In the university library of Heidelberg there's an old book from 1455-1458, which is really 7 little block books that have been bound into one. One of these 7 booklets is considered the world's oldest printed dance of death.
We know that the text is older still. It's the so-called Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz, as we find in a manuscript from 1443-1447, and more fully developed in the dance of death in Basel from ca. 1440.
In contrast to the old manuscript from 1443-1447, Death has now been assigned a speech for each dancer. Originally the text was simply a long series of complaints by dying people from all stations of society. In later versions, like the book that we're examining here, Death invites each participant to the dance, and the monologues have ostensibly been turned into dialogues.
An apothecary has joined the 24 ordinary dancers from Der Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz. The dancers do not come in the same sequence as in the other versions, but this might be an error that happened when the 7 booklets were bound into one volume. The order has been exchanged between patriarch, archbishop and cardinal, between bishop and duke, between knight and abbot, between cook, peasant and beggar, and between mother and child. The mother's speech: »Oh child, I would have saved you« is clearly a reply to the child's wail: »Oh my dear mother. […] How can you leave me now?«, even if the sequence has been reversed in the book.
Some of the pictures have (laterally inversed) numbers. There are: lawyer (13), nobleman (16), noblewoman (17), merchant (18), nun (19), cook (21), peasant (22), beggar (20), mother (24) and child (23). These numbers would be correct if the pages were in the ordinary sequence - and without the apothecary.
Nobody would accuse this book of being great art, but remember that this is a block book, which means that the entire page — both text and pictures — has been cut from the same matrix. So please send a kind thought to the artist: Not only has he had to cut the letters mirror-inverted, but woodcuts are relief prints, which means that the artist has had to cut away all the wood between the letters.
Notice that Death is polite and addresses most people in the plural: ir, euch, ewr (like Middle English ȝe, eow, eower(1) and Medieval English ye, yow, youre), except for the cook, peasant, beggar and child, where Death uses the more free and easy form and says du, dich, deyn (like in medieval English thou, thee and thine). This peculiarity is not reflected in my translation.