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Henri Arnaut de Zwolle (c. 1400, Zwolle – September 6, 1466, Paris [1]) (often Henri Arnault, also Henricus Arnold/Arnoldus/Arnoul of/van/von Zwolle) was employed as a physician, astronomer, astrologer, and organist to Philip the Good. He is best known for a treatise on musical instruments.

Henri Arnaut apparently was born in Zwolle, at that time with the other towns on the IJssel (Deventer and Kampen) the cultural centre of the Burgundian Netherlands. There are no data on his education. Perhaps he became a physician first, as he was named Magister Henricus Arnault, Medicus Alemannus de Zuvolis (Zuvolis = Zwolle)[2]. He became a student of the instrument-maker Jean de Fusoris, who was employed between 1400 and 1445 by Philip the Good and later by the French king Louis IX of France. By 1432, Henri was at the court of Philip the Good in Dijon as well.

Between 1438 and 1446 (several decades before the activities of Leonardo da Vinci), he created manuscripts in Latin on a wide variety of technical subjects, including astronomy, hydraulics, astronomical instruments, and drawings of apparent inventions like a folding ladder and a gem polishing machine.[1] Among the manuscripts is a copy (in Henri's handwriting) of Jacob of Liège's Speculum musicae. The best known part is his treatise on the design and construction of musical instruments, containing, amongst others, the earliest illustration of a harpsichord. He gave a detailed description of the action and the operation of this keyboard plucked instrument with the complex linkages between the keyboard and the strings. He also described the lute, the clavichord, the dulce melos, and the organ. All instruments were to be played at the court and not in churches. The manuscripts were probably only bundled in the 16th century (F-Pn Lat. 7295). [1]

As councilor to Philip the Good, he produced a map in 1444 of the region contested between France and Burgundy, in order to define French enclaves that could be eliminated to simplify the border[3].

Between 1454 and 1461 he left the Burgundian court to work for the French kings Charles VII and Louis XI in Paris, where he died of the plague in 1466.[1]

External links


  1. ^ a b c d John Koster, 'Arnaut de Zwolle, Henri', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed Sept 26 2007)
  2. ^ Title of his bundled manuscript F-Pn Lat. 7295.
  3. ^ Jeremy Black "Maps and Politics". University of Chicago Press, 1997, p. 123.


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