The Dances of Death


Hans Holbein.


London: Printed by W. Smith & Co. for John Scott & Thomas Ostell, 1803. The Dances of Death, Through the various stages of human life:wherein the capriciousness of that tyrant is exhibited in fortysix copper plates; done from the original designs, which were cut in wood and afterwards painted, by John Holbein, In the town house of Basil. To which are prefixed, descriptions of each plate in French and English, with the Scripture text from which the designs were taken. Etched by D. Deuchar, F.A.S. Quarto, 21 x 16cm, pp [4] + 47, 46 original copperplates (plus portrait of Holbein, title page and vignette); full vellum, gilt dentelles and title, all edges gilt.

Very Good. Slight age-toning, occasional fox mark. Two small (0.5cm) spots on top board on the dentelles, cluster of pin prock spots below Holbein’s name (also on top board.)

Holbein’s Dance of Death woodcuts are renowned for representing the shift between the medieval Dance of Death wall paintings, designed to bring men to a Christian life, and the more satirical renaissance illustrations in books, showing the sudden intrusion of death into life. Deuchar was a Scottish etcher and engraver. His engravings of the Dance of Death were first published in Edinburgh in 1788.

The bookplate belongs to Francis Henry Vivan Voss (1860- 1940), an outstanding medical practitioner in obstetrics and gyneacology. He emigrated from England to Bowen, Queensland in 1885 and settled in Rockhampton where he built a modern private hospital. He is known to have had a fine library and a lifelong love of literature and learning.