chapter  6
12 Pages

Another Magister Jacobus de Ispania: James of Spain

Even without a patronymic or more precise form of the name, the appellation ‘Magister Jacobus de Ispania’ of the Vicenza inventory adds two informative attributes to the only certain indication of authorship of the Speculum, the acrostic JACOBUS: that he was a magister, and ‘de Ispania’. It nevertheless raises the fear that, without a patronymic, an abundance of underspecified master Jameses from Spain would impede any persuasive identification. But no: published registers of university, papal, clerical and administrative documents over the relevant period in fact present almost no candidates in the right date range, and only one that fits the constraints set out above. Surprisingly few men called Jacobus are listed in the published records of Paris university;1 it is only from internal testimony that we know the music theorist was there. Many of the masters assembled by Olga Weijers are documented from outside Paris, witness her inclusion of ‘Jacobus Leodiensis’ not from university records but solely on the basis, here superseded, of older musicological literature. The author of the Speculum was a man of high and subtle intellect, wide learning, deep education, intellectual ambition (masked in humble formulations), confident opinions, geographical range and travel, suggesting wealth and independence. His great work is clearly not by a nobody. It is either by someone who has remained completely below the radar, despite having the means for such an undertaking, or it is by the only plausible candidate who has left a paper trail, and whom I now propose.