Death stands in a field with a coffin under one arm: a guide to dying and life after death in a Spanish incunabula

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras

  1. The only surviving copy of a text meant to instruct one on how to die well and face the afterlife

  2. Gonzalo García de Santa María (1447-1521) translated the anonymous author’s work into Castillian

  3. It was published on May 7th, 1494 in the Zaragoza print shop of the German Pablo Hurus (active 1484-99)

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras – I/522 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

A medieval guide to dying well in a Castilian translation: the Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras. The work was a collaboration between Spanish humanists like Gonzalo García de Santa María (1447-1521) and German printers like Pablo Hurus (active 1484-99), which was published in Zaragoza on May 7th, 1494. The text is adorned by masterful woodcuts imported from Germany, which allegorically represent the concepts of Death, Judgment Day, Hell, and Heaven. This is the only surviving copy of the edition in the world. The popularity of the text across Europe, often under the title Cordiale quattuor novissimorum, is attested to by its additional translations into Dutch, French, and English.

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras

The original text of this printed codex has been repeatedly edited throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, often under the title Cordiale quattuor novissimorum. Although the original author remains anonymous, this Castilian translation was organized by the humanist, Latinist, historian, and author Gonzalo García de Santa María (1447-1521). In essence, it is a text meant to instruct one on how to die well and face the afterlife. The popularity of the text across Europe is attested to by its additional translations into Dutch, French, and English. The fact that this is the only known surviving copy in the world adds to the allure of the coveted work.

A Medieval Manual for Dying

Although incomplete due to the absence of two of the folios, the quality of the work stands on its own nonetheless. It was published on May 7th, 1494 in the Zaragoza print shop of the German printer and editor Pablo Hurus (active 1484-99), who had been active in Zaragoza since 1480, and was assisted by a magnificent team of Aragonese humanists. The work is divided into four parts, each prefaced with a full-page engraving: Death is depicted with a coffin under one arm and a dart in the other hand standing in a field covered with skulls and tiaras, miters, crowns and other symbols of power; Judgement Day shows the dead climbing out of their graves as trumpets play; Hell takes the shape of a demon, wherein fallen angels torture the damned; Heaven shows an enthroned Christ surrounded by saints. The quality and style of the woodcuts indicate that they originated in Germany, presumably because Spanish printing, still in its infancy, had not yet produced engravers skilled enough to create such creative, expressive, and detailed graphics.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras“

Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras
Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras – I/522 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
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Cordial de las Cuatro Cosas Postrimeras

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 2006
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