-market of Basle, as other writers had the Dance of Death. Recherches, p. 15.

[97] Manuel de l’Amateur d’estampes, ii. 131.

[98] Manuel des curieux, &c. i. 156.

[99] Some give it to the Abbé Baverel.

[100] Lib. ult. p. 86.

[101] The dedicator has apparently in this place been guilty of a strange misconception. The Death is not sucking the wine from the cask, but in the act of untwisting the fastening to one of the hoops. Nor is the carman crushed beneath the wheels: on the contrary, he is represented as standing upright and wringing his hands in despair at what he beholds. It is true that this cut was not then completed, and might have undergone some subsequent alteration. He likewise speaks of the rainbow in the cut of the Last Judgment, as being at that time unfinished, which, however, is introduced in this first edition.

[102] It would be of some importance if the date of Lutzenberger’s death could be ascertained.

[103] “An enquiry into the origin and early history of Engraving,” 1816, 4to. vol. ii. p. 759.

[104] “An Enquiry,” &c. ii. 762.

[105] The few engravings by or after Holbein that have his name or its initials are to be found in his early frontispieces or vignettes to books printed at Basle. In 1548, two delicate wood-cuts, with his name, occur in Cranmer’s Catechism. In the title-page to “a lytle treatise after the maner of an Epystle wryten by the famous clerk, Doctor Urbanus Regius, &c.” Printed by Gwalter Lynne, 1548, 24mo, there is a cut in the same style of art of Christ attended by his disciples, and pointing to a fugitive monk, whose sheep are scattered, and some devoured by a wolf. Above and below are the words “John x. Ezech. xxxiiii. Mich. v. I am the good shepehearde. A good shepehearde geveth his lyfe for the shype. The hyred servaunt flyeth, because he is an hered servaunt, and careth not for the shepe.” On the cut at bottom HANS HOLBEIN. There is a fourth cut of this kind in the British Museum collection with Christ brought before Pilate; and perhaps Holbein might have intended a series of small engravings for the New Testament; but all these are in a simple outline and very different from the cuts in the Dance of Death, or Lyons Bible. It might be difficult to refer to any other engravings belonging to Holbein after the above year.

[106] Brulliot dict. de monogrammes, &c. Munich, 1817, 4to. p. 418, where the letter from De Mechel is given.

[107] Essai sur l’origine de la gravure, &c. tom. i. p. 260.

[108] Id. p. 261.

[109] Dict. de monogrammes, &c. tom. i. pp. 418, 499.

[110] Enciclop. metod. par ii. vol. vii. p. 16.

[111] Enciclop. metod. par. i. vol. x. p. 467.

[112] All the above prints are in the author’s possession, except No. 7, and his copy of No. 5 has not the tablets with the name, &c.

[113] Edit. Javigny, iv. 559.

[114] This edition is given on the authority of Peignot, p. 62, but has not been seen by the author of this work. In the year 1547, there were three editions, and it is not improbable that, by the transposition of the two last figures, one of these might have been intended.

[115] Foppen’s Biblioth. Belgica, i. 363.

[116] That of 1557 has a frontispiece with Death pointing to his hour-glass when addressing a German soldier.

[117] Tom. i. p. 238, 525.

[118] Dict. de Monogrammes, col. 528.

[119] Biblioth. Belgica, i. 92.

[120] See p. 40.

[121] This is the same subject as that in the Augustan monastery described in p. 48.

[122] See p. 34.

[123] It has been stated that they were in the Arundelian collection whence they passed into the Netherlands, where forty-six of them became the property of Jan Bockhorst the painter, commonly called Long John. See Crozat’s catalogue.

[124] On the same dedication are founded the opinions of Zani, De Murr, Meintel, and some others.

[125] Zuinger methodus apodemica. Basil, 1557. 4to. p. 199.

[126] P. 427, edit. Lugd. apud Gryphium, and p. 445, edit. Basil.

[127] Nugæ, lib. vi. carm. 12.

[128] Baldinucci notizie d’é professori del disegno, tom. iii. p. 317, 4to. edit. where the inscription on it is given.

[129] Norfolk MS. 97, now in the Brit. Museum.

[130] Harl. MS. 4718.

[131] Acad. Pictur. 239.

[132] Strype’s Annals, I. 272, where the curious dialogue that ensued on the occasion is preserved.

[133] Catal. de la bibliothèque du Roi. II. 153.

[134] These initial letters have already been mentioned in p. 101-102. The elegant initials in Dr. Henderson’s excellent work on modern wines, and those in Dr. Nott’s Bristol edition of Decker’s Gull’s horn-book, should not pass unnoticed on this occasion.

[135] See before in p. 97.

[136] Zani saw this alphabet at Dresden, and ascribes it likewise to Lutzenberger. See his Enciclop. Metodica, Par. I. vol. x. p. 467.

[137] See before, in p. 46.

[138] Biblioth. Franc. tom. x. p. 436.

[139] Sandrart Acad. Pict. p. 241.

[140] Obs. on Spenser, II. 117, 118, 119.

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