Alphabets: Douce, Did we forget anything?

Rerum præclare gestarum, D
Douce2, Rerum D

Fn this section we have copiously quoted Francis Douce. Let us finish with those alphabets / initials that Douce mentions and that we haven't already seen. Some of Douce's references are a little too vague: »in the author's collection. Their locality has not been traced« or »From some unknown book«, but let's look at the rest.

In Francolin's "Rerum præclare gestarum, intra et extra moenia civitatis Viennensis, pedestri et equestri prælio, terra et aqua, elapso Mense Junio Anni Domini MDLX. elegantissimis iconibus ad vivum illustratarum, in laudem et gloriam sere. poten. invictissimique principis et Domini, Domini Ferdinandi electi Roma: imperatoris, &c. Vienna excudebat Raphael Hofhalter," at fo. xxii. b. the letter D is closely copied in wood from the original, and appears to have been much used. […]
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 217)

As Douce says, the D is a close copy of Holbein's D.

Douce continues:

Survey of London, 1618, A
Douce2, Stow: A
Illustrations of Shakespeare, A
Douce2, Shakspeare

Other copies of them on wood occur in English books, but whether the whole alphabet was copied would be difficult to ascertain. In a Coverdale's Bible, printed by James Nicolson in Southwark, the letters A. I. and T. occur. The subject of the A. is that of the fool and Death, from the R. of the originals, with the addition of the fool's bauble on the ground: the two other letters are like the originals. The size 2 inches by 1½. The same letters, and no others, occur in a folio English Bible, the date of which has not been ascertained, it being only a fragment. The A is found as late as 1618 in an edition of Stowe's "Survey of London." In all these letters large white spots are on the back-ground, which might be copied for worm-holes, but are not so. The I occurs in J. Waley's "table of yeres of kings," 1567, 12mo.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, pp. 217-218)

English books are among the hardest to track down, since they as a rule a hidden behind pay-walls. We have already looked at the English Bibles that were published for Coverdale by Froschauer in Switzerland, but here Douce mentions some English versions of Coverdale with an A, I and T, that evidently aren't the same.

I did however succeed in catching Stow's "Survey of London" from 1618 on Ebay (it has to be from this year). As Douce says, the A is copied after Holbein's R. Strangely enough, Douce doesn't mention that he himself had reproduced this initial, viz. in his "Illustrations of Shakspeare, and of Ancient Manners" from 1807 (picture to the right).

Prodicion y Destierro, Cardinal
Douce2, Prodicion E

In "Prodicion y destierro de los Moriscos de Castilla, por F. Marcos de Guadalajara y Xavier." Pamplona, 1614, 4to. there is an initial E cut in wood with the subject of the cardinal, varied from that in Lutzenberger's alphabet.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 218)

Douce is right, sort of, but the woodcut (to the right) is one of those we know from Libro sotilissimo, and what makes these woodcuts special is that the letter is not a copy of Holbein's E, but of the cardinal from the great dance of death.

Chronicle of All the Noble Emperours, S
Douce2, Marshe S

An S rudely cut on wood with Death seizing two children was used by the English printers, J. Herford and T. Marshe.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 219)

As shown to the right. From "A Chronicle of All the Noble Emperours of the Romaines", 1571.

Many of the initials used by Herford and Marshe are copies of the initials used by Cratander in Basel. The style of this S indicates that it is yet another copy, but in that case I haven't seen the original.

Death as gravedigger
Douce2, Initial S

An S indifferently cut on wood, two inches square. Death shovelling two sculls, one crowned, into a grave. On the shovel the word IDEM, and below, the initials of the engraver or designer, I. F. From some unknown book.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 219)

Orlando Furioso, C
Douce2, Initial C

The picture is shown to the right. If the woodcut were from Basel, I.F. would stand for Jakob Faber, so it's imperative to know the provenance of the image. British Museum has the same picture and they write: »Probably by a later member of the Faber family or the Faux family at Lyons, rather than the Jacob Faber who worked after Holbein's designs«.

To make a very confusing story short, the letter appears in the book "Orlando Furioso" (i.e. "The Furious Roland"); an Italian book published in Lyon by Bartholomeo Honorati (Sébastien Honorat) in 1556 and printed by Jacques Faure. However this cannot be the only place it was used, because British Museum tells us, that their copy has »Latin letterpress text on verso«.

The book contains many of these initials (but no dances of death) and many of them (F, G, M, N, O, Q and S) are signed I.F. This could be the mark of Jacques Faure himself, since he finishes the book with the words: »Stampato in Lione, per Iacopo Fabro«.

Read the book here: Orlando Furioso. The S is on picture numbers 269, 387, 432, 503, 535 and 541. The C is on picture numbers 26, 56 and many others.

Suetonius Opera, M
Douce2, Suetonius M

An M cut on wood in p. 353 of a Suetonius, edited by Charles Patin, and printed 1675, 4to. "Basle typis Genathianis." The subject is, Death seizing Cupid. Size, 1½ square.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 219)

Les emblemes, 1548
Douce2, Alciato

The letter is found in »Caii Suetonii Tranquilli opera / quae extant Carolus Patinus notis et numismatibus illustravit suisque sumptibus edidit«.

The scene seems to be taken from Jean le Fevre's French translation of Andrea Alciato (also known as Alciati). To the left is a page from "Les Emblemes" with the title "De Mort & Amour".

The image doesn't show »Death seizing Cupid« as Douce claims. It illustrates a tale where Death and Cupid get their arrows mixed up, so old people with one foot in their grave start falling in love instead.(1)

Memorable expulsion, E
Douce2, Expulsion E

At fo. 1. of "F. Marco de Guadalajara y Xavier, Memorable expulsion y justissimo destierro de los Moriscos de Espana, Pamplona, 1613, 4to." there is an initial E, finely drawn and well engraved in wood. The subject has been taken from two cuts in the Lyons Dance of Death, viz. the cardinal and the emperor. From the first, the figures of the cardinal and Death seizing his hat; and from the other, the figures of the kneeling man, and of Death seizing the emperor's crown, are introduced as a complete group in the above initial letter. Size, 1½ inch square.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 220)

The picture is seen to the right, and once again it is one of those we know from Libro sotilissimo. Douce has overlooked the fact that it is the same woodcut of the cardinal, which is also featured in the book Prodicion y Destierro, and which he has just described. This time however, Douce has discerned that the woodcut is not a copy of Holbein's D, but a copy of Holbeins great dance of death (»the Lyons Dance of Death«)

As Douce writes, there are two cadavers in this scene. I'll leave it to the reader to determine whether it's because the artist has combined the picture of the pope with that of the cardinal. Read the book here: Memorable expulsión, y justissimo destierro de los Moriscos de Espana.

Memorable expulsion, H
Douce2, Expulsion H
Memorable expulsion, L
Douce2, Expulsion L

In p. 66 of the same work there is another letter that has probably belonged to a set of initials with a Dance of Death. It is an H, and copied from the subject of the bishop taken by Death from his flock, in the Lyons series. It is engraved in a different and inferior style from that last mentioned, yet with considerable spirit. Size, 1½ inch.
(Francis Douce, 1833, The Dance of Death, p. 220)

The H is from the same book as the E, which Douce has just described, but he doesn't think it can be from the same alphabet, because it less well executed. Personally I think the H is just as jocular as the other initials in Libro sotilissimo (as Douce writes: »with considerable spirit«), and the H is as a rule printed more clearly than the rest of the initials of this alphabet.

Douce has overlooked that "Memorable expulsion" also features an L (to the right).

Initial C
Douce2 : Initial C
Initial S
Douce2 : Initial S
Stow: A
Douce2 1618: Stow: A
Shakspeare
Douce2 1807: Shakspeare
Marshe S
Douce2 1571: Marshe S
Rerum D
Douce2 1543: Rerum D
Prodicion E
Douce2 1543: Prodicion E
Expulsion E
Douce2 1543: Expulsion E
Expulsion H
Douce2 1543: Expulsion H
Expulsion L
Douce2 1543: Expulsion L
Suetonius M
Douce2 1675: Suetonius M
Alciato
Douce2 1548: Alciato

Other alphabets

Footnotes: (1)

This tale was also mentioned by Henry Noel Humphreys in "Hans Holbein's celebrated Dance of death", 1868.

»[…] the three striking legends of "Cupido and Atropos," by Jean Lemaire, though some of the ideas are so picturesquely terrible, as, for instance, the one in which Cupid and Death accidentally meet in their rounds, and go to drink in a tavern, where, after their libations, they accidentally change weapons, Death taking the bow and shafts of Cupid, and Cupid the dart of Death«.
(Page 6)


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