The 1796-edition. The same scene, but the woodcut is a new one.
For details, click here and here.
One of the first people to describe Basel's dance of death
was Huldreich Frölich,
who in 1588 published the book:
»Zwen Todentäntz: Deren der eine zu Bern […] Der Ander aber zu Basel«.
This book was confusing from day one. The texts were from Basel's
and Bern's dances of death (along with a Latin translation of Basel's dance of death).
With a few exceptions however, the illustrations were neither from Basel nor Bern,
but were (bad) copies
of Holbein's dance of death.
In 1715 Johann Conrad von Mechel III took ownership of the woodcuts, rearranged the material,
dropped the Latin text and much of the Bern-text
and produced a new frontispiece (see picture to the left).
Unfortunately Mechel seems to have lost six of the Holbein copies
but on the other hand he obtained a few woodcuts that actually represented Basel's dance of death.
Mechel then gave his book the exact same title as Merians book:
»Der Todten-Tantz, wie derselbe in der weitberühmten Stadt Basel, als ein Spiegel menschlicher Beschaffenheit …«.
The book sold well and was reprinted in 1724, 1735, 1740, 1769, 1786 and 1796, first by Mechel himself, then by his widow,
and then by the couple's children Johann Conrad and Johann Jacob.
In the 1800es the book was re-issued as a lithographic reprint.
With their Holbein-pictures the Mechel family thus cemented the confusion that Frölich had founded -
i.e. that Holbein should be the creator of Basel's dance of death.
In spite of Mechel's massive editing the book is still a mess:
As already mentioned most of the woodcuts are from Holbein's dance of death,
and they are discussed on the page about Holbein and Georg Scharffenberg.
The book includes the child, which neither Merian nor Büchel have.
pulled the preacher out of the dance and placed him at the back of his book,
but Mechel instead places him in front,
like the preacher in Basel, where he
can quote the Isaiah and Daniel texts that introduced the mural.
In Basel the ossuary was adorned with a
depiction of Judgment day.
(fragment of the original mural)
Then comes a picture of Judgment Day. This scene does not appear in Basel, so therefore Mechel has retained the
text from Bern's dance of death. One might wonder why this scene has been placed here in the
beginning of the book, when it marks the end of both Holbein's and Bern's
dances and Frölich's book,
but this may be because Basel had a Judgment Day scene over the ossuary (picture to the right).
Then come the individual dancers, where the text is from Basel, while the pictures are the usual mix
of bad Holbein-copies and free fantasy.
Mechel had lost the copy of Holbein's nobleman,
so the duke and the duchess has to share the woodcut of
Therefore we get Death's speech to the duke (but not his answer),
and the duchess' reply to Death (but we're not told
what she's replying to).
Holbein's count has disappeared too, so Mechel illustrates him with
Holbein's knight instead.
Then he calls the knight "Nobleman" and illustrates him with Holbein's soldier,
and he moves the noblewoman (who is Holbein's duchess) forwards in the dance.
When Mechel comes to the real nobleman, he has run out of woodcuts,
and the nobleman is removed from the dance.
Copy of Holbein. The gambler does not appear in neither Basel nor Bern.
The juror is illustrated with a copy of Holbein's canon.
On the other hand, Basel's canon is illustrated with a copy of Holbein's priest.
The hermit is illustrated by Holbein's old man,
while the young man is the musician
from Holbein's nun, who has been placed out on the street (picture to the left).
This is a copy of Holbein's nun but the musician has been placed out on the street,
which means that the picture can be used for illustrating "the young man". There isn't a nun in Basel's dance of death anyway.
At the end of the dance come Adam & Eve and a text that is the introduction from Bern's dance of death:
»Von des Teuffels vergifften Zung, hat der Tod sein Ursprung […]«
and at the very end a picture of the Expulsion from Paradise with more of the introduction from Bern:
»Eva ist vast schuldig dran, Sie gab den Tod auch ihrem mann«.
Frölich had placed Adam & Eve in front of the book, but Mechel places them in the back,
like they were on the mural.
The result is confusing to say the least, both concerning contents and title.
Frölich's book was confusing too, but he may be somewhat excused since he tried to combine
three dances of death in one book, and at least he didn't leave out any dialogues.
In Mechel's book content is solely determined by the available woodcuts —
woodcuts that mostly doesn't even portray the dance in Basel.
cripple, herald, executioner, painter's wife and Turk have disappeared simply because Mechel didn't a proper woodcut.
Duke and duchess each lost half a dialogue because
Mechel had lost the copy of Holbein's nobleman.
On the other hand, Mechel retained Holbein's Expulsion from Paradise,
drunkard, gambler and robber, who neither
belong to Basel nor Bern,
and where the text was presumably invented by Frölich.
The book was republished well into the 19th century.
The thousand of tourists who visited church in Basel and bought the book,
must have gotten quit a surprise when they returned home and opened their new book.
One can't help wondering if the
Mechel family were related to another contemporary publisher in Basel named Mechel,
namely Christian Mechel, who created confusion with his "genuine" Holbein-drawings.