Danse Macabre, Rouen

La Grand Dance Macabre des Hommes & des Femmes: Historiée & augmentée de beaux dicts en Latin.
Guillaume de la Mare, Rouen
The woodcut of prioress and young woman was also used for the abbess and the noblewoman - just like in Troyes.
Guillaume de la Mare, Prioress and young woman

The front page states that the book was printed in Rouen by Guillaume de la Mare, but there is no indication of what year.

Langlois estimates the year to be »150?« and expounds: »Cette édition, en lettres rondes, parait être du commencement de xvie siècle«,(1) while Tisserand writes »Rouen, 15..«.

At a glance the books appears to be considerably younger. The woodcuts are very reminiscent of the books that were published in Troyes around 1700 and after 1766. The typeface is also relatively modern — as Langlois remarks: »en lettres rondes«.

At any rate there can be no doubt that the source for this book was not the Parisian publications, but the books from Troyes. Just like in Troyes the woodcut of the abbess and the noblewoman is missing, and like in Troyes the problem was solved by reusing the woodcut of prioress and young woman (picture to the right) — and then to exchange the sequence of this couple and the shepherdess and the woman with crutches.

Nun and witch (and spinster and Franciscan nun and citizeness and widow).
Guillaume de la Mare, Nun and witch
Bride and darling wife (and regent and knight's wife and newlywed and pregnant).
Guillaume de la Mare, Bride and darling wife

Just like in Troyes, the woodcut of spinster and Franciscan nun is missing too. In Troyes this problem was solved by reusing the woodcut of citizeness and widow, but in Rouen this woodcut was evidently missing too, so instead the woodcut of nun and witch (picture to the left) was used thrice. The result is that the Franciscan nun (and the widow) stands with a witches' broom in her hand.

The woodcuts of regent and knight's wife and newlywed and pregnant must have disappeared too, because the woodcut of the bride and darling wife (picture to the right) was used thrice.

The text also shows the mutations that we meet in Troyes 1531, ca. 1600 and 1641.. Examples of textual variants common to Troyes and Rouen are:

The text also shows that Rouen is closer to the edition from 1641 than to the 1531 edition. E.g. the halberdier is called »Lauenturier« in 1531, but »L'Aduanturier« in ca. 1600 and Rouen (in the 1641 edition the A is missing: »L'duanturier«). Death's call to the hermit (which originally was directed backwards to the clerk), goes: »Hermite point ne fault faire refus« in 1531, but »Hermitte ne faictes refus« and »Hermite ne faites refus« in ca. 1600, 1641 and Rouen.

The book contains not just the men's and women's dance, but also a long row of other edifying texts, that we know from the books in Paris, Troyes and Lyon. Besides the legend of the three living and three dead (two versions), and La dance aux aveugles all three books declare on the front page that they contain "The discussion between body and soul", "The lament of the damned soul", "Exhortation to live well and die well", "The life of the evil Antichrist", "The 15 signs" and "Judgment".

This is formally correct, but the versions from Troyes ca. 1600, 1641 and Rouen also contain two subjects that are not announced on the frontpage, viz.: "les signes precedens du iugements general" and "dictions et proverbs de la mort". In fact the versions from ca. 1600 and Rouen are fully identical except that some of the texts towards the end have not been illustrated with stock woodcuts.

Based on content and text we must conclude that the estimate of "the beginning of the 1500ies" does not hold water. The book is from after 1531 (and maybe even later than 1600), but at any rate closer to 1600 than to 1531.


The last page ends: »Fin de la dance Maquabré«.

External links

Further Information

Footnotes: (1)

Eustache-Hyacinthe Langlois, Essai historique, philosophique et pittoresque sur les Danses des morts, 1852, vol. 1, page 336.