The Apothecary
Heidelberg's block book, Apothecary

Death to The Apothecary

Wolher aptheker an meynen tancz
Seyn nw die species schyre gancz
Dy do synt wedir todis craft
Beweyst nw ewir meysterschaft

Well then, Apothecary, to my dance.
Is the potion(1) quite ready now,
which [works] against the force of Death?
Prove now your mastery.

Ich kunde syrop vnd confect machen
Electuaria vnd vil ander sachen
Wer nw erne eyns gut vor den tot
Is wer mir czu dezer stunden not

I could make sirup and confectionary,
electuary(2) and many other things.
If one of these were good against Death,
I would need it in this hour.

The pharmacist is not a regular character in Oberdeutscher vierzeiliger Totentanz, but he appears here in Heidelberg.

Hammerstein (page 190) believes this woodcut to be a later addition from the 16th century. The arguments are, that the apothecary is not found in other dances of death from the 15th century, the language is rougher, and the skeleton is more modern (anatomically correct).

It is hard to see how this could be possible. The apothecary is printed on the recto side, while the nun is printed on the verso side. Does Hammerstein suggest that the recto side was empty for a hundred years?

Just as for the preacher I have a hard time following Hammerstein here: A woodcut is used for mass-production of images, but demands great work, especially when cutting the letters. If an owner felt his book was lacking a proper image of a apothecary, it would be far easier to make a drawing instead of cutting a block.

Footnotes: (1) (2)

Potion . . .: The word used is "species". Notice how close it is to "spices" and old-fashioned German "spezerei". Spices and drugs are the same thing. The pharmacist was also know as a "spezereihändler" in German.

As the text shows, apothecaries used to sell goods (including chocolate, wine and spicy sirup) that you don't expect to see in a modern pharmacy.

Electuary . . .: An electuary is a medicinal paste composed of powders, or other ingredients, incorporated with some jam, honey, syrup, etc, for the purposes of oral consumption (From Wikipedia /Webster).