Item #4296 Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen. Adam ARS MORIENDI — WALASSER, d. 1581.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen.
“The last Ars moriendi”

Kunst wol zusterben. Ein gar nutzliches hochnothwendiges Büchlein, auss hayliger Schrifft unnd alten bewehrten Lehrern ... gezogen. Dillingen: Johann Mayer, 1582.

8vo (157 x 99 mm). Collation: A-Z a-s8 (s8 blank). [8], 311 [recte 312], [8] leaves, the last blank. Title and table (A8v) printed in red and black, shoulder-notes and marginal manicules. Title cut, twenty-two full-page woodcuts, of which 3 in multiple compartments. Small dampstain in lower margins of last 40 leaves, dampstain to corners of last 8 leaves. Contemporary blind-stamped (or originally silver-gilt) calf, upper cover with small central oval cartouche within sun-rays, containing IHS monogram and flaming heart? (rubbed) on upper cover and Virgin and child on lower cover, pair of brass fore-edge clasps, lacking catches, blue-stained edges (faded; rather clumsy repairs to board edges, rebacked, preserving most of original backstrip). Provenance: ownership inscription dated 1602, implying that the book was a gift from a husband to his wife: Fraw Margret Rychartine vnd hauptman Balshasar pfyster die sine Eelihe [eheliche] husfrraw ist ysin vff Sanct Bartolomius tag Jar. 16 [cross] 02 Jar; later owners’ inscriptions from 1851 and 1954 (Urban Schröder, Bern).***

A popular sixteenth-century version of the medieval Ars moriendi, by the indefatigable editor Adam Walasser, who produced dozens of works for the Dillingen printer Sebald Mayer to further the Counter-Reformation agenda of their patron the Cardinal-Prince-Bishop of Augsburg, Otto von Waldburg. First published in 1569, Walasser’s greatly expanded text was based on the shorter of two versions of the early 15th-century text (that version was used in most of the blockbook editions, and in some of the many 15th-century typographic appearances of the Ars moriendi). Walasser’s wordier Art of Dying was as popular as its predecessors, with at least 17 editions appearing within the next 120 years. This is the fifth or sixth: demand was high; consequently few copies survive.

Just like its model, Walasser’s text is a gathering of citations from the Church fathers and the Bible which together point to the proper way to die. It is a conduct book on dying, framed as a battle between the evil and good sides of man’s nature. This yin and yang are personified in text and pictures as hideous devils and svelte angels. In four parts, his text treats preparation for inevitable death (this includes a basic Christian primer); the temptations of the devil; how attendants and relatives should conduct themselves with the dying; and the afterlife: hellfire vs. heaven. Because of its faithfulness to the “old” Ars moriendi, O’Connor called Walasser’s version the “last of those made from moveable type.”

Part 1 opens with a woodcut Dance of Death in eight compartments, showing Death coming for the young, the old, the active and the bedridden. Unlike the other woodcuts, which appeared in all the earlier editions, this cut appeared here for the second time only (following the 1579 edition).

The heart of the book, the struggle for the soul of a moribund man, lies in Part 2. To the five temptations of the medieval Ars moriendi (lack of faith, despair, impatience, vainglory, and avarice or attachment to the world), Walasser added two more: hope for a longer life, and credulity toward the devil in the form of an angel (placed respectively first and last in his order).

Six of his seven devilish temptations and angelic counter-offers are illustrated, all but the last with two woodcuts, showing the true and false angels. The woodcuts, by an anonymous Formschneider presumably from Dillingen, are crude but expressive. The cuts depicting the original temptations / inspirations partly follow the iconography of the blockbooks (omitting the lettered scrolls), while in others the artist branched out, including new figures, such as a tiny witch with a devil on a broomstick, in the woodcut on the temptation of disbelief. (For a full description, see O’Connor, p. 141, note 202.) Other woodcuts show the struggle of an angel and a devil for a soul, the punishments of hell for each sin (in 8 labeled compartments), and eschatological scenes. A final appendix contains a symbolic Memento mori woodcut, showing in one indoor scene seven reasons to not sin, each of which is labeled on a banner; this and an accompanying 2-page poem are attributed to Johann Stötzinger, priest in Dillingen (who died in 1570, according to a note following the poem).

Besides the greater number of citations, Walasser’s other additions to earlier Ars moriendi texts include a list of sins for confession, a disputation between the Devil and a dying man, a chapter of exempla, and a translation of the first part of Gerson’s Ars moriendi. The anti-Lutheran agenda of the Dillingen publishing program is evident in references to the “old Catholic Roman Church,” and to “shameless” Luther.

Johann Mayer (active 1576-1615) spent years repaying his father Sebald’s debts. This is the fifth or sixth edition and the second published under his own imprint. All editions are rare; this one is not listed by the USTC. I locate only one other copy, at Grinnell College, lacking bifolium s1.8 (the verse explanation of Stötzinger’s symbolic woodcut and final blank). OCLC locates only one copy of an earlier edition in American libraries (Getty, 1569 edition).

VD 16 W 805; Otto Bucher, Bibliographie der deutschen Drucke des XVI. Jahrhunderts. I: Dillingen (Bibliotheca Bibliographica, I), 510; cf. Verfasserlexikon2 1: 862-864; Sister Mary Catharine O'Connor, The Art of Dying Well: the Development of the Ars Moriendi (NY: Columbia, 1942), pp. 139-142 and passim.
Item #4296

Price: $7,500.00