Holbein's woodcuts Published in Books
The following is a fairly complete list over book publications of Holbein's original woodcuts.
The Trechsel Brothers' printer's mark
- 1538: »Les Simulachres & historiées faces de la
Mort, autant elegamment pourtraictes, que artificiellement imaginées«.
Published by Melchior and Caspar Trechsel for Frellon in Lyon. The first edition with 41 woodcuts.
- 1542: »Les Simulachres et historiées Faces De La Mort,
contenant la Medecine de l'ame, utile et necessaire non seulement aux malades […]«
Published by Jan and Francois Frellon in Lyon, who are responsible for the following publications.
- 1542: »Imagines de Morte et Epigrammata e Gallico idiomate a Georgio Aemylio in
A Latin version. As the title states, Gilles Corrozet's epigrams have been translated by Georg Aemilius.(1)
- 1545: »Imagines Mortis. His accesserunt, Epigrammata, è Gallico idiomate à
Georgio Æmylio in Latinum translata.«
This edition has 42 woodcuts,
since the beggar has been added. The beggar has nothing to do with the rest of the dance
but appears in a different section of the book.
- 1547: »Imagines Mortis. Duodecim imaginibus præter
priores, totidemque inscriptionibus præter epigrammata é
Gallicis à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum versa, [. . .]«.
At the end: »Lugduni, Excudebat Ioannes Frellonius, 1547«.
Now there are 53 woodcuts and the beggar has become an integrated part of the series.
The Frellon Brothers' printer's mark
- 1547: »Icones Mortis, Duodecim imaginibus præter priores, […]«
The first word of the titles are different between this and the previous book
("Imagines" / "Icones"), and the whole text has been set anew. Other than that these two books are identical.
- 1547: »Les Images de la Mort. Auxquelles sont adjoustées douze figures. […]«
Unlike the two previous versions that were in Latin, this one is in French. Other than that the contents are the same.
- 1549: »Simolachri historie, e figure de la morte. La
medicina de L'anima. […]«
Italian version with 53 woodcuts.
- 1554: »Icones Mortis. Duodecim Imaginibus praeter
priores, totidemque inscriptionibus, […]
The title claims that this edition was printed in Basel, but doesn't specify which publisher/printing house.
The question is whether the woodcuts were really sent to Basel and back,
or if the place of printing was forged in order to avoid censure.
- 1562: »Les Images de la Mort, auxquelles sont adjoustees
dix sept figures. […] A Lyon, par Jehan Frellon«
Once again printed by The Frellon Brothers in Lyon. This time there are 5 more woodcuts —
or as the sub-title says: 17 ("dix sept") more
than in the first edition. From now on, no dancers are added.
- 1574: »Imagines Mortis : item epigrammata è Gall. à G.
Æmilio in Latinum versa. Lugdun. Frellonius«
- 1654: »De Doodt vermaskert met des werelts ydelheyt afghedaen
door G. V. Wolsschaten,
Verciert met de constighe belden van den vermaerden schilder Hans Holbeen«, Antwerp.
A Dutch language book with 15 good copies of Holbein's original woodcuts.
Some experts consider them to be genuine, but I don't believe that (any longer).
The original woodcuts are incredibly detailed
The original woodcuts are incredibly detailed
inding Holbein on the Net is easy, but in the majority of cases
the "genuine" Holbein woodcuts turns out to be the copies produced by
Douce in 1833
(or rather: 1858).
All their qualities untold they are still copies with inevitable
differences — particularly in the facial expressions.
Finding genuine Holbein is a great deal more difficult.
The Internet Archive and other collections offer scans of various
photographic reprints from the 1800's. While they are not bad, the photo-technique of the 19th century leaves something
to be desired;
Google Books has many of the same boks, but the
books are badly scanned;
Bibliothèque nationale de France has scanned the original books directly,
but many of their scans are so bad they make your eyes hurt.
- The Internet Archive has scanned
the original 1538-edition:
Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort, autant elegamme[n]t pourtraictes, que artificiellement imaginées.
- The Internet Archive also has 26 of the original woodcuts from an edition from 1547 or later:
Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort, avtant elegammet pourtraictes, que artificiellement imaginées (the exact title is unknown).
- The Internet Archive has the Italian edition from 1549:
Simolachri, historie, e figure de la morte (included in this exemplar are the 30 plates by Hollar of unknown age).
- The Internet Archive also has several books from the 1800's with photographic reproductions of
Holbein's original woodcuts (use their search function and look for "holbein" or "dance of death").
- The University of Virginia has the 1542-edition
Imagines de morte, et epigra[m]mata è Gallico idiomate à Georgio Aemylio in Latinu[m] translata.
(Click the thumbnail picture)
- Bibliothèque Nationale de France has scanned the 1538-edition in high resolution,
which can be viewed online:
Les Simulachres & historiees faces de la
- The University of Düsseldorf has the 1554 edition (the one from Basel):
Icones Mortis : Dvodecim Imaginibus praeter priores, totidémque inscriptionibus […]
- The University of Düsseldorf also has several photographic reprints from the 19th century.
- The Biblioteca digitala in Cluj-Napoca in Romania has the 1554 edition:
Icones mortis : duodecim imaginibus praeter priores totidemque inscriptionibus, praeter epigrammata : qvae his addita sunt, sequens pagina commonstrabit
(download as a 41.69 MB pdf-file).
- Poland's digital National Library has the 1554 edition:
Icones mortis, dvodecim imaginibus praeter priores totidemque inscriptionibus, praeter epigrammata e Gallicis
- The Bavarian State Library has the 1554 edition:
Icones Mortis Dvodecim Imaginibus praeter priores, totidémque inscriptionibus, praeter epigrammata è Gallicis à Georgio Aemylio in Latinum versa, cumulatae
- The Austrian National Library has the 1549 edition:
Simolachri, historie, e figure de la morte
- Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden has the 1562 edition (the one with most pictures):
Les Images De La Mort, Auxquelles sont adioustees dixsept figures
Other interpreters of Holbein's dance of death
Georg Aemilius . . .: 1517-1569, (also called Oemmel, Aemylius, Emilius, Öhmler and Oemler).
Several authors claim that Georg Aemilius was Martin Luther's brother-in-law,
but this is incorrect. It was Georgs father, Nicolas Oemeler,
whom Luther called his boyhood friend and brother-in-law — and brother-in-law should be understood in a very broad sense,
since Nicolas Oemeler and Luther's brother Jakob had married two sisters.