Gifts in the Burgundian Court
Analyzing Financial Records from the Fifteenth Century
Faculty Mentor: Jesse Hurlbut, Department of French and Italian (HUM)
The Duke of Burgundy was a major broker of art, culture, civilization and power in Western
Europe in the fifteenth century. The administration of his wealth and all his expenditures was
centralized in a single office called the “Chambre des Comptes.” These annual records span
nearly the entire century, and, in most cases, at least one of the copies from each year survives
today. In an earlier project under a former MEG grant, Professor Hurlbut and a small team of
students photographed these historical documents from the departmental archives in Lille,
France. However, because of the archaic, stylized lettering in which they were originally
recorded, these records are difficult to decipher and are therefore of limited accessibility to
scholars and researchers today. The purpose of our project was to transcribe and edit a portion of
these records, and place them in an online database, in order to make them readily available and
understandable. We also planned to then analyze the Duke’s expenditures on gifts and rewards
from two different years.
Some of these documents had already been transcribed by this earlier team, and placed in the
online database (http://burgundy.byu.edu/bart/). All of manuscript ADN B-2017 had been
transcribed, but not all the transcriptions had been edited. Only pieces of ADN B-2020 had been
transcribed. My role in this project was to edit pieces of B-2017 and transcribe a portion of B-
2020. My focus in each manuscript was the section titled “Dons et Recompensacions,” which
concentrates on the gifts and rewards given by the Duke of Burgundy (such as wedding gifts).
I started the project with the editing in B-2017. This work was also useful training in preparation
for transcribing B-2020, which I began within a month. At this point, I began weekly meetings
with Professor Hurlbut so that he could supervise my work. At these meetings, we would review
my transcriptions and resolve any historical or language problems that had arisen. It took the
entire semester to transcribe all of “Dons et Recompensacions” from B-2020, and coding the
transcriptions has gone over schedule as well.
I am continuing the process of encoding the transcriptions with XML. This coding will enable
scholars to do deeper research at a faster pace, further opening the documents for research. After
I have finished with coding, the transcriptions will be put on the online database. Because I
underestimated the time involved in the transcribing process, I have not yet been able to research
the data in the documents, but the documents will be available online for others to research.
This project has given me experience and a set of skills that I could not easily have gained
otherwise. I plan to continue my work and research in this topic, especially as I begin my
Master’s program in French Studies here at BYU. It gives me background for future projects, as
well as a pool of knowledge and skills that will benefit me in future studies.