Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tunsted, Simon

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TUNSTED, SIMON (d. 1369), Minorite friar and miscellaneous writer, was born at Norwich, his father being a native of Tunstead, whence the surname was derived. Simon entered the community of Greyfriars at Norwich, distinguished himself by learning and piety, and was made doctor of theology. According to Blomefield, he was afterwards warden of the Franciscan convent at Norwich. In 1351 he was the regent master of the Minorites in Oxford, and finally about 1360 became the twenty-ninth minister provincial over the whole English branch of the order. He died and was buried in the nunnery of Bruisyard, Suffolk, in 1369 (Little, Greyfriars at Oxford, p. 241).

Leland, who calls him Donostadius, ascribes to him only a commentary on the ‘Meteora’ of Aristotle; Bale mentions two other works, additions to the ‘Albeon’ of Richard of Wallingford, and ‘Quatuor Principalia Musicæ.’ ‘Albeon’ was an astronomical instrument. Tunsted improved both the instrument and its inventor's description (Laud MSS. Miscell. 657). The only ground for ascribing the musical treatise to Tunsted is the colophon, dated August 1351: ‘Illo autem anno regens erat inter Minores Oxoniæ frater Simon de Tũstude, doctor sacre theologie, qui in musica pollebat, eciam in septem artibus liberalibus.’ Three copies are known: two in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian MS. 515; Digby MS. 90), and one in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 8866, with the ‘Summa’ of John Hanboys). Each of the three copies has given rise to inaccuracies of description. Bale evidently knew the British Museum manuscript, but did not notice that it contained two works, and quoted the opening words ‘Quemadmodum inter triticum ac zizaniam’ as the beginning of Hanboys's treatise. Tanner followed Bale in this, altering the date to 1451; and Hawkins (History of Music, ch. 52n. 54n. 57, 66) copies Tanner, and formally ascribes ‘Quatuor Principalia Musicæ,’ written in 1451, to Hanboys. Tanner partially corrected his mistake in writing of Tunsted. Worse confusion has been occasioned by mistakes concerning the Oxford manuscripts. In Bernard's catalogue (Oxford 1697) the Bodleian manuscript is described as ‘De Musica continua et discreta cum diagrammatibus;’ the Digby manuscript receives its correct title, followed by ‘quem edidit Oxonie Thomas de Teukesbury A.D. 1551,’ a mistake suggested by the memorandum on the first page that the manuscript was presented to the Oxford Minorites 1388 by John of Tewkesbury, with the assent of the minister provincial, Thomas Kyngesbury [q. v.] Wood fell into the same mistake. ‘Thomas de Teukesbury’ (or Joannes de Teukesbury) has been frequently alluded to as a mediæval musical theorist; an anonymous work in Digby MS. 17 was ascribed to him, and was announced for publication by Coussemaker, who subsequently regretted he could not find room for it. The differing titles given by Bernard naturally suggested that Tunsted wrote two different treatises; but the only material variation is that the Digby manuscript omits a short prologue, with which the other copies begin. Burney corrected this mistake after examining the two Oxford manuscripts; yet it has been repeated by Ouseley (in the English edition of Naumann's Illustrirte Geschichte der Musik, p. 561) and Fétis. In Ravenscroft's ‘Briefe Discourse of … Mensurable Musicke’ (1614), a treatise by John Dunstable is often quoted; but the quotations so exactly coincide with the last of the ‘Quatuor Principalia’ that it is probable Dunstable's supposed treatise (otherwise quite unknown) was really this.

‘Quatuor Principalia Musicæ’ was printed as Tunsted's in Coussemaker's ‘Scriptores de Musica medii ævi’ (vol. iv.), but the last section had previously appeared separately as an anonymous work in vol. iii., the chapters being there divided differently. The grounds for ascribing it to Tunsted are admittedly insufficient; and internal evidence points to the author being a foreigner either by birth or education. He calls Philippus de Vitriaco ‘flos musicorum totius mundi,’ and quotes his motets. The first of the ‘Principalia’ is speculative; the second deals with the elements of music, the construction of the monochord, and intervals; the third, with notation and plain song; the fourth and most important being devoted to mensurable music. The work is clearly and practically written, and is unsurpassed in value by any of the mediæval treatises, except perhaps Walter Odington's. It was quoted in Lansdowne MS. 763, written at Waltham Abbey in the fifteenth century; and an epitome of the second ‘Principale’ is in Addit. MS. 10336, written at New College in 1500. Morley in 1597 included it in his list of treatises, but without an author's name. It is often quoted in H. Riemann's ‘Studien zur Geschichte der Notenschrift,’ sects. 8 and 9.

[Blomefield's History of Norfolk, iv. 113; Leland's Commentarii de Scriptoribus Britanniæ, p. 387; Cat. of Manuscripts in Cambridge University Library, iv. 182; Coxe's Cat. of Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library; Bale's Scriptores Britanniæ, p. 473; Pitseus, Scriptorum Catalogus, p. 502; Tanner's Catalogus, pp. 373, 725; Burney's History of Music, ii. 209, 394; Weale's Descriptive Catalogue of the Loan Exhibition of 1885, p. 122; Nagel's Geschichte der Musik in England, i. 62, 139; Davey's History of English Music, pp. 37–40, 209.]

H. D.