Thielman Kerver has published a dance with Simon Vostre's 66 figures, but in a different design.
There are 2 figures per page, and below each figure is written a dactylic hexameter. Thus the whole work becomes an epic poem consisting of 66 hexameters.
This text has gained much publicity from early on.
The library in Toledo has a manuscript that allegedly is from the 11th century, which would make it the world's oldest dance of death text by far (picture to the right). The script contains only the first 23 texts; after that the titles alone are written down. Today most people agree that this manuscript isn't from the 11th century but is a transcription of Kerver's book from 1509.
In the same way, the University Library of Basel has a manuscript, Carmina ad Amerbachios Codex VIa 67, that contains the first 37 lines.
The text from Codex VIa 67 was later published by Wolfgang Stammler under the heading "Die Baseler Menschenverse". Stammler estimated the manuscript to be from ca. 1510, but most everybody else agree that it is a transcription of Kerver's book of hours, and not the other way around. The University Library of Basel puts the book down as being from the 16th or 17th century.
In 1540 Johann Gigas published a booklet named: »Hoc libello continentur infrascripta Dialogus christiani et mortis […]«. The fourth and last chapter was this Latin dance of death: »Addita est querela Heroica omnium statuum de inmatura Morte. Autore incerto«. Evidently the author was unknown already then: "Autore incerto".
In 1544 Jobst Denecker published a copy of Holbein's dance of death illustrated by Heinrich Vogtherr. In the accompanying text every page ends with a Latin quote, which was found in the abovementioned »Hoc libello continentur infrascripta Dialogus christiani et mortis […]«. Most of them are from Kerver's marginals.
In the book "Beschreibung Des so genannten Todten-Tantzes" from 1705 by Paul Christian Hilscher, chapter 6 is named "Todten-tantz in einem alten Buche". This chapter consists of a description of a book of hours by Thielman Kerver from 1515. Hilscher reproduces 62 of the lines (one leaf with 4 figures is missing), and he translates them into German. One example: "Mors & papa. Cum Deus in terris habear cur morte cadendum est?" is translated into, "Der Todt und Papst: Auff Erden bin ich Gott / und dennoch muß ich sterben".
In the preface to the German translation of Het schouw-toneel des doods from 1736, pastor Johann Georg Meinteler has a long preface discussing various dances of death. Most of this article is a critical review of Hilscher's book, and Meinteler himself quotes from a copy of Kerver from 1511.
The title page from pastor Meinteler's exemplar says "vna cum figuris apocalypsis post figuras biblie recenter insertis", and Meinteler concludes that since the "figures from the Apocalypse" and the "figures from the Bible" have been "recently inserted", then it follows that the dance of death in turn must be older than 1511.
Moving towards slightly more modern times, the Latin text has been transcribed in "Nederlandsch archief voor kerkelijke geschiedenis" from 1844 and in "Libri membranacei a stampa della Biblioteca marciana di Venezia, dichiarati" from 1870 (see the external links).
On the present page I have used the two most recent sources (i.e. "Libri membranacei" and "Nederlandsch archief"). I have compared the two texts and placed the result over each image.
Kerver places his dancers two by two, unlike Simon Vostre who has three in each column.
The sequence is not the same either, and four of the men have been moved over to the women (I assume the child is a boy since there were only men in la danse macabre).
It is quite logical that the Franciscan monk is paired with the Franciscan nun, but it is more difficult to see why the suitor ("Amator") is not placed together with the suitoress ("Amatrix"), and why the child is not placed with the pregnant woman, the wet-nurse or the midwife.
Click any picture below to jump into the dance, or continue to the same dance in Dutch and Spanish.
The next chapter is about a Dutch translation of Thielman Kerver.
The previous subject was Jean de Coulonces.