berhard Kieser was from Kastelaun in Hunsrück, but he is known to have resided in Frankfurt between 1609 and 1630, where he had citizen's rights on the condition that he didn't practise his craft as a goldsmith.
Instead he published several books — among these a dance of death. The first edition was in 1617 with the title »Speculum Humanae Vitae«, same year under the name »Todten Dantz Durch alle Stände und Geschlecht« and in 1623 under the name »Icones Mortis Aliquot Imaginibus«. The sixth and last edition from 1648 was called »Icones Mortis Sexaginta Imaginibus«.
As the title (Sexaginta) says, there are 60 pictures. This woodcuts are numbered and furnished with flowery frames.
The book is a mix. Most of the pictures are close copies of Holbein's original woodcuts, but Kieser has also had access to the 8 pictures in Aldegrevers dance of death, and in 7 cases he has preferred Aldegrever to Holbein. The 8th picture, the abbot, along with most of the rest, are pretty close copies of Holbein. Three of the pictures are Kieser's own invention: The Jew, The Jewess and Death using a ladder to enter the window of a tower (Jeremiah 9:21, picture to the left).
For each picture there's a Latin and German Bible quote and a Latin and German 4-lined poem. These are copied from Arnold Birckmann's books.
A quaint detail is that the year is not printed on the title page. Instead the book contains two Bible quotes in Latin and German, where some of the letters are to be read as Roman numerals (in the German text, W is to be read as two times V, i.e. 10). This is how it looks in the 1648-edition:
|VIta nostra VeLVt herba, qVæ Manè||VI V LV V M||1071|
|fLoret aC VIres aCCIpIt, VesperI||L CVI CCI I V I||364|
|arefaCta reseCatVr, & sVbItò||C C V V I||210|
|perIIt psal. 90.||I I||2|
|aLLes fLeIsCh Ist heVV / VnD||LL L I C I VVV D||767|
|aLLe seIne herrLIChkeIt Ist||LL I LIC I I||254|
|WIe eIn baLD VerWeLktes||W I I LD V W L||607|
|Gras. Esa. 40.|
In contrast to many other contemporary Holbein-copies, the first 5 editions were not bundled together with various didactic writings. Kieser thought that the 60 woodcuts — each with a Bible quote in Latin and German and each with a 4-lined poem in Latin and German — was sufficient. In the 6th (and final) edition from 1648, the publisher Johann Vogel added a number of baroque poems signed G.P.H., which stood for Georg Philipp Harsdörffer.
Harsdörffer's popularity resulted in the 1648-edition being reprinted in 1998. For unknown reasons, Holbeins dance of death is once again confused with Basel's dance of death. This is from the publisher's description of the reprint: »Die 60 gezählten Kupfer, im wesentlichen unveränderte Sujets des berühmten Baseler Totentanzfreskos Hans Holbeins d.J., von dessen Original heute nur noch Spuren erkennbar sind, […]« Holbein's dance of death has nothing to do with the dance of death in Basel — this is a myth, which probably originates from Georg Scharffenberg.