Døde-Dands in Swedish

The Doctor in Danish
Døde-Dands, Physician
Swedish translation.
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Physician

Døde-Dands has been translated into Swedish: »Det mänskliga lifwets obeständighet eller Samtal, imellan döden och människor af allehanda stånd. Öfwersatt ifrån Danska Språket«. I.e: "The transience of human life or conversations between Death and people of all ranks of society. Translated from the Danish language".

Judging from the small sample shown here to the left and right, the Swedish text is markedly tamer than the original: There's no reference to the doctor killing his patients and no parallel is made between the two glasses, the doctor's urine flask and Death's hourglass. The two tools of the two killers:

Danish (1762)Swedish (1838)
Hr. Doctor! det er Tid, du Kunsten maae opgive,
Og ey methodice fleer Mennesker aflive.
  Du paa Urin-Glas seer, som Styrmand paa Compas;
  Men glemmer derimod dit Lives Time-Glas.
Herr Doctor nu är tid, att konsten din uppgifwa,
Du får ej längre tid att fler resepter skrifwa.
  Se att ditt timglas re'n till botten runnit är,
  Som wittnar att ditt lif ej längre skonas lär.
Mr Doctor, it is time that you must give up your craft,
and not methodically put away more people.
  You at your urine glass stare, as coxswain at compass,
  But in contrast you forget your life's hourglass.
Mister Doctor, now it is time to give up your craft,
You will now longer have time to write more prescriptions.
  See that your hourglass already[?] has run to the bottom
  Which testifies that your life no longer will be spared.
The Danish fencing master
Døde-Dands, Fencing master
The Swedish fencing master. One of the few woodcuts that aren't reversed.
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1822

Aldred Warthin, in the book "The Physician of the Dance of Death", informs us that »The same woodcuts used in the Danish edition are repeated, reduced in size, and reversed«. This statement is true for many of the scenes including the physician, which was the only character that Wartin was interested in, but not for all. See for instance the fencing master (pictures to the left and right).

Det mänskliga lifwets obeständighet was first printed in Stockholm 1777. The last edition was printed in Falun 1838, and this is the edition referenced by Warthin.

The many editions

The oldest edition: 1777
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1777
The 1784-edition
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1784
The 1802-edition
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1802
The 1807-edition
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1807

The Danish version of Det menneskelige Livs Flugt eller Døde-Dands was published in 1762, 1770, 1814 and as a photographic reprint in 1967.

However, the number of issues pales when compared to the many issues of the Swedish copy. Here is an attempt to list the many editions:

1777
Stockholm, tryckt hos Lars Wennberg, på egen bekostnad. Exemplaret kostar 10 Schilling.
1784
Gefle, tryckt hos Ernst Pet. Sundqwist, på egen bekostnad. Exemplaret kostar 10 Schilling.
1791
Fahlun, tryckt hos Pehr Ol. Axmar, på egen bekostnad.
1794
Fahlun, tryckt hos Pehr Ol. Axmar, på egen bekostnad.
1796
Fahlun, tryckt hos Pehr Ol. Axmar, på egen bekostnad.
1800
Fahlun, tryckt hos Pehr. Ol. Axmar, på eget förlag. Exemplaret kostar häftadt och skurit 12 skilling.
1802
Fahlun, tryckt hos Pehr Ol. Axmar, på eget förlag. Exemplaret kostar häftadt och skurit 12 skilling.
1807
Fahlun tryckt hos Pehr Ol. Axmar, på eget förlag.
1813
Fahlun, tryckt hos Pehr Ol. Axmar, på eget förlag.
1818
Calmar, tryckt i Carl Fredric Bergs boktryckeri. Exemplaret häftat kostar 24 S. Banco.
1822
Fahlun. Tryckt hos O.U. Arborelius et Comp.
1838
Fahlun, Carl Richard Rosselis Hoftryckeri.

The 1822-edition
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1822
1777: Harlequin
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Jester

The first edition was issued in Stockholm in 1777. The woodcuts are copies of the Danish, and ca. 30 of them are reversed. This has an odd consequence for the Harlequin: The Danish Harlequin sports the initials "HW" on his cravat, but in the reversed image it says "WH". HW stands for Hanswurst, a coarse-comic figure of German-speaking impromptu comedy. Only a Swede knows who "WH" is supposed to be.

The copies as a rule follow the Danish originals slavishly, but with a few exceptions: Death takes the mitre from the Danish bishop, but the crosier from the Swedish, the watchman's weapon is different, and there is no cat to accompany the Turk.

The sequence is different. Surprisingly the pope arrives rather late in the dance, following the vicar. The Danish lawyer has become a judge and the night watchman has become a fire guard. A single original scene has been added: Slösaren, i.e. the spendthrift.

The last edition: 1838
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1838
1838: King
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1838

In 1784 the woodcuts were published in Gefle/Gävle 158 kilometers northwest of Stockholm, but the two skulls on the front page were replaced by a copy. All of the following editions, excepting the 1818-edition, to which we shall return, were issued in Falun 83 kilometers west of Gävle.

The last edition was in 1838, with almost the same title: »Det menskliga lifwets obeständighet. eller Samtal emellan döden och menniskor af allehanda stånd. Öfwersatt ifrån danska språket«.

Over the course of the many years the woodblocks had become quite worn, and many of them clearly show vertical or horizontal cracks. In the case of the king, the right third seems to have been replaced by a new chunk of wood (picture to the right).

1777: Beggar
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Beggar
1838: Beggar
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Beggar

The woodblock with the beggar must have perished since it had been replaced by a copy.

1818: Kalmar

The 1818-edition from Kalmar
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, 1818

One particular edition is conspicuously different from all the others: While all other editions between 1791 and 1838 are from Falun, northwest of Stockholm, the 1818-edition is from Kalmar, south of Stockholm (picture to the right).

If one wonders why anybody would transport the woodcuts 440 kilometers south from Falun to Kalmar (and 440 kilometers back again), the answer is, that this is not what happened. The woodcuts from Kalmar are copies of the other editions (which in turn were copies of the Danish editions).

1777: The Swedish cook (not from the Muppet Show)
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Cook
1818: Cook
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Cook

The copies are reversed. This is also true for the two skulls on the front page (picture to the right), which are reversed of e.g. the 1807-edition, which in turn was different from the very first edition from 1777.

1777: Children
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Children
1818: Children
Lifwets, Døde-Dands, Children

About 30 of the Stockholmian woodcuts were reversed, so when the publisher in Kalmar produced reversed copies of the Stockholmian, they became non-inverted when compared to the Danish originals. Compare with the Danish cook and the Danish children.

Links and Resources

Images from the Swedish copies of Døde-Dands

Døde-Dands, 1777
Lifwets 1777: Døde-Dands, 1777
Døde-Dands, Physician
Lifwets 1777: Døde-Dands, Physician
Døde-Dands, Cook
Lifwets 1777: Døde-Dands, Cook
Døde-Dands, Jester
Lifwets 1777: Døde-Dands, Jester
Døde-Dands, Children
Lifwets 1777: Døde-Dands, Children
Døde-Dands, Beggar
Lifwets 1777: Døde-Dands, Beggar
Døde-Dands, 1784
Lifwets 1784: Døde-Dands, 1784
Døde-Dands, 1802
Lifwets 1802: Døde-Dands, 1802
Døde-Dands, 1807
Lifwets 1807: Døde-Dands, 1807
Døde-Dands, 1818
Lifwets 1818: Døde-Dands, 1818
Døde-Dands, Cook
Lifwets 1818: Døde-Dands, Cook
Døde-Dands, Children
Lifwets 1818: Døde-Dands, Children
Døde-Dands, 1822
Lifwets 1822: Døde-Dands, 1822
Døde-Dands, 1822
Lifwets 1822: Døde-Dands, 1822
Døde-Dands, 1838
Lifwets 1838: Døde-Dands, 1838
Døde-Dands, 1838
Lifwets 1838: Døde-Dands, 1838
Døde-Dands, Beggar
Lifwets 1838: Døde-Dands, Beggar

Further Information


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