Ann Tukey writes about this book:
The first modern edition of the poem was published in 1869.
The editor, P.-L. Miot-Frochot, like many scholars of his day,
did not adhere to the rigorous conventions of manuscript transcription
normally followed today. He combined lines from several
manuscripts without explanation, illustrated his edition with
nineteenth-century adaptations of the illuminations in F
redesigned to imitate woodcuts, and modified lines of text without
comment. Although his volume is attractive and readable, it is not reliable by modern standards.
Louise Götz published a meticulous transcription of C, one of the manuscripts Miot-Frochot
used, in 1934. Because this is the cleanest of the five
surviving manuscripts, her version of the poem can be called definitive.
(Ann Tukey Harrison, The Danse Macabre of Women: Ms. Fr. 995, page 1)
I have included a large quote because while much of it is true, some parts are misleading or even decidedly wrong.
First of all, P.-L. Miot-Frochot's book from 1869 is not »The first modern edition«, because Silvestre had copied woodcuts and text for both men and women 10 years earlier. The whole dance had also been reprinted in 1862 with the original text from 1485/1486.
However, the greatest misunderstanding is when Tukey writes that Miot-Frochot »combined lines from several manuscripts without explanation«. In fact Miot-Frochot has only used one single source for the text, namely MS 25434, which Miot-Frochot considered to be the most reliable: »Et d'abord, c'est le seul manuscrit […] qui offre le texte le plus correct et le plus pur. Tous les autres manuscrits ne sont que des variantes ou des copies, […]« ("First of all, it is the only manuscript […] that offers the most correct and purest text. All other manuscripts are merely variants or copies, […]"). Ann Tukey calls this manuscript "C", »C, one of the manuscripts Miot-Frochot used«, while Miot-Frochot calls it by its old name, Célestins 47.
The images are simple copies of the lavishly illustrated BNF 995 called "F" by Ann Tukey. This is also true for the frontispiece (picture to the right), which depicts Death on a pale horse and was taken from one of the other texts in the BNF 995. The text is placed above and below each woodcut (see example to the left).
The book follows the text in MS 25434 slavishly, which we can see in several ways:
There are 32 women, viz. those who were included in MS 25434. This means that we don't encounter the abbess, prioress, bigot woman or fool, even though they are included in the BNF 995.
The sequence is also the one that's being followed in MS 25434. This means that the images do not appear in the same sequence as they do in the BNF 995.
Both the frontispiece (picture to the top, right) and the title of the book claim Marcial d'Avergne as the author of the poem: »La Grant dance macabre des femmes, que composa maistre Marcial de Paris, dit d'Auvergne«. The only manuscript to make such an assertion is the MS 25434.
The headings are those from MS 25434, which means that we see oddities like two women both being called "La vielle", and the suitoress, who's normally called La femme amoureuse, is now called "La femme commune" (picture to the left).
Let us look at the book on its own terms. The deviations in the texts can be categorized thus:
|This manuscript does not have any illustrations.|
Punctuations has been added: comma, full stop, exclamation and question marks.
Death to the knight's wife lacks a word in the 8th line: "si". Death to the woman with crutches gets an extra word in the 5th line: "vos", while a "ceaulx" in the 8th line of Death to the wet nurse.(1)
The above list of errors is fairly complete and since it's only single words that vary, we can see there is no place where "Miot-Frochot has »combined lines from several manuscripts without explanation«. Most of these errors are plain careless errors, but some of them are because of the peculiarities of the manuscript (picture to the right). The only place where Miot-Frochot has used another source is the third line of the witch' speech. The reason is that this line is missing in MS 25434.
So the book is not without error, but with its illustrations and readable type it is a less dry introduction to the old manuscript. Fortunately in the best of possible worlds you don't have to choose but can still read the reliable transcript of MS 25434.
The book was published in only 100 copies, but the previous year, 1868, the text and the images had been published in »Le Bibliophile français«.
At the same time we can't ignore the fact that Götz made ca. 15 (trivial) errors too. Götz also left out a "que" in Death to the citizeness.
It is also a bit unfair to compare Miot-Frochot and Götz. MS 25434 is written in a special style where some of the words can be quite hard to read. Therefore I simply accept Götz' expertise, when she states, e.g. that the text says "ennuyt" and not "emmyt" (picture to the right), and that she is right, and Miot-Frochot is wrong.