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Les arts de mourir, 1450-1600

Roger Chartier
Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales
31e Année, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1976), pp. 51-75
Published by: EHESS
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27580211
Page Count: 25
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Les arts de mourir, 1450-1600
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Abstract

This article proposes first of all a quantitative reading of a corpus situated at the very heart of the work of E. Màle, J. Huizinga and A. Tenenti: the "arts de mourir", copied, published and engraved from the middle of the 15th century up to the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The first stage is an analysis of the circulation and the survival of the Ars moriendi and of the iconographic series which frequently accompanies them. Examining the output of books, we find that the reeditions of the Ars cease after 1530-1540 and the subsequent literature dealing with the preparation for death (préparation à la mort) seems at the same time more scattered and of less consequence. The iconography of the battles between angles and demons over the soul of the moribund is more resistant and coexists during the 16th century with the new images of the memento mori. An evaluation of this production through its titles permits us to advance two observations: "préparations à la mort" constitute between 3 and 4% of the religious incunabula; the genre fades out in the 16th century. This tendency is confirmed by the contents of private libraries. The second stage consists of examination of several texts both for their normative contents,-they recommend to the Christian a system of gestures and practices in which the priest occupied an increasingly prominent position-and for the collective fears surrounding the last moments, fears which can be detected in these documents.

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