Libellus de morte et vita aeterna, editio postrema. Cui additae sunt imagines mortis, illustratae epigrammatis G. Aemylii.



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Title of first part with large skull device, Part III title with woodcut device, 54 half-page Dance of Death woodcuts in Part II, woodcut initials throughout, Roman, Greek and Hebrew type. 

Two parts in one volume. 8vo (154 x 90mm). [16], 242, [158 (unnumbered)]; [2], 214pp. Contemporary red painted vellum over pasteboard, yapp edges, spine with title in MS at head, green edges, housed in modern slipcase (lacking ties, minor rubbing to colour). 

Wittenberg: M. Welack

The scarce, first illustrated edition of Lutheran theologian, pupil (and houseguest) of Melanchthon, David Chytraeus' (1530-1600) eschatological De morte et vita aeterna, with a striking Dance of Death woodcut series after Hans Holbein, printed in this sole edition. Holbein's original series inspired numerous imitators in subsequent centuries - one estimate suggests up to 100 imitators in the sixteenth century alone - but the series here has not been traced elsewhere and appears to exist solely in the present work. 

In these extraordinary woodcuts, the skeletal Death is depicted visiting all, Popes and peasants, cardinals and nobles, doctors and usurers, soldiers and children, farmers and pedlars; all are equal before him and none escapes him. Just as in Holbein's original cuts, Death here has character; 'he is in turn mocking, aggressive, determined, resigned, and exhibits real human emotion' (Dancing with Death; Glasgow University Gemmell Collection). Intended as a reminder to live a good life - none of these individuals, even the richest, are able to take anything with them when Death approaches - each woodcut illustrates humanist Reformer Georgius Aemelius, Georg Oemler (1517-1569)'s translations into Latin of the French verse epigrams that accompanied Holbein's woodcuts, by Gilles Corrozet. 

David Chytraeus (1531-1600), or Kochhafe, was professor at Rostock and spent considerable time travelling around Germany, stabilising the union and harmony of the emerging Lutheran Church. He was one of the six theologians engaged on the Form of Concord (1576) and had completely rewritten two articles of the Swabian Concord on Free Will and the Lord's Supper. In his youth he was a favourite of his master Melanchthon and lived in his house; in later life, however, he came to oppose some of Melanchthon's views. Of the three developing Lutheran parties Chytraeus was a member of the centrists, along with such theologians as Martin Chemnitz and Jakob Andreae.

Browning to leaves, Krippendorf's armorial exlibris removed from verso of title page (to pastedown?), overall a good copy in good condition. 

Provenance: 1. Contemporary ownership inscription of Magister Melchior in Arena (c.1594-1641) präzeptor at Göppingen at the time of inscribing, on title page: 'Sum M. Melch. in arena praeceptoris Göppingensis'. 2. Armorial exlibris of Heinrich August Krippendorf (1683-1743), dated 1726, his ownership inscription on title page. 3. ?Eighteenth-century inscription on title page. 4. William Wheeler Smith (1838-1908), New York architect and collector of early printed books, in particular the Dance of Death. This volume in the sale of his collection at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 13-16 December, 1909. 

Not in Adams. BMSTC German, 205. VD16 C 2654. 

OCLC: Iowa, Harvard (2 copies, Houghton & Divinity School), Michigan, Yale. UK: British Library. 

Stock Code: 249864

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