Lübeck's dance of Death has inspired many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
No less than four books are more or less loosely based on the text from the painting.
The books are illustrated with the same woodcuts.
All the persons are standing in front of a wall with a hilly landscape in the background.
Death appears in 4 flavours but the picture of Death with arrow must have disappeared in the process
because it only appears in the first book.
The 4 books are:
- Des dodes dantz published in Lübeck 1489. The unknown author
bases this incunable on the painting in St. Mary's Church - curried with
quotes from devotional books like
Zwiegespräch zwischen Leben und Tod. This means that the
author has been close to the source
(the painting), but his work is based very freely on his sources(1).
- Dodendantz published in Lübeck 1520. This book is based on
"Des dodes dantz" and (once again) a little inspiration from
Zwiegespräch zwischen Leben und Tod and Berlin's dance of death.
This author has thus
used sources further removed from the painting, but on the other hand he has
diverged less from his sources.
- Copenhagen's Dance of Death published in Copenhagen and based upon
the above two Lübeckian books - using the same woodcuts. Several paragraphs are verbatim translations and rhyming words (and even whole sentences)
are copied un-translated and printed in Low German!
- Dødedantz published in Copenhagen 1634 contains no pictures
but the same text as Copenhagen's Dance of Death.
These books are extremely rare: There exist 3 copies of Des dodes dantz, 1 copy of Dodendantz (in Oxford),
1 defective copy of Copenhagen's Dance of Death and 1 copy of Dødedantz. This leaves room
for lots of speculations, like is Dodendantz older than Des dodes dantz?
how old is Copenhagen's Dance of Death?
and what was the original title of Copenhagen's Dance of Death?
In this Section:
Outside this Section:
This conclusion is taken from the book
by Brigitte Schulte.
The order on the painting in St. Mary's Church is made as we think it has been originally.
See the footnotes for the relevant pages here
The text in Dodendantz is so jumbled that it's sometimes hard to determine
the order of dancers.
Notice that the Danish translator thought that the nurse appeared before the journeyman.
See the section How to Make Your Own Dance of Death
part of the explanation.