Scribal practice, manuscript production and the transmission of music in late medieval France: the manuscripts of Guillaume de Machaut

Earp, Lawrence M

PhD, Princeton University, 1983

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This dissertation is a study of the seven principal MSS transmitting the musical works of Guillaume de Machaut. The first chapter refines our knowledge of the complex of musical and textual MSS, and the theoretical citations that witness Machaut•s works, as well as the evidence of lost MSS. In chapter two, new observations about the structure and internal. organization of the contents of the larger MSS have revised the current picture. MS Par. fr. 1584 (A} has an index prescriptive of an order not consistently carried out as the MS was copied, usually due to spacing requirements. The index order is compelling chronologically for a group of rondeaux, supporting Hoepffner•s thesis that Machaut•s works follow each other more-or-less chronologically in the MSS. On art historical grounds, Fran~ois Avril has recently placed the MS Par. fr. 1586 (C), formerly thought to be from the 15th century, in the early 1350s. The early date helps to bridge the chronological gap in sources for the polyphonic chanson. Scribal indications and literary evidence now suggest that polyphonic chansons by Machaut were first composed in the 1340s.

Chapter three focuses on the copying of text and music-in the MSS. Regardless of the style of the music, text was always entered first. This was a guiding principle in French MSS throughout the 14th and early l5th century, and bears upon questions of texting in 15th-century sources. Chapter four considers aspects of the transmission of the works, both evidence from the texts of the narrative poems, and readings for musical works. Mechanical copying errors are distinguished from notational problems. Some notational irregularities can be tied to chronological developments, others seem to be designed to facilitate performance by less literate musicians. Particularly interesting are variants in many lais in the MS Par. fr. 9221 (E), copied in the 1390s. Radical rearrangement of the disposition of text and music suggests the intervention of someone actively interested in their performance.

An appendix supplies information on the physical makeup of the principal MSS, and information on the disposition of miniatures among the HSS.