Frölich and Mechel in the 19th Century

The 1796-edition (the genuine one).
Scharffenberg, Front page, 1796
Predigerkirche, 1576.
The dance of death was on the inside of the wall to the right.
Fragment, Predigerkirche

On the previous pages we saw how the woodcuts that were published by Huldreich Frölich in 1588 and 1608, were reused by the Family Mechel in 1715, 1724, 1735, 1740, 1769, 1786 and 1796.

But the story doesn't stop here, for in 1842 Mähly-Lamy of Basel issued a book, which — at least in the digitized versions — is impossible to distinguish from the Family Mechel's 1796-edition. This book has exactly the same front page with the same date (picture to the left): »bey Gebrüdern von Mechel, 1796«. Only two things tell the reader that this is a more recent reprint: Six pages of preface and an image of the Predigerkirche in Basel (picture to the right).

The preface ends with the words: »Basel, 1842. Der Verleger: Mähly-Lamy«. There, and only there do we find the date of the publication and the name of the publisher. One exemplar ends even shorter: »Der Verleger«, but is otherwise identical to the others.

In this preface it's claimed without qualifications that the artist behind those woodcuts that are marked with G.S. and a woodcutter's knife, is Georg Scharffenberg.

Scharffenberg was supposed to have been assisted by his friend Hans Hugo Klauber in copying the mural in 1576. The same date is carved in the lower corner of the Expulsion.

Georg Scharffenberg ein berühmter Formschneider ist der Verfertiger dieser Holzschnitte die derselbe durch Vermittelung seines Freundes Hans Hugo Klauber getreu nach dem Originale im Jahre 1576 kopierte, welche Jahreszahl auch auf dem letzten Gemälde dieses Werkes mit seinem Namen und gewöhnlichen Monogramm zu sehen ist. *)



*) Siehe François Brulliot Dictionnaire des monogrammes No. 1103.

(Preface pp. 5-6)

Pen-and-wash drawing by Büchel.
Fragment, Predigerkirche

Mähly-Lamy doesn't reveal from whence he knows about their friendship, and at any rate this year doesn't fit with the fact that it says 1578 on the image of the painter (the year of Klauber's death).

The same year, 1576, is repeated on the picture of the church without any real explanation. The image of the church is very reminiscent of a drawing made by Büchel in 1774 (to the right), but there's no procession in Büchel's drawing, so maybe the artist has made a copy of another copy.

As an argument for why G.S. should be Georg Scharffenberg, Mähly-Lamy refers to entry no. 1103 in François Brulliot's »Dictionnaire des Monogrammes, marques figurées, […]«. But if we check with Brulliot, we see that G.S. is attributed to Georg Scharffenberg as well as Sigismond Gelenius, and that others interpret these initials as Georges Schem / Schom / Sichem.

It should be added that the painter is one of the few woodcuts that wasn't created by G.S. The monogram (under the table top) does indeed feature a woodcarver's knife, but just like the abbot it is signed HIW.

1843, Lithographic reprint

Predigerkirche, 1574
Fragment, Predigerkirche

The following year Mähly-Lamy published the images and text again. However, this time it's easy to see that we are no longer dealing with the 1796-editions, for the images are lithographic copies of the woodcuts, and the text as well as the preface are bilingual: German and French. The French text is the same as published in the multilingual versions by Hess (ca. 1841) and Chovin (ca. 1830), but many of these books are without date, so it can be hard to determine who has copied from whom.

The German preface is the same as the year before, and ends: »Basel, 1843. Der Verleger: Mähly-Lamy«, while the French ends: »Bâle, 1843. L'éditeur: MÆHLI-LAMY«.

The odd part is that the picture of the church (to the right) is not the same as the previous year, and what's even odder is that the year below has been changed to 1574.

1870, Leipzig

Der Todten-Tantz, 1870
Alexander Danz
Predigerkirche, 1576, Carved by F. Singer, Leipzig.
Fragment, Predigerkirche

In 1870 the woodcuts had come into the possession of Alexander Danz of Leipzig. The blocks were still well preserved, but after almost 300 years it had become necessary to employ new frames.

The preface is more or less the same that Mähly-Lamy wrote in 1842 and 1843, but towards the end Alexander Danz protests against the claim that the initials G.S. on the woodcuts should belong to Georg Scharffenberg:

  Nach der Angabe des Christian von Mechel soll Georg Scharfenberg,3 ein seiner Zeit berühmter Formschneider diese Holzschnitte unter Beihülfe seines Freundes Hans Hug Klauber getreu nach dem Originale im Jahre 1576 verfertigt haben, welche Jahreszahl auf einem der letzten Holzschnitte zu finden ist. Wir haben keinen Grund die Angabe des Christian von Mechel, dem in seiner Vaterstadt Basel gewiß alle Quellen zu Gebote standen anzuzweifeln wollen jedoch hier nicht unerwähnt lassen daß bei anderen Forschern abweichende Ansichten über das Monogramm G.S. vorhanden sind.4

(Preface page viii)

Alexander Danz says twice that it was Christian von Mechel, who had pointed at Georg Scharffenberg. On the present site we know Christian von Mechel for his copies of Holbein's dance of death.

Alexander Danz also claims that the printing blocks are the same that Mechel had employed in 1790: »alten Holzstöcken, welche Mechel im Jahre 1790 zum Wiederabdruck brachte« (page ix). It's all very odd. The Family Mechel published the woodcuts in 1715, 1724, 1735, 1740, 1769, 1786 and 1796, but not in 1790.

It sounds more or less as if Danz is mistaking 1796 for 1790, that he confounds Christian von Mechel with "Gebrüdern von Mechel", and that he believes the 1842-edition was published in 1796, so that this preface was written by Mechel in 1796 (or 1790) and not by Mähly-Lamy in 1842.

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