A Biography of John Dunstable

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John Dunstable, (or better known as John Dunstaple), was an English composer estimated to have been born in 1390. His birth date is a conjecture based on his earliest surviving works, which date from around 1410-1420 (Bonds 2006, 112). Based on these works, musicologists are able to make a very educated guess as to his birth date being sometime in 1390. He was born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire during the Late Middle Ages- Early Renaissance era.

John Dunstable died on December 24 (Christmas Eve), 1453. This is known due to the fact that it was recorded in his epitaph, which was in the church of St. Stephen Walbrook in London, until it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. As recorded in the early 17th century, his epitaph was recorded to have stated that he had "secret knowledge of the stars". The church of St. Stephen Walbrook was also his burial place (Burkholder 1996, 134).

The spelling Dunstaple is generally preferred over Dunstable due to the fact that it occurs twice as much in musical attributions of his than that of Dunstable. The few English musical sources are equally divided between "b" and "p"; however, the contemporary non-musical sources, including those with a claim to a direct association to Dunstable, always spelled his name with a "p".

Dunstable was believed to be a highly educated, married man, however, nothing is known about his music background/training or early childhood. However, Dunstable was also accredited as an astronomer and mathematician as well as a composer of polyphonic music. In fact, some of his astrological works have even survived in manuscript, possibly in his own hand. Dunstable was known to have been widely connected to that of the royal service, having been in the service of John, Duke of Bedford, the fourth...