Huldrich Frölich, 1608

Frölich, 1608: Astrologer

Zwen Todentäntz was Frölich's last work as a printer, but in 1608 he published »Der Hochloblichen und Weitberümpten Statt Basel […] sampt des Todtentantzes Basels und Berns« (printed by Sebastian Henricpetri). This book is basically a combination of Lobspruch An die Hochloblich unnd Weitberümpte Statt Basel from 1581 and Zwen Todentäntz.

This new edition is also adorned with the "serviceable" Holbein-copies by Scharffenberg, »mit darzu dienstlichen Figuren gezieret«, and in fact the section with dances of death is pretty much the same as in Zwen Todentäntz from 1588. The biggest difference being that the Latin text was a new one. See the last part of the present page for more details.


The text from Frölich's 1581-edition was later re-printed by Gross and Tonjola, while the woodcuts from the 1588-edition were published for more than a century by the Mechel family and later as lithographs from Mähly-Lamy.

Changes between 1588 and 1608

In this edition the woodcuts and the text from Bern is placed on the left-hand side, while the text from Basel and the Latin text is placed to the right. The old system is employed with page-numbers being in Arabian numerals for Basel and Roman numerals for Bern.

In Zwen Todentäntz the introductory quotes from Isaiah and Daniel were moved to the end of the dance and illustrated with a copy of Holbein's preacher. The woodcut and the quotes were accompanied by an unknown text in Latin and German with the headline "Translator".

In Der Hochloblichen und Weitberümpten Statt Basel the quotes are moved back to the start of the dance, as they are in all other versions of the text. The picture of the preacher is headlined "concinnator" and the German text comes before the Latin.

In 1588 the pages have frilled frames; there are no frames in 1608.

Frölich, 1608:
The city arms of Basel
Baszler Chronick, 1580

The book starts with a handsome woodcut of the city arms of Basel: Two basilisks are holding a shield with the so-called Baselstab (i.e. the staff of Basel).

The picture is taken from Baszler Chronick by Christian Wurstisen, 1580.

Frölich, 1608:
Johannes Oecolampadius
Baszler Chronick, 1580

The dance of death starts with a portrait of the Swiss reformer Johannes Oecolampadius.

The dance in Basel started with a preacher, who was modelled after Oecolampadius — at least ever since Hans Kluber renovated the mural in 1568.

The preacher opens the dance with quotes from Isaiah and Daniel. In Zwen Todentäntz these quotes had for inscrutable reasons been placed at the end of the book, but in 1608 they are again moved to the start of the dance, as they are in all other versions of the text.

This portrait was also taken from Baszler Chronick. The woodcut is signed with the usual woodcutter's knife, but there is a large "V" between the "G" and the "S". This has started speculations about whether the artist was Georg van Sichem or if Georg Scharffenberg's full name was Georg von Scharffenberg. See who was GS?

Frölich, 1608: Beggar
Cosmographey, 1544, two beggars

The beggar was replaced by another. This image is precisely as old as the other for in fact the two beggars have appeared together since 1544.

Frölich, 1608: Patriarch
Helden, Otto Cardinal zu Augspurg, 1568

The picture of the patriarch was added in the 1608-edition.

He was taken from Heinrich Pantaleon's "Teutscher Nation Warhafften Helden", where the woodcut was used for two different German heroes.

In the second part from 1568 he is Nicolaus ein Cardinal von Cusa (page 510) while in the third part from 1570 he is Otto Cardinal zu Augspurg (page 297).

I haven't found the picture of the skeleton.

Frölich, 1608: Astrologer
Cosmographey, 1598

The astrologer was much used. He is in "Cosmographey" from 1588 and later, and in Heinrich Pantaleon's "Teutscher Nation Warhafften Helden" 1568-1570 where he portrays a string of glorious German heroes: Diceneus ein Schwartzkünstler, Joannes Eligerus ein Mathematicus, Cornelius Scepper Mathematicus, Johannes Veltcurio Philosophus, Jacobus Stegler Professor zu Ingolstadt and Johannes Scheubelius Geometer zu Tübingen

I haven't found the picture of the skeleton.

The Latin Text

The unknown verses that accompany the preacher are headlined "Translator" in 1588 and "Concinnator" in 1608
Scharffenberg, Preacher

The Latin text is a (confusing) story in its own right. Frölich himself writes in the introduction to Zwen Todentäntz from 1588 that he has created the "bad verses" as a sort of exercise:

Solches nun desto öffter und ernstlicher zu betrachten, hab ich mir under anderem, nicht allein in der Lateinischen Sprache und Carminibus mich zu exercieren, den Todentantz, wie er zu Basel der Ordnung nach auff S. Predigers Kirchhof mit Teutschen Reumen verzeichnet, in Lateinische, doch schlechte Vers, zu transferieren fürgenommen.

There's nothing improbable about this in itself since the introduction contains several pages in Latin. On the other hand, something is fishy: Why is it only Basel's text that's been translated and not Bern's? Why hasn't Frölich translated the five verses, which he himself has penned and headlined "Concinnator"?

The preacher is odd too. In Zwen Todentäntz (1588) the verse is headlined "Translator" and the Latin is brought first, as if the otherwise unknown German text(1) were a translation of the Latin. In Der Hochloblichen und Weitberümpten Statt Basel (1608) the German text comes before the Latin and the heading is "Concinnator" just like the 5 others.

In the book Literatur der Totentänze from 1840, Hans Ferdinand Maßmann asserts on the authority of an imperial legate named Goldman that the verses were in fact taken from another book: Die von H. Frölich zugegebene lateinische Uebersetzung des Baseler Todtentanzes findet sich 1584 schon in Casparis Laudismanni […] Decennalia mundanae peregrinationis. (page 30, footnote 3).

Consilium integrum, 1614, page 104, The queen
Consilium integrum

The problem is that nobody has ever seen Caspar Laudismann's book Decennalia mundanae peregrinationis. In 1614 Laudismann published the book Consilium integrum, where he writes on page 103 (page 123 in the 1616 edition), that in 1584 he had written a description of Basel's dance of death as part of his Tria decennalia mundanae peregrinationis, »Choreas in illustri Civititate Helvetica Basiliensi egregie depictas, anno 1584, ab hujus Consilij Authore descriptas, & III, suis Decennalibus mundanæ peregrinationis insertas«. However he doesn't write that this book was published. On the contrary he writes (see page 499 in the 1616 edition), that he will dedicate his work to the long list of princes that he has listed on page 498. If anybody has quoted from Decennalia mundanae peregrinationis it must have been from a unpublished manuscript.

Consilium integrum, 1616, page 123, The queen
Consilium integrum

To make the waters even more muddy, Laudismann then quotes a single dialogue, namely Death and the (English) queen (bottom of page 103, top of page 104; or page 123 in the 1616 edition). On the one hand Frölich's and Laudismann's verses are far too similar for it to be a coincidence, but at the same time they are significantly different.

In 1608 Frölich published Der Hochloblichen und Weitberümpten Statt Basel. The difference between the dance of death texts in this book and in Zwen Todentäntz is that the Latin text has been altered.

This time Frölich doesn't claim to have authored the verses, and he doesn't call them bad. Instead he explains that they have been included so that people who cannot read German still might be amused: »welche ich neben anderen bewegenden ursachen/ auch auß dieser/ damit die jenigen/ so unserer Teutschen Sprache unerfahren/ sich erlustigen möchten/ in Lateinische metra doch so viel müglich/ ihren eigenen sensum und innhalt observierende/ gebracht/ setzen wöllen«.

If we compare the queen's dialogue (which is the only one we know from Laudismann), we can see that Frölich in 1608 used the text that Laudismann in 1616 promised he would one fine day publish in Decennalia mundanae peregrinationis. It's the same text that's included in the 1625-edition of Matthäus Merian's copperplates.

Frölich, 1588Laudismann, 1616Frölich, 1608
Regalis tibi mando tori, suavissima Consors,
  Deponas MUNDI gaudia cuncta tua:
Nam defunctorum cogeris salvere catervam,
  Conjuge deserto, pignoribusque tuis.
Non nitor hoc vultus, argentum avertet & aurum:
  Sed nostras videas deliciasque volo.

Heu nemo opem mortalium
  Adest qui in his periculis
  Præstare posset unicam:
  Ubi meæ pedissequæ?
Heu dum micabat prospera
  Fortuna mecum plurimùm
  Facundum agebant otium:
  Parcas mihi, Mors, fla-gi-to.
Regalis tibi mando tori, suavissima consors,
  Deponas mundi gaudia vana tua.
Nam mortalis ad ereptos è carcere vitæ
  Perceleri, tecum jam properabo pede.
Muneribus Mors non pretiosis flectitur atra
  Omnes unde viam cogit inire suam.

Heu nemo adest Mortalium
  Qui posset hoc sævissimo
  Levare me discrimine:
  Ubi meæ pedissequæ?
Ah dum micabat prospera
  Fortuna, mecum plurimùm
  Facundum agebant otium:
  Mors parce nunc, moram dato.
Regalis tibi mando tori, suavissima Consors,
  Deponas Mundi gaudia vana tua:
Nam mortalis ad ereptos è carcere vitæ
  Perceleri tecum jam properabo pede:
Muneribus Mors non preciosis flectitur atra
  Omnes unde viam cogit inire suam.

Heu nemo adest mortalium,
  Qui posset hoc sævissimo
  Levare me discrimine!
  Vbi meæ pedisse quæ?
Ah dum micabat prospera
  Fortuna, mecum plurimùm
  Facundum agebant otium:
  Mors parce nunc, moram dato.

I am indebted to Mischa von Perger for help in explaining the above. All misunderstandings remain my own responsibility.


Further information

Footnotes: (1)

The preacher . . .:

Here is the text from 1588:

Hast du der Heiligen Schriffte Sprüch
  Nicht fleissig erklärt/ hüte dich:
Dann der Knecht empfindt zweyer Ruth/
  Ders Herren will weißt und nicht thut.*

So viel Gnad die drey Einigkeit
  Mir hat verliehen biß auf heut/
Hab ich des Herren CHRISTI Härd
  Versorgt/ weil sie mir lieb und wärt:
Nun bitt ich dich Herr JESU CHRISTI/
  Laß nach mein Schuld und böse Lüst/
Und gleit mich mit der frommen Schaar/
  So ich abscheid/ in Himmel dar.

* Luke 12:47, That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating.