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Guillaume de MachautSecretary, Poet, Musician$
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Elizabeth Eva Leach

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449338

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449338.001.0001

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Guillaume de Machaut’s Living

(p.7) 1 Life
Guillaume de Machaut

Elizabeth Eva Leach

Cornell University Press

This chapter reviews the surprisingly meager documentary evidence about Guillaume de Machaut's life. It attempts to satisfy two basic questions: What survives, and what does it tell us? The paper trail—actually primarily a “skin trail,” since most of it is on parchment—comprises two main groups of sources. The first group includes discursive, literary writings, principally deluxe manuscripts of Machaut's own works, but also poetic treatises and literature by his contemporaries. The second encompasses various kinds of archival evidence, most pertaining to monetary aspects of Machaut's life such as employment, patronage, taxation, and the receipt of gifts. The chapter begins by describing both kinds of surviving material traces, starting, albeit briefly, with the manuscripts of Machaut's work. It then turns to the more factual documents which outline the current state of documented knowledge about Machaut's life while acknowledging that even factual documentation requires a degree of contextual interpretation. The chapter shows that far less is known about Machaut as a historical figure than most other studies have claimed.

Keywords:   Guillaume de Machaut, poets, composers, life story, biography, literary writings, manuscripts

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