The Kassel manuscript

Death holds a mirror for the maid.
Just above the image the number "xxxv" is written in red.
Figuren, Kassel: Young woman
The Pope
Figuren, Kassel: Pope

The manuscript in Kassel is lavishly decorated in colours and gold. The text is the same as in the printed versions of Der Doten dantz mit figuren.

Before the Second World War the series was almost complete with 35 dance-scenes. When compared to the printed versions from 1488 and 1492 three scenes were lacking at that time, namely the chaplain, the physician and the knight. These scenes were not necessarily lost, because the chaplain had been transformed into the priest while the knight was turned into the duke. For instance, in the printed 1488-version, Death greets the knight: »O Ritter rych reych her dyn haindt«, while Death in Kassel addresses the duke: »O herzugg reich her dyn hant«.

The only scene that might have been lost then, is the physician. It also unknown whether the introduction (with the dance-house and the unprepared dead) and the epilogue have ever been part of the work.

During the Second World War the manuscript was damaged by fire. Four of the pages have become shrivelled, while nine pages have disappeared.(1) Five of the disappeared pages survive as good black and white reproductions.

The king
Figuren, Kassel: King
The robber
Figuren, Kassel: Robber

The sequence today is rather jumbled, e.g. the first scene is the nun, while "all ranks", which should end the dance is number three. This order is not original, but due to a later binding from the seventeenth century.

The only page that originally was numbered was the young woman, where the number "xxxv" is written in red ink (picture to the top, left). On the other hand, most of the sheets show an old pagination at the bottom of the back that may have been written by the original scribe.

These old numbers correspond with the printed version from 1488 with a single exception: In the printed version, the young woman comes after the citizeness, but in the Kassel-manuscript the citizeness has number 36,(2) while the young woman has number 35 (as already mentioned, she also has "xxxv" on the front side).

It is very possible that it is the Kassel-manuscript that has the right sequence because in the printed 1488-version there is a misprint and both the young woman and the citizeness have number xxxv (this has been corrected with a pen to "xxxvi" in Munich's exemplar).

Just as in the printed versions, Death employs an unusually large number of musical instruments, which he as a rule handles wrongly. When fetching the robber (to the right) Death uses a spade as trumpet.


Further information

Footnotes: (1) (2)

It is unclear whether this happened at the same time. The fire that damaged the four pages happened in 1942. The manuscript was then sent to Berlin for restoration, and towards the end of the war the manuscript resided for a short while in Munich.

The other pages disappeared at the end of the war: »neun von Struck beschriebene, aber bis dahin nicht abgebildete Blätter gingen bei Kriegsende verloren«
(Gisela Fischer-Heetfeld: Ars moriendi/Memento mori. Totentanz. Handschrift Nr.?9.2.3.).

Rieger writes (page 260) that the citizeness has number 30, but that this must be a writer's error for 36, which doesn't otherwise appear

Struck states (page 96) without qualifications that she has number 36.

Today after the damages of war it is hard to read the numbers. See the external links.