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Water-based ink was used to produce these books. The printer rubbed the paper onto the wood block with a heavy leather pad. The special character of this technique, as well as the watery nature of the ink, often resulted in a very bright print image, which sometimes was enhanced later by hand – as in the present copy. As the topics of a pious life and a virtuous death were of crucial importance, the Ars moriendi was literally a medieval bestseller. One's repentant life and death determined one's afterlife: an eternity in hell, purgatory, or heaven.
Block-books are frequently characterized by a close relationship between images and explanatory texts, but while the Biblia pauperum and the Apocalypse, for instance, have the texts inscribed in scrolls or explanatory fields (comparable to comic strips), the Ars Moriendi features a simple juxtaposition of a full-page image on the left side (verso) and the text on the right (recto) of an opening.
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