Danse Macabre, Lyon, 1501

Claude Nourry, 1501
Claude Nourry, Claude Nourry

On the previous page we examined an edition of La Danse Macabre printed by Matthias Huss in Lyon in 1499.

The book to the left was printed two years later in the same town by Claude Nourry. According to the table of contents on the frontpage, the book contains exactly the same as Huss' book, because the two tables are wholly identical except for the addition of a single word: »de«: »La grant danse macabre des hommes & des femmes hystoriee et augmentee de beaulx dis en latin. Le debat du corps & de lame. La complainte de lame dampnee. Exortation de bien viure & de bien mourir. La vie du mauluais antecrist. Les quinze signes. Le iugement«.

The resales woman standing behind a table
Claude Nourry, Resales woman and suitoress

The book appears rather jumbled: After the men's dance, but before the dead king and the authority, the women's dance starts with 12 pairs of women. Only then is the dead king and the authority allowed to round the men's dance off.

Then the authority and the four musicians introduce the women's dance, which starts with the queen and the duchess, but it ends again after only 4 pairs. This means that the book all in all only contains 32 out of the 36 women.

After the women comes the text from la dance aux aveugles, but the text begins in the middle of the third verse. We meet the three dead twice, but not the three living.

The sample to the right shows a peculiar detail about this book: All the scenes have a musical cadaver to the left. There are four different of these.

Schoolmaster and soldier
Claude Nourry, Schoolmaster and soldier
Exhortation to live well & die well
Claude Nourry, Exhortation

Various details reveal that this book is not a copy of the Parisian books (let alone a copy of the writing on the wall of St. Innocents), but rather a copy of Matthias Huss' book from 1499.

The picture to the right illustrates the text "Exortation de bien viure & bien mourir" (Exhortation to live well and die well). This text is normally illustrated with a woodcut of a cadaver rising from his coffin in a churchyard, but both here and in Huss' book the scene is different: A young, rich woman inspects her jewelry, but is surprised by Death in women's clothing with coffin and scythe.

But even though Nourry has copied the image from Huss, the two scenes are not quite identical: In Huss' version, Death wears a "hennin" — a conical veiled hat, while Death on the image to the right wears the same headdress as the woman herself. Death is a mirror of its victim.

Compositor and printers
Claude Nourry, Printers

The scene with Death coming for the printers has also been copied after Matthias Huss' image of printers and booktrader, which is obvious since this scene is not known from any other dance of death. Nourry has also adopted the same strange placement: Not at the end of the dance as one would think, but between astrologer and canon.

Here too there are great differences between the two images. Claude Nourry does not include the booktrader in his picture, so instead two verses are assigned to the compositor, Le compositeur, along with Les imprimeurs.

Here is the text. The first and second verse in Huss' edition are almost the same as Nourry's first and fourth:

      ¶ Le mort

¶ Venez danser vng tourdion
Compositeur legierement
Venez tost pour conclusion
Mourir vous fault certainement
Faictes vng sault habillement
Lettres & capse vous fault laisser
Reculer ny fault nullement
Le pas de mort fault tous passer.

      ¶ Le mort

¶ Sus auant vous viendrez apres
Imprimeurs/ or marchez auant
Despeschez vous a motz expres
Laissez la presse maintenant
Plus ne fauldra doresenauant
Desiuner de si bon matin
Ne vous leuer iusques au iour grant
Toutes choses prendront fin.

      ¶ Le compositeur

Me fault il maulgre moy danser
Et laisser le bruit de la presse
Encore cuidoye composer
Ma forme/ mais fault que la laisse
Car vecy la mort qui mopresse
Mourir men voy il plaist a dieu
A vng autre ma place laisse
Du force regne droit na lieu.

      ¶ Les imprimeurs

Helas ou aurons nous recours
Puis que la mort nous espie
Imprime auons tous les cours
De la saincte theologie
Loix/ decret & poeterie.
Par nostre art plusieurs sont grans clers
Releuee en est clergie
Les vouloirs des gens sont diuers

The book ends by stating that it was printed in Lyon sur le Rosne (the river Rhône) by Claude Nourry on the last day of August, 1501: »Cy finist la dance macabre des hommes & des femmes hystoriee & augmentee de personnages & beaulx dictz en latin. Le debat du corps & de lame. La complainte de lame dampnee. Exortation de bien viure & de bien mourir. La vie de antecrist. Les .xv. signes. Et le iugement. Imprime a lyon sur le rosne par Claude nourry le dernier iour daoult mil cinq & vng«.



Around 1515 Claude Nourry took the last name "le Prince" and from now on he signed his books, "Claude Nourry dict le Prince". He died in 1533.

His successor took the same name, and in 1537 Pierre de Saincte Lucie Dict le Prince published yet another book with La Danse Macabre. This book has different woodcuts than Claude Nourry's, but both series ultimately go back to Antoine Vérard's books.

It was also in Lyon that most editions of Hans Holbein's great dance of death were printed.

External links

Further Information

Claude Nourry
Claude Nourry 1501: Claude Nourry
Claude Nourry 1501: Authority
Schoolmaster and soldier
Claude Nourry 1501: Schoolmaster and soldier
Claude Nourry 1501: Authority
Claude Nourry 1501: Exhortation
Claude Nourry 1501: Printers
Resales woman and suitoress
Claude Nourry 1501: Resales woman and suitoress
Troys Maries
Claude Nourry 1519: Troys Maries