Marginal thinking: Thielman Kerver

The manuscript from 1001-1100.
There's a repetition in the astrologer: "Sidera non duram possunt non avertere mortem"
Toledo

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 Pope: "Cum deus in terris habear quid morte cadendum est".
Thielman Kerver, Pope
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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".

  4. 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.

  5. 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".

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

Click any picture below to jump into the dance, or continue to the same dance in Dutch and Spanish.

Go forth
 

The next chapter is about a Dutch translation of Thielman Kerver.

The previous subject was Guillaume Godard / Vérard.

Thielman Kerver's 66 Latin dancers

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.

Pope
Thielman Kerver 1511: Pope
Emperor
Thielman Kerver 1511: Emperor
Cardinal
Thielman Kerver 1511: Cardinal
King
Thielman Kerver 1511: King
Patriarch
Thielman Kerver 1511: Patriarch
Connétable
Thielman Kerver 1511: Connétable
Archbishop
Thielman Kerver 1511: Archbishop
Knight
Thielman Kerver 1511: Knight
Bishop
Thielman Kerver 1511: Bishop
Nobleman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Nobleman
Abbot
Thielman Kerver 1511: Abbot
Provost
Thielman Kerver 1511: Provost
Astrologer
Thielman Kerver 1511: Astrologer
Citizen
Thielman Kerver 1511: Citizen
Canon
Thielman Kerver 1511: Canon
Merchant
Thielman Kerver 1511: Merchant
Carthusian
Thielman Kerver 1511: Carthusian
Sergeant
Thielman Kerver 1511: Sergeant
Monk
Thielman Kerver 1511: Monk
Usurer
Thielman Kerver 1511: Usurer
Lawyer
Thielman Kerver 1511: Lawyer
Minstrel
Thielman Kerver 1511: Minstrel
Parish priest
Thielman Kerver 1511: Parish priest
Peasant
Thielman Kerver 1511: Peasant
Clerk
Thielman Kerver 1511: Clerk
Hermit
Thielman Kerver 1511: Hermit
Queen
Thielman Kerver 1511: Queen
Duchess
Thielman Kerver 1511: Duchess
Regent
Thielman Kerver 1511: Regent
Suitor
Thielman Kerver 1511: Suitor
Physician
Thielman Kerver 1511: Physician
Knight's wife
Thielman Kerver 1511: Knight's wife
Abbess
Thielman Kerver 1511: Abbess
Noblewoman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Noblewoman
Prioress
Thielman Kerver 1511: Prioress
Young woman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Young woman
Citizeness
Thielman Kerver 1511: Citizeness
Child
Thielman Kerver 1511: Child
Nun
Thielman Kerver 1511: Nun
Widow
Thielman Kerver 1511: Widow
Franciscan Monk
Thielman Kerver 1511: Franciscan Monk
Franciscan nun
Thielman Kerver 1511: Franciscan nun
Merchant's wife
Thielman Kerver 1511: Merchant's wife
Bailiff's wife
Thielman Kerver 1511: Bailiff's wife
Theologianess
Thielman Kerver 1511: Theologianess
Just married
Thielman Kerver 1511: Just married
Spinster
Thielman Kerver 1511: Spinster
Shepherdess
Thielman Kerver 1511: Shepherdess
Suitoress
Thielman Kerver 1511: Suitoress
Bride
Thielman Kerver 1511: Bride
Lovely
Thielman Kerver 1511: Lovely
Maiden
Thielman Kerver 1511: Maiden
Whore
Thielman Kerver 1511: Whore
Wetnurse
Thielman Kerver 1511: Wetnurse
Old woman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Old woman
Resales woman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Resales woman
Crutches
Thielman Kerver 1511: Crutches
Peasant Woman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Peasant Woman
Chambermaid
Thielman Kerver 1511: Chambermaid
Housekeeper
Thielman Kerver 1511: Housekeeper
Midwife
Thielman Kerver 1511: Midwife
Young woman
Thielman Kerver 1511: Young woman
Pregnant
Thielman Kerver 1511: Pregnant
Witch
Thielman Kerver 1511: Witch
Bigot
Thielman Kerver 1511: Bigot
Fool
Thielman Kerver 1511: Fool

External links