enceslaus Hollar published his 30 etchings for the first time in 1651. After a number of editions, the plates went out of fashion and disappeared for a while.
A hundred years later there was a renewed interest in things medieval. In 1780 Mechel published his etchings "based on the original Holbein-drawings", and in 1788 Deuchar copied Mechel's frontispiece and Hollar's etchings.
Thus the time had become ripe (again) for Hollar's etchings. In 1790 a French version was published, but this book was anonymous, and is it known neither where nor when it was published. From now on the plates were printed without Diepenbeeck's frames.
It has never been clear what happened to the plates in the intervening century. In the preface to the 1794-edition, Douce merely tells us that »The plates, which appear to have been but little used have been till lately preserved in a noble family«.
The prints were republished and rebitten a number of times during the next 20 years. Let us have a look at some of these editions:
1790, Le triomphe de la Mort
French edition. The book is anonymous and doesn't tell where it was printed. The title was the same as Mechel's publication, and the letter-press for each image was also taken from Mechel — maybe via Deuchar who copied the same descriptions in his work from 1788. This book can be read both at the Internet Archive and the Hollar Digital Collection (the two exemplars are identical, but the pages don't come in the same order).
1794, The Dance of Death
English Edition. The book has a preface about the history of the dance of death by Francis Douce, who has also written the description for each picture. Can be read at both the Internet Archive and the Hollar Digital Collection, but for some reason The Internet Archive think their exemplar is from 1820.
1804, The dance of death
More or less the same as the 1794-edition, but for some inscrutable reason Death's Escutcheon is not by Hollar, but has without any explanation been replaced by one by David Deuchar. Can be read at the Hollar Digital Collection.
1816, The dance of death; from the original designs of Hans Holbein, Illus. with 33 plates -
Starts with a rather anecdotal biography of Holbein called »Life of Holbein«; then comes Douce's essay about the history about the dances of death. Death's Escutcheon is still by Deuchar (instead of Hollar) and the description of this one plate is still by Douce. The curious part is that the only Douce-description that was retained is the one where he ridicules the French descriptions, which he evidently attributes to Papillon: »It has been supposed by Papillon without the least authority, or even probability, that the two figures represent the persons for whom Holbein painted this work«.
The rest of the letter-press is bilingual. The French descriptions are those from the 1790-edition that was copied from Mechel/Deuchar. The English ones are translations of the French and are taken from Deuchar who made the translations for his 1788-book.
This edition can be read on both the Internet Archive and the Hollar Digital Collection; both of these exemplars are in colour.
long with the 30 engravings came two portraits (see top of this page). The portrait of Hollar bears the faint text »etched by Barlow«, so presumably(1) this is a copy that Francis Barlow (1626? - 1704) has made of Hollar's self-portrait. The other portrait is of Holbein and is a reversed copy of Hollar's copy of Holbein's self-portrait.
Also included was a copy of an engraving of a dance of death procession that Hollar had made for the book »The history of St. Paul's Cathedral in London« in 1658. The copy is close: even Pennington was mistaken. Another copy was made by William Finden in 1818.
s already mentioned, the 1816-edition included Douce's historical walk-through of dances of death — and as mentioned, Douce tells us that Hollar's plates had been kept by a noble family. He also ensures us they are presented again "without the least alteration": »The plates, which appear to have been but little used, have been till lately preserved in a noble family, and impressions from them are once more presented to the public, without the least alteration*«.
But in the 1816-edition the editor had added a footnote: »In the present edition, however, it was found requisite that the plates should be retouched, and it has been done with the utmost attention to the preservation of their original spirit and character«.
o it had been necessary to refresh Hollar's plates. And in spite of the assurances of the editor, it hadn't been totally successful: In general the pictures now appear flat, details have disappeared and faces have become empty masks.
The most obvious change is in the picture of the bishop (above), where the sun and its reflection have been adorned with faces. This also makes it hard to see that it's supposed to be the sun reflecting its image in a lake. Another change is the queen, where the pillars in the background have been starkly simplified.
Many of the exemplars from 1816 were coloured, but not all of them:
The 1816-edition was later copied by an unknown English artist. For more about Hollar and the early editions, see the page about Wenceslaus Hollar.
Hans Holbein (1526) - so-called proofs
Hans Holbein (1538) - the originals
Heinrich Aldegrever (1541)
Heinrich Vogtherr (1544)
Vincenzo Valgrisi (1545)
Arnold Birckmann (1555)
Juan de Icíar (1555)
Valentin Wagner (1557)
Georg Scharffenberg (1576)
Leonhart Straub (1581)
David Chytraeus (1590)
Peter Paul Rubens (ca. 1590)
Fabio Glissenti (1596)
Eberhard Kieser (1617)
Rudolf and Conrad Meyer (1650)
Wenceslaus Hollar (1651)
De doodt vermaskert (1654)
Thomas Neale (1657)
Johann Weichard von Valvasor (1682)
Salomon van Rusting (1707)
T. Nieuhoff Piccard (1720)
Christian de Mechel (1780)
David Deuchar (1788)
John Bewick (1789)
Alexander Anderson (1810)
Ludwig Bechstein (1831)
Joseph Schlotthauer (1832)
Francis Douce (1833)
Carl Helmuth (1836)
Francis Douce (1858, 2. edition)
Henri Léon Curmer (1858)
Tindall Wildridge (1887)
However, Hodnett doesn't explain why he thinks it is incorrect.