Alphabets: Odds and ends

Death as a cook
Diverse, Cook

Finally we will look at those initial letters that are not mentioned by Douce, and don't belong in any of the other categories.

To the right, Death stirs a pot like a cook — using a large bone. The letter is from an alphabet designed by Hans Holbein and cut in metal by Jakob Faber. Letters from this alphabet appear in August 1520, but the G is from Erasmus' "Familiarium colloquiorum formulae" printed by Froben, 1522.

Death with hourglass
Diverse, Hourglass X

The letter to the left was designed by Hans Holbein and cut by Jakob Faber. It is taken from "En Amice Lector, Thesaurum Damus Inaestimabilem" printed by Froben in 1532. The X functions as a Greek Chi in the word "Christou" — i.e. Christ's.

Skulls and bones
Diverse, Holbein, F

The letter to the right was also designed by Hans Holbein. It is taken from "Das Gantz New testament recht grntlich teutscht" printed by Adam Petri in 1524.

Diverse, Expulsion C
The Fall of Man
Diverse, Fall of man B
The expulsion
Diverse, Creation A

The three letters to the right are from yet another alphabet by Holbein. The theme is the book of Genesis and the three first letters repeat motives from Holbein's great dance of death with Creation, the Fall of Man and the Expulsion.

The letters are big, and the alphabet appears already in 1524 — i.e. the same year as Holbein's more famous dance of death alphabet. In fact both the A and the C appeared in the first book, where Holbein's dance of death alphabet was used.

So-called printer's proof
Diverse, Alphabet Diverse, Alphabet

The sheet to the left is a so-called "printer's proof". This means that all the 24 initials have been reproduced together on a single sheet, which is only printed on one side.

These 24 initials are imitations of Holbeins dance of death alphabet, and so is the sheet itself. Normally these "printer's proofs" didn't have any text, but precisely Holbein's dance of death alphabet was published with a Bible quote at the top and bottom, and a quote for each initial. On the printer's proof with Holbein's dance the quotes were translated into German, but on the sheet to the left they are taken from the Latin Vulgate.

This sheet belongs to the British Museum, who writes: Copies of the letters on this sheet, made to the same size, were used in Brunfels' Kraterbuch (Strasbourg, J. Schott, 1531). The Museum is mistaken in this. The letters may be reminiscent of the ones used by Hans Schott, but they are not the same.

Landsknechts, A
Diverse, Landsknecht: A

The picture to the right is from an alphabet with landsknechts. This particular initial was obviously inspired by Holbein's A.

La danse macabre
Diverse, Danse macabre
La dance macabre
Diverse, Dance macabre

Let us finish with some different alphabets. The two images are taken from French reprints from 1862 and 1874.

Go forth

This is the last chapter in the series on dances of death-alphabets in old books.

The previous subject was alphabets mentioned by Douce.

There is a similar section about dances of death in the margins of old books of hours.

Diverse : Alphabet
Diverse : Alphabet
Landsknecht: A
Diverse 1537: Landsknecht: A
Diverse 1520: Cook
Hourglass X
Diverse 1532: Hourglass X
Creation A
Diverse 1543: Creation A
Fall of man B
Diverse 1543: Fall of man B
Expulsion C
Diverse 1543: Expulsion C
Danse macabre
Diverse 1862: Danse macabre
Dance macabre
Diverse 1874: Dance macabre
Holbein, F
Diverse 1524: Holbein, F

Other alphabets

It all started with Holbein's alphabet
Holbein Alphabet, Holbein: M

Hans Holbein (1524)
Wolfgang Kpfl (1526)
Christoph Froschauer (1527)
Mainz and Cologne (1532)
Augsburg (1534)
Johannes Schott (1536)
Greek alphabet (1538)
Andreas Vesalius (1543)
Cologne (1548)
Heinrich Ldel (1849)
Douce reprint (1858)
Douce, revisited
→ Odds and ends