.. .. J.
ALPHABET OF DEATH
ILLUSTRATED WITH OLD BORDERS ENGRAVED ON WOOD
WITH LATIN SENTENCES AND ENGLISH QUATRAINS
ANATOLE DE MONTAIGLON
PRINTED FOR EDWIN TROSS
28, Rue des Bons Enfants M DCCCLVI
THOMAS WRIGHT, ESQ., M.A., F.S.A
this edition of the Alphabet of Death is respectfuly dedicated by
The life and works of the great German painter, Hans Holbein, and the question of the Dance of Death are, for historical inquirers, an admirable subject, on which nothing has yet been said that can be held really satisfactory; but the limits of this note are necessarily so confined as to leave no space even for a view of them.
For the artist, it is only necessary to refer the reader to Sandrart, to the latin catalogue written by Charles Patin as an introduction to his edition of the Encomnm Moride, to Fuessli, to Walpoles Anecdotes of Painting in England, and to J. P. Mariettas remarks on this last work, recently printed in his Abcdario. It is said that Ml Passavant has been many years occupied in collecting materials for a complete monography of Holbein; so that, as the attempt is worthy of him, and he is fit for the task, we may hope to have the long wanted life and catalogue
executed in a superior manner. On the Dance of Death, several interesting books have been published, among which it is almost unnecessary to name those of Gabriel Peignot, Francis Douce, and Hyacinthe Langlois. Here we have only to speak of the Alphabet itself.
Engraved by Hans Lutzelburger, as now thought by the most competent critics, it was first used at Basle about the year 1530 by the famous printers Be-belius and Cratander, and we refer to Douces remarks (p. 214-18) on the question for the titles of the books in which it was employed, and for the numerous copies and imitations made of it. We will only repeat with him that these initial letters, in elegance of design and delicacy of engraving, have scarcely ever been equalled, and certainly never surpassed. They may in every point of view be regarded as the chef-doeuvre of ancient block engraving.
Seven years ago, in 1849, the whole series was anew elegantly copied on wood by Professor H. Lo-del of Gottingen, and published in a little 8V0 volume, with George Osterwalds lithographed borders, by I. M. Heberle at Cologne Bonn and Brussels. Our new edition gives the same letters, real gems of engraving on wood, but, as a worthy illustration, accompanies them with the two Dances of Death, the one more Gothic in form, the other more coarsely engraved, but yet perhaps more artistical, which are
found in the well known Simon Vostres Horse. These two Dances, as well as the ornamental borders, all taken from different books, are engraved with a fidelity and elegance on which our readers may pronounce, by Mr Leon Le Maire, of Paris, who has also copied on the title Holbeins Escutcheon of Death from the Imagines Mortis.
On these letters we will now add a curious remark, which, we believe, has not yet been made. In the eleven first letters we find the subjects in the traditional order without any relation between them. So we see, as in all the series, the Dance begun by the Death the musician, and followed, in order of rank, by the Pope, the Emperor, the King, the Cardinal, the Empress, the Bishop, the Nobleman, the Burgess or Merchant, and the Priest. But, from the letter M to the end, it may be remarked, and I owe this hint to M1 Henry Bordier, that each letter is the beginning of the Latin name of the character represented.
So, at M we see the Medicus; at N the banker, Numerarius; at 0 a fat monk, Obesas monachus; at P a fighting soldier, Prseliator. The Q is less clear; the obedient nun who quietly follows Death, might however be called in Latin : Quieta, quassata, or queribunda monacha. But the R is quite certain, for we find in it: Ridens or ridiculus fatuus. In the S we have the luxurious woman, Scortum. The T is
somewhat troublesome; yet in the minstrel driven to the ground and urged to drink by a facetious skeleton, we may read Titubans homo. At V the galloping horseman is perhaps Velox homo; at W the ancient hermit is Wetustlssimus homo, the superlative being marked by the repetition of the same letter. At X we have deceitful gamesters, Xycophantes, and this change of S into X is not at all inadmissible, since in the subsequent letter the artist has used Ynfans, when the ordinary form is infans. As to Z, it is used like the Greek Q to import the idea of the end, and consequently the artist has put in it the last judgment, the end of this earthly world, as Z is the end of the Alphabet. Some of these interpretations may Certainly be modified and improved, but we hold as undisputable the idea of seeking in the last thirteen letters the beginning of the Latin name of the intended characters.
One word more, and I close this note. A literary selector of Latin sentences on Death might be able to choose from Greek, Roman and old Christian authors, most magnificent extracts ; but such a thing was quite impossible for us. Here we had to give twenty-four sentences, of a limited extent, each beginning by a different letter; and only long enough to surround and support the letter in conformity with typographical exigencies. As to the quatrains, we might reprint the translation written in 1794 by
DEATH CAM DRVVYN'G AFTER AND AL TO DUSTE PASSHED, KYNGES AND KNYGHTES KAYSERS AND POPES x LERED AND LEWED,
HE LET NO MAN STONDE THAT HE HITTE EVENE,
THAT EVERE STIRRED AFTER. MANYE A LOVELY LADY,
AND LEMMANS OF KNYGHTES, SWOWNED AND SWELTED FOR SORWE OF HIS DYNTES,
(PIERS PLOUGHMAN, Passus XX,
pud mortem non est acceptio personam m. Necmi-serelur pupillo, nee defert senio-ri, nec timet potentem, necvere-tur nobilem, nec horret pauperem aut ignobilem, nec dimittit divi-tem aut potentem, nec contemnit infirmem aut debilem, nec evitat fortem, nec pareit sapienti, nec insipienti.
0 creatures, ye that ben resonable,
Who alle shalle trace the daunce of MacabrS, Ye may here tern doctrine ful notable,
How dethe ne spareth high ne low degre.
onorum mors non est nisi accele-ratio glorificatio-nis, diruptio car-ceris, finis pere-grinationis, portus navigations, contritio laquei, depositio vetustse vestis, iuduitio novae, depositio ponderis, dejectio atrocissimi ho-stis, solutio debiti naturalis.
0 thou that ofalle estates spiritiialte In erthe art set moste high in digniU Upon this daunce firste begynne thou sliallet As moste worthy by thy soverainU.
ertum est quod morieris, et in-(crtuin quando aut quomodo aut ubi, quoniam u-bique te mors expectat. Tu quo-que, si sapiens fueris, ubique earn expectabis.
Sir emperour, lorde of alle the grounde, Soverayne pry nee and hieste of noblesse,
Ye moste forsake of golde your aple rounde, Sceptre and swerde, and alle your high
st mors naturalis et poenalis, naturalis per quam a-nima separator a corpore, poenalis vero est cum anima e virtutis vita emoritur et vivit in vita vitii.
Ye ben abas shed, it serneth, and in drede, Syre cardynalle; me thynketh by your chere ; But yil forthy ye folowe shale in dede With othere folk, my daunce for to lere.
inis noster abs-conditus est nobis; venturi exi-tus ignorantia nobis incerta est; improvisus occursus, incertus e-ventus et finis omnium. Dum ne-scimus repente mors venit; dum non sestimamus, improvisi tolli-mur; dum ignoramus, repente subtrahimur.
S. ISIDORITS HISPANUS.
Ye han not lerned here afore to daunce No daunce in sothe of fotynge so sage,
Where for ye see by clere demonstraunce What pryde is worth, force, or high lynage.
ermana corruptio-nis mors est, de-sperationis domi-na, incredulitatis mater, inferni parens, diaboli conjunx, omnium malorum regina.
S. PETRUS CHRYSOLOGUS.
Madame,in sot he, ther is non other bote; Dethe hath in erthe no lady ne maistresse, But on this daunce ije moste nedisfote,
Al, be ye queue, countesse, or duchesse.
jEcparia sunt. Non eris, nec fuisti, utrumque tempus alienum est. In hoc pundiim con-jectus es: quodut extendas, quous-que extendes? Quid lies? Quid optasPPerdis operam. Rata et fixa sunt, atque magna et seterna necessitate ducuntur. Eo ibis quo omnia eunt.
My lord, sir bisshope, ye maye not so ['Mthdrawe,
Se frowardly, as it were by disdeiyne,
Ye moste approche unto my mortale lawe It to contraire it were but in veyne.
hunc opprimit doloribus, hunc con-sumit fame, ilium siti extinguit, hunc suffocat aquis, ilium interi-mitlaqueo, ilium perimit flammis, hunc trucidat ferro, ilium veneno corrumpit, alterum repentino ter* rore miseram vitam flnire com-
Right nowe,sir prince,for alle your Mg finesse, The pompe ofwordely honoure yeshalle lete; Who moste hahoundeth here in gret richesse, Shalle here with hym but a single shete.
cum decollata fuisset, de ejus corpore lac ema-navit. Angeli au-tem corpus ejus accipientes ab illo loco ad montem Sinay itinere plus quam viginti deduxerunt, et ibidem honorifice sepelierunt. Ex cujus ossibus indesinenter oleum emanat, quod cunctorum debi-lium membra sanat. Passa est sub Maxentio sive Maximiano tyranno.
JACOBUS DE YORAGINE.
Ye that so longe worshipe and renoun Have had amonges ladles and barons,
Now moste ye from yourhighnesse come adoun, Forgettyng youre trompettes and clarions.
audans iavocabo Dominum et ab inimicis meis sal-vus ero. Circum-dederunt me do-lores mortis, et torrentes iniqui-tatis conturbaverimt me. Dolores inferni circumdederunt me; prae-occupaverunt me laquei mortis.
Farwelle, my tythes, farwelle, myne offe~
1 most go compie in ordre by and by,
And for my shepe make a juste reckonynge ; Whom God acqvMeth, I hold hym happy.
ors nihil aliud est quam peregrina-tionis terminus finis miserise, la-borum meta, exi-lii limes, janua patriae, nativitas vitae, principium beatitudinis, pri-mitiae primitiorum.
Maister of phisike, werketh not inveyne; Ayenste mymygth your sky lie may not endure, For alle your era fie and study ofmedycine, Lee he though ye be, youre self ye can not cure.
u l lius miseretur mors, nulli com-patitur, omnibus aequatur, inspe-rata venit, nulli parcit, corpus et animam separat, finis est laborum et ultima linea
HUGO A SANCTO VICTORS,
Thou usurer, loke up here at tny calle, Unto wynninge that setteste alle thy peyne; A perilouse stroke shat make the lese alle; Thy gredycheste thou filleste alle in veyne.
miser homo, quo-cumque te ver-teris, incerta om-mors
certa. Pauper es, incertum est an ditescas. lndo-ctus/incertum est an erudiaris. Imbecillis, incertum est an con-valescas. Natus es; certum est quia morieris, et in hoc ipso, quia mors certa est, dies mortis incer-tus est, itaque haec incerta.
S. AUGUSTINUS SUPER PSAL,
Sir corduler, to you myn hond is raught To this daunce you to conveye and lede, Which in your prechynge have ful ofte taught How l am most gastfulle for to drede.
e r rmmii homi-nem quemadmo-dum in mundum introivit ac per peccatum mors, et sic in omnes homines mors pervasit quatenus omnes pecca-verunt. Imo regnavit mors in eos qui non peccaverant ad similitu-dinem transgressionis Adam, qui typum gerit illius futuri.
PAULUS AD ROM. V.
Ye have assay led castelle and for ter esse, And thynhe youre self strenger than Charle-
But malgre alle youre worldely prouesse, With us to daunce Ishalle you nowe cons-. [trayne.
uoTiDiE morimur; quotidie enim de-initur aliqua pars vitae, et, tunc quo-que cum eresci-mus, vita decrescit; infantiam amisimus, deinde pueritiam, dein-de adolescentiam; usque ad hes>-ternum quidquid transiit temporis periit; hunc ipsum, quem agimus, diem cum morte dividimus.
SENECA, EPIST. 24.
Though ye be tendre and born of gentille
Unto this daunce Imoste be your gyde; Leveth your vayle, your wymple and your hode, And, while ye lyve, for your soule provyde.
emedium mors est, studiorum et cu-rarum ad vitam pertinentium va-cuitas. Mori non est malum, sed male mori pessi-mum.
S, JOANNES CHRYSOSTOMUS.
Thou that hast lyved ful ofte in jolyfte, Come forthe, sir fole,wyth baubel and wyth
For no man maye escape his destyne;
But, wyse or foie, deth muste be thyne happe.
ubitjE necessitati mortis vana spes non prsejudicatiB-tatis; quippe quae infantes, pueros, adolescentes pari ut senes sorte praecipit.
0 thou that many a man hast allurede, And made hym waste hys youthe in false ple-
Though in youre beaute ye ben moche assurede, Fit shalle ye atie laste joyne my da/unce.
vere, omnes servi tui vivunt, omnia animalia, sed magnum est honeste mori, prudenter, fortiter.
Alias! Syre galaunte, nowe mmt thmsaunz
Abate thy veyne glorie and thy pryde, And leve byhynde al worldely honoure9 For agenst dethe no thynge may abide.
lnera mea ecce non abscondo; medicus es; seger Mors, si-
cut nec sibi a quoquam sponte, nec cuiquam sponte inferenda est, ita, Deo jubente, reeusanda non est, cujus institutione quocumque tempore obeunda est.
Thou that hast lyved longe in wyldernesse} Must nowe take leve of thyne ermytage;
For ycheman knowethe welle this sentence, That in this liyfe is no sure heritage.
PilNI^BIII^al nem veneni e ma-nu carnilicis accepisset, admoto jam labris poculo, inter fletum et lamentationem vociferanti inno-centem eum perimi: Quid ergo? inquit. Nocenti mihi satius esse duxisli? 0 immensam illam sa-pientiam quae ne in ipso quidem vitae excessu oblivisci sui potuit!
Al youre passetyme has ben to shaken the
But throwe no more, for nowe it is youre
Maugre youre grete othes and wordes nyce, To folowe me bothe in the dedely daunce.
SA1AS filius Amos
que ad mortem et dixit ei: Dispone domui turn, quia morieris tu et non vives. Et dixit Ezechias Non videbo Dominum Deum in terra viven-tium. Generatio mea ablata est et convoluta est a me, sicut taber-naculum pastorum. Preecissa ve-lut a texente anima mea ; dum adhuc ordirer, incudit me.
Lytel enfount, that were but late borne, Schaped in this worlde to have no plesaunce, Thou moste wyth othere that are gone toforne Be led in haste by fatal ordynaunce.
rum A atque Â£1, omnis cursus vitae comprehensus significandus-que praebetur.
Remember alle there is no better victorie In this lyfe here than sle synne at leste, Thanne shalle ye regne in Paradys with glorie. Happy is he in hevene that makethe his feste.
OUR TERM OF LIFE DEPENDS NOT ON OUR
BEFORE OUR BIRTH OUR FUNERAL WAS
NOR AWD BY FORESIGHT, NOR MISLED BY
IMPERIOUS DEATH DIRECTS THE EBONS
PEOPLES GREAT HENRYS TUMBS, AND LEADS UP HOLBEINS DANCE.