4. Mistakes and Corrections

As in the case of the dissemination of unintentional variants, it is clear that the availability of sources to compare readings would also be a central issue in the transmission of errors and their influence on practice. While a mistake in the transmission may be clear to us through an examination of all surviving sources, it would not have been so easy for medieval users to identify them (we can better appreciate this when we consider that we are faced with a similar situation when working with compositions transmitted in one source only).

An interestingly layered case of erroneous transmission is the B-part of V10. It is clear that for this song MSS Vg, B and E are directly linked, each source using its closest predecessor as an exemplar. Still, each source presents a markedly different reading.

Vg reproduces the standard and correct reading familiar from all the manuscripts outside this group.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

MS B made a number of copying errors, seemingly conflating the intended melody with that of the B-part of V7 (copied in the same position in the previous opening of Vg). The result is a rather messy hybrid, truncating the longer form part of V7 to fit more or less syllabically above the pre-copied text.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile:     Vg (V10)   ¦   Vg (V7)   ¦   MS B

Perhaps due to this lack of clarity, when the scribe of MS E came to copy his version, a few more changes were inserted, probably unintentionally.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile:     MS B   ¦   MS E

These three versions attest to the degree of variety possible even with direct copying. Interestingly, some reviewing evidently took place of the MS E version, as the second variant between it and MS B was subsequently removed (this involved the crossing out of a stem attached to the fourth note before the end of this section). This resulted in a more symmetrical division of this line into two mirroring rhythmic patterns, even though this does not match the text structure.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

Both error and correction come together to produce a workable version, but one which differs markedly from Machaut’s original intention.

Pages are available with discussion on clear or interpreted errors.


Uri Smilansky