Lyon: Melchior & Gaspar Trechsel fratres, 1538. 4o: A-G4. [$3 signed] Unpaginated [55pp.] 4 ¾ x 6 ½ in. First edition. Bound in dark blue morroco with gilt title to spine, gilt stamping details inside boards, gilt to edges, brown comb marbled paper endpapers. Near fine, rubbing to boards along spine. Item #6345
An unusual fragmented example of the first edition of The Dance of Death, containing all of the 41 woodblock prints famously and brilliantly illustrated by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) and much of the text by Jean de Vauzelles; this copy, however, does not include the prose pieces following the main illustrated section.
The 41 woodcuts depict death as personified by a skeleton, intruding into and seizing people of various walks of life, from Pope to ploughman – though treating the rich and powerful with harsher punishments, and pointedly critiquing the Catholic Church. A predecessor and enduring inspiration to later satirical paintings and political cartoons, Holbein created the woodcuts between 1523 and 1525, early in his career while living in Basel.
Though this copy of The Dance of Death lacks some of the text, it is still an extremely rare glimpse at Holbein’s first edition prints, one of the most significant examples of printed illustration in the 16th century.