Le Roux de Lincy & Tisserand, 1867

The authority introduces the dance.
The four musicians were added in 1486

The first time Guy Marchant's books were reprinted in modern times was in the book "Paris et ses historiens aux 14e et 15e siècles" by Antoine Jean Victor Le Roux de Lincy and Lazare Maurice Tisserand.

Below the image of the authority (to the left) it says, »Fac-simile héliographique / A. Durand et Le Maire«. One must admit that these "heliographies" from 1867 are impressive: The images are clearly rendered, and even sharper than many of the original prints.

In fact Lincy & Tisserand had an important third partner, namely the emperor's right hand. As it says on the front page: »Fondée avec l'approbation de l'Empereur par M. le Baron Haussmann, Senateur, Préfet de la Seine«. Baron Haussmann was senator in the second French Empire, and prefect of the Seine. The latter title was the highest ranking commissary in Paris, and it was Haussmann, who stood behind the radical renovation of Paris, where no less than 60% of the buildings were demolished, rebuilt or changed during only 18 years.

It was useful to have the backing of this powerful and efficient technocrat, whenever access was needed to precious works all over the empire. Tisserand tells at the beginning of the chapter about Marchant's first edition from 1485: "the unique exemplar, which belongs to the public library of Grenoble (No. 16.020), and which Mr. Mayor of that city was quick to make available to Mr. Prefect of the Seine".(1)

Unfortunately this copy lacks the first leaf, so it had been necessary to also use the Miroer Salutaire from 1486. Therefore this reproduction also includes those figures that Marchant had added in this second edition, viz. the four musicians (picture to the right) and the 10 new men (e.g. legate and duke).

The same can be read from the title page (after page 290): »La danse macabre reproduite textuellement d'après l'unique exemplaire connu de l'édition princeps de Guyot Marchant (Paris, 1485) et complétée avec l'édition de 1486«.

The problem is that is is simply not true.

Tisserand's text often deviates from the 1485- and 1486-versions. Many of these deviations are of course small, but some are harder to explain, and often it is possible to find Tisserand's variant in other books.

One example is found in the start, where Tisserand lets the first musician say: »Vous qui par commune ordonnance / Vives en estatz tant divers«, whereas the text in Miroer Salutaire goes: »Vous par diuine sentence / Qui viues en estatz diuers«. But this change was not invented freely for we also find »commune ordonnance« in the publications of Jean Belot and Jean Trepperel.

There's no mistaking Lincy & Tisserand's claim: They have used the 1485-edition, the only copy of which resides in Grenoble, and they have used the 1486-edition from the Imperial library. They reproduce both colophons, which state that the two books were printed 28th September 1485 and 7th June 1486 respectively. Thus there is no possible doubt that they have used those very two copies that today are online accessible at the Bibliothèques Municipales de Grenoble and the Gallica respectively. Still there's no way around the fact that they, no matter what they write, have looked in other than these two books, and that they for inscrutable reasons have preferred these variants.

Miroer Salutaire, 1486:
"Lomme sen vad point"

We cannot know why Lincy & Tisserand have done so and why they haven't told about it. On the other hand we can clearly see what they have done: Lincy & Tisserand have simply copied the text that Louis-Catherine Silvestre published in 1858. We can find all the same variants in Silvestre's book.

Silvestre. Lomme or Comme?

Silvestre had used the 1486-version, the 1491-version, a version by Vérard, an unknown version, that might be by Marchant, and a version from Geneva 1503. It was apparently in the latter book that Silvestre found most of these variants, and which Lincy & Tisserand uncritically have copied.

The two texts — Tisserand and Silvestre — are quite identical. Even the punctuation is the same. The interested reader might take a look at a comparison of the entire text.

This also explains one of the other errors. It's impossible to mistake a C for an L in Miroer Salutaire, but evidently Lincy & Tisserand have never looked in this book. They have copied from Silvestre's book, where those two letters can easily be confused (picture to the right). That's why they (mistakenly) write »Comme sen va point« instead of »Lomme sen va point«.

A third detail that shows Lincy & Tisserand have copied Silvestre is that they include a ballad starting: »Puis que ainsi est que la mort soit certainne«. This ballad is not to be found in Marchant's 1485-edition, which only contains La Danse Macabre. So if Lincy & Tisserand had copied the 1485-edition and only used the 1486-edition to replace the missing first leaf, they would not have included this ballad.

In contrast the 1486-edition is an anthology, containing the men's dance, the women's dance and lots of other texts (see a description of the 1486-edition). Silvestre has copied all of these texts for his edition, but there was no reason for Lincy & Tisserand to include this ballad, if it wasn't because they had copied from Silvestre.

As already mentioned, Silvestre hadn't used the 1485-edition. Evidently he didn't have the backing of Baron Haussmann to get access to rare first editions from Grenoble. So the truth is that even if Lincy & Tisserand claim their text was based on the 1485-edition, the 1485-edition is not used at all in the text, which they have copied.

It seems that the "exemplaire unique", which Mr. Mayor of Grenoble had been so quick to make available to Mr. Prefect of the Seine, has only been used to make a copy of the colophon.


Tisserand's (or rather: Silvestre's) text later became the base for Valentin Dufour's books about La Danse Macabre. In 1945 Edward Frank Chaney reprinted the text in "La danse macabré des charniers des Saints Innocents à Paris" and translated it to English.

Chaney evidently believed that »Puis que ainsi est que la mort soit certainne« was an integral part of the dance, and so he also translated these four verses of the ballad: »Since it is the case that death is certain […]«, before finishing his translation with: »Here ends the men's macabre dance«.


Further Information

Footnotes: (1)

Paris et ses historiens aux XIVe et XVe siècles, page 289: »Quant aux éditions françaises, elles ont pour point de départ le volume de Guy ou Guyot Marchant, exemplaire unique qui appartient à la bibliothèque publique de Grenoble (n° 16,020), et que M. le Maire de cette ville s'est empressé de mettre à la disposition de M. le Préfet de la Seine«.

I thought at first that "M. le Maire" was the same person who has put his name under the image of the authority (»A. Durand et Le Maire«), but Tisserand has an almost identical text on page 523, where the mayor of Grenoble has once again been quick to make another unique copy available to »le Sénateur Préfet de la Seine«, and this time "maire" is written in lowercase (even if "Sénateur" and "Préfet" are capitalized).