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
Trechsel, printer's mark
  1. Before 1538: The Trechsel brothers published a small book, which may be regarded as a transition between the so-called proofs and the proper book publications.

    On the front page is Trechsel's printer's mark (right) and nothing else. Then follow 39 woodcuts with two scenes missing, viz The Expulsion and After the Fall. On the other hand, the astrologen is included. There are no headings and in fact no texts at all.

  2. 1538: »Les Simulachres & historiées faces de la Mort, autant elegamment pourtraictes, que artificiellement imaginées«.

    The first edition with 41 woodcuts. The last page states that the brothers Trechsel were behind the publication: »Excvdebant Lvgdvni Melchior et Gaspar Trechsel Fratres. 1538«.

    The front page tells us that the book was printed »A Lyon, soubz l'escu de Coloigne«", which was the address of the brothers Frellon. Jean and François Frellon were sons of a Parisian printer, but Jean had later acquired citizen's rights in Basel. As of 1536 the brothers were established in Rue Mercière in Lyon at l'Écu de Cologne.

  3. 1542: »Les Simulachres et historiées Faces De La Mort, contenant la Medecine de l'ame, utile et necessaire non seulement aux malades […]«

    Published by the brothers Frellon, who are responsible for the following publications, since the brothers Trechsel had closed their shop following a strike in 1539.

  4. 1542: »Imagines de Morte et Epigrammata e Gallico idiomate a Georgio Aemylio in Latinum translata«.

    A Latin version. As the title states, Gilles Corrozet's epigrams have been translated by Georg Aemilius.(1)

  5. 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.

  6. 1547: »Imagines Mortis. Duodecim imaginibus præter priores, totidemque inscriptionibus præter epigrammata é Gallicis à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum versa, […]«.

    At the end: »Lvgdvni, Excudebat Ioannes Frellonius, 1547«, because François had died in 1546.

    Now there are 53 woodcuts and the beggar has become an integrated part of the series.

    The Frellon Brothers' printer's mark
    Frellon, printer's mark
  7. 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.

  8. 1547: »Les Images de la Mort. Auxquelles sont adjoustées douze figures. […]« The book was printed »A Lyon, A l'escu de Cologne, chez Iehan Frellon«.

    Unlike the two previous versions that were in Latin, this one is in French. Other than that the contents are the same.

  9. 1549: »Simolachri historie, e figure de la morte. La medicina de L'anima. […]«

    Italian version with 53 woodcuts. In the preface Jean Frellon complains about the pirate edition of Vincenzo Valgrisi, but Frellon got his revenge by copying Valgrisi's Italian text for his own edition.

  10. 1554: »Icones Mortis. Duodecim Imaginibus praeter priores, totidemque inscriptionibus, […] Basileae«

    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.

    De Doodt Vermaskert.
    De Doodt Vermaskert
  11. 1562: »Les Images de la Mort, auxquelles sont adjoustees dix sept figures. […] A Lyon, par Jehan Frellon«

    This was the last edition. This time there are 5 more woodcuts — or as the sub-title says: 17 ("dix sept") more than in the first edition.

    The title page says, »A Lyon, Par Iehan Frellon, 1562«, but is wasn't printed by Frellon, who had sold his presses by this time. The last page states: »A Lyon, Par Symphorien Barbier«.

  12. 1574: »Imagines Mortis : item epigrammata è Gall. à G. Æmilio in Latinum versa. Lugdun. Frellonius«.

    This edition probably doesn't exist. Douce (page 109) gives Peignot as his only source, and Peignot (Recherches historique et littéraires sur les danses des morts, 1826, page 62) says that M. Courtois had such a copy.

    The only reference then is a catalog over Edme-Bonaventure Courtois' library from 1819. Douce is probably right when he suggests (footnote 114) that two numbers have been exchanged and that the book in question is one of the three editions from 1547: »This edition is given on the authority of Peignot, p. 62, but has not been seen by the author of this work. In the year 1547, there were three editions, and it is not improbable that, by the transposition of the two last figures, one of these might have been intended«.

  13. 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).

External links

The original woodcuts are incredibly detailed
Holbein: Creation (detail)
The original woodcuts are incredibly detailed
Holbein: The emperor (detail)

F 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 bit more difficult, but the situation is becoming better and better.

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;

Holbein 1538: Creation
The Fall
Holbein 1538: The Fall
Holbein 1538: Expulsion
After the Fall
Holbein 1538: After the Fall
Bones of All Men
Holbein 1538: Bones of All Men
The Pope
Holbein 1538: The Pope
Holbein 1538: Emperor
Holbein 1538: King
Holbein 1538: Cardinal
Holbein 1538: Empress
Holbein 1538: Queen
Holbein 1538: Bishop
Holbein 1538: Duke
Holbein 1538: Abbot
Holbein 1538: Abbess
Holbein 1538: Nobleman
Holbein 1538: Canon
Holbein 1538: Judge
Holbein 1538: Lawyer
Holbein 1538: Senator
Holbein 1538: Preacher
Holbein 1538: Priest
Holbein 1538: Monk
Holbein 1538: Nun
Old woman
Holbein 1538: Old woman
Holbein 1538: Physician
Holbein 1538: Astrologer
Rich man
Holbein 1538: Rich man
Holbein 1538: Merchant
Holbein 1538: Sailor
Holbein 1538: Knight
Holbein 1538: Count
Old man
Holbein 1538: Old man
Holbein 1538: Countess
Holbein 1538: Noblewoman
Holbein 1538: Duchess
Holbein 1538: Peddler
Holbein 1538: Peasant
Holbein 1538: Child
Judgment Day
Holbein 1538: Judgment Day
The escutcheon
Holbein 1538: The escutcheon
Holbein 1547: Soldier
Holbein 1547: Waggoner
Holbein 1547: Gambler
Holbein 1547: Robber
Blind man
Holbein 1547: Blind man
Holbein 1547: Beggar
Holbein 1547: Drunkard
Holbein 1547: Fool
Young woman
Holbein 1562: Young woman
Young man
Holbein 1562: Young man
Holbein 1547: Child
Holbein 1547: Children
Holbein 1547: Children
Holbein 1547: Children
Holbein 1562: Children
Holbein 1562: Children
Holbein 1562: Children
Creation, 1547
Holbein 1547: Creation, 1547
Old Testament
Holbein 1843: Old Testament
Old Testament
Holbein 1843: Old Testament
Old Testament
Holbein 1843: Old Testament
Holbein : Scabbard
Holbein : Scabbard
Holbein : Scabbard
Holbein : Scabbard
Holbein : Scabbard
Holbein 1545: Beggar

Other interpreters of Holbein's dance of death

Trechsel, printer's mark, usus me genuit


Hans Holbein (1526) - so-called proofs
→ Hans Holbein (1538) ←
Heinrich Aldegrever (1541)
Heinrich Vogtherr (1544)
Vincenzo Valgrisi (1545)
Arnold Birckmann (1555)
Juan de Icíar (1555)
Valentin Wagner (1557)
Jiří Melantrich (1563)
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)
Erbaulicher Sterb-Spiegel (1704)
Salomon van Rusting (1707)
T. Nieuhoff Piccard (1720)
Christian de Mechel (1780)
David Deuchar (1788)
John Bewick (1789)
Alexander Anderson (1810)
Wenceslaus Hollar (1816)
"Mr. Bewick" (1825)
Ludwig Bechstein (1831)
Joseph Schlotthauer (1832)
Francis Douce (1833)
Carl Helmuth (1836)
Francis Douce (1858, 2. edition)
Henri Léon Curmer (1858)
Tindall Wildridge (1887)
Thy Grief (2022)

Footnotes: (1)

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.