"THEY ARE MARVELOUSLY DETAILED… DESIGNED WITH SUCH FINESSE": HOLBEIN'S FAMOUS DANCE OF DEATH ILLUSTRATIONS, RE-ENGRAVED BY WENCESLAUS HOLLAR AND HAND-COLORED
HOLBEIN, Hans (HOLLAR, Wenceslaus, engraver). The Dance of Death; from the Original Designs of Hans Holbein. Illustrated with Thirty-three Plates, Engraved by W. Hollar. London: J. Coxhead, 1816. Octavo, period-style full red straight-grain morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers. $2700.
Early edition of Hollar's re-engravings of Hans Holbein's famous 16th-century series, printed from refreshed copper plates first prepared for publication in 1794, with engraved portraits of Holbein and engraver Wenceslaus Hollar and 31 hand-colored plates, including a large hand-colored frontispiece.
"At Basel lived the young Hans Holbein (1497-1543), employed by the printer Johannes Froben in designing title pages and illustrations and already painting his first portraits. Two series of his illustrations were printed in the same year, 1538, at Lyons… The first was the Icones Historiarum Veteris Testamenti… The second was the famous Dance of Death, Les Simulachres et Historiees Faces de la Mort, with 41 designs arranged on the page in a similar manner [small woodcuts, each on a separate page, with captions]… Holbein's diminutive designs measure 2-1/2 by 2 inches. They are marvelously detailed, and while belonging firmly to the Reformation period preserve a marked Gothic quality… Holbein's woodcuts are designed with such finesse that they look forward to copperplate engraving [which is the medium used here by Wenceslaus Hollar in his re-engravings], and his style reflects the humanist ambience of Basel. Yet his subjects—the Dance of Death in particular—remain Gothic" (Harthan, The History of the Illustrated Book, 91-92).
A bit of very faint foxing to text, plates generally clean. A near-fine copy.