Doten dantz mit figuren (ca. 1488)

The Pope
Figuren, Figuren: Pope
Handwritten note: "1470"

There is no information about where, when and by whom »Der doten dantz mit figuren / clage vnd antwort schon / von allen staten der werlt« was printed.

The exemplar in Munich ends with the handwritten year 1470 (picture to the right), and this lead the early scholars like Rieger and Maßmann to believe this edition to be more recent than the 1492-edition, which has "1459" written on it.

Today it is agreed that the book was printed by Heinrich Knoblochtzer, and since he didn't come to Heidelberg before 1486, the book is assumed to have been printed around 1488/1489. There are also certain similarities with la Danse Macabre of Paris, and therefore the book must be more recent than Guyot Marchant's 1485-edition.

Each of the 38 dance-scenes is constructed with »clage vnd antwort«, complaint and answer, in two columns that begin with a very large initial letter.

The child
Figuren, Figuren: Child

The scenes are numbered with Roman numerals. However, these numbers are not a part of the woodcut, but of the headline. Take for instance the child to the right: »Der doit.   xxii   das iunge kindt«. By a mistake the young woman and the citizeness have both been numbered "xxxv", but in the exemplar in Munich this has been corrected to "xxxvi" with a pen.

The sequence is very peculiar. First come nine ecclesiastical / learned men in descending order from pope to physician, and then come eleven lay people from emperor to craftsman (although with a robber among the row of nobility and citizens). After these two rows follow young man and child, who don't belong to a specific class, and this is where the dance would normally end. But instead of ending, the dance goes on with a seemingly random crowd: innkeeper, gambler, thief, bad monk, good monk, hermit, doctor, mayor, etc.

A part of the explanation might be that there are two different artists. The first one has created the two introductory scenes: the dance-house and the unprepared dead, and the first 24 dancers up to and including the gambler, while the other artist has produced the 14 last dancers beginning with the thief and also the final scene at the ossuary.

Thus it might appear that the publisher has first used a series with 24 scenes, that are presented in a fairly logical sequence, and then has supplemented the dance with those images from another series that the first one was lacking.

However, this theory does have some serious problems. Partly because "the sensible series" ends with innkeeper and gambler instead of stopping with the child, and partly because it doesn't explain why the printer couldn't have arranged the sequence more sensibly, as happened in the later editions.

But the biggest problem is that the manuscript in Kassel follows the same "strange sequence". It is believed that "Doten dantz mit figuren" and the manuscript in Kassel are based on the same source-text, and therefore the sequence in the manuscript can't have depended on what woodcuts were available to Heinrich Knoblochtzer.

In the later editions from 1492 and 1520 the sequence is more logical.

Different copies

Figuren, Heidelberg
Figuren, München

There exist eight copies of this edition, two of which are available online (see external links below).

The copy in Heidelberg has a slightly different front page: The flag in the middle is another design and the cadaver's knee joint has also been changed.

Figuren, Heidelberg
Figuren, München

There is also a difference on the last page, where one of the dead looks different.

Modern Reprints

Wasmuths Kunsthefte
Figuren, Wasmuth
Albert Schramm, 1922
Figuren, Schramm

The first person to reproduce Der Doten dantz mit figuren in modern times was Georges Kastner in the book "Les danses des morts" from 1852. Kastner made little hand-drawn copies of all the woodcuts, although without text.

Around 1920, thirten of the woodcuts were reproduced with modernized spelling in Wasmuths Kunsthefte with the title: "Ein altdeutscher Totentanz". The 13 scenes were reproduced in full size after the exemplar in the Berliner Bibiliothek. The front page was designed by Adolph Köglsperger (picture to the left).

The preface was written by Helmuth Theodor Bossert, and he was the first to point out that there are two different artists and that this (partly) could explain the strange sequence.

A few years later, in 1922, Albert Schramm published the entire book in facsimile (see external link). He says that there are five copies of the 1488 edition, but that no one is perfect and hints that he has had to combine all five.

Schramm published the images once more in 1936 in the series "Der Bilderschmuck der Frühdrucke" (volume 19, pictures 618-659). This time he only knew about four copies (he ignored the copy in Karlsruhe).

In the book Der tanzende Tod from 1983, Gert Kaiser reproduces the copy from Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in black and white.

In the book Der Heidelberger Totentanz von 1485 from 1991, Manfred Lemmer reprints Albert Schramm's facsimile from 1922.

Figuren: Dance-house
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Dance-house
Figuren, Ossuary
Figuren 1488: Figuren, Ossuary
Figuren: Pope
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Pope
Figuren: Cardinal
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Cardinal
Figuren: Bishop
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Bishop
Figuren: Official
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Official
Figuren: Canon
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Canon
Figuren: Priest
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Priest
Figuren: Chaplain
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Chaplain
Figuren: Abbot
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Abbot
Figuren: Physician
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Physician
Figuren: Emperor
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Emperor
Figuren: King
Figuren 1488: Figuren: King
Figuren: Duke
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Duke
Figuren: Count
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Count
Figuren: Knight
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Knight
Figuren: Nobleman
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Nobleman
Figuren: Armor-bearer
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Armor-bearer
Figuren: Robber
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Robber
Figuren: Usurer
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Usurer
Figuren: Citizen
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Citizen
Figuren: Craftsman
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Craftsman
Figuren: Young man
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Young man
Figuren: Child
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Child
Figuren: Innkeeper
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Innkeeper
Figuren: Gambler
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Gambler
Figuren: Thief
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Thief
Figuren: Evil monk
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Evil monk
Figuren: Good monk
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Good monk
Figuren: Hermit
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Hermit
Figuren: Doctor
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Doctor
Figuren: Mayor
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Mayor
Figuren: Senator
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Senator
Figuren: Lawyer
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Lawyer
Figuren: Scribe
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Scribe
Figuren: Nun
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Nun
Figuren: Citizeness
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Citizeness
Figuren: Young woman
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Young woman
Figuren: Merchant
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Merchant
Figuren: All ranks
Figuren 1488: Figuren: All ranks
Figuren: Ossuary
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Ossuary
Kassel: Pope
Figuren 1488: Kassel: Pope
Kassel: Young woman
Figuren 1488: Kassel: Young woman
Kassel: Mirror
Figuren 1488: Kassel: Mirror
Kassel: Robber
Figuren 1488: Kassel: Robber
Kassel: Citizeness
Figuren 1488: Kassel: Citizeness
Figuren: Pope
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Pope
Figuren: Child
Figuren 1488: Figuren: Child
Figuren: Pope
Figuren 1520: Figuren: Pope

External links and resources

Further Information