14 April 2007

Peter Philips, I Presume?

One of the joys of researching someone with a name like "Peter Philips" is the frequency with which both names appear in a variety of forms. This past week, for example, I've been examining the books of the Church Fabric at Sint-Goedele in Brussels. Philips didn't actually work there, but it's possible some of the music he composed would have been used in the cathedral's side chapels. So rather than taking a detailed look, I've just been skimming the pages for his name. After two full days, and several hundred pages, I've come up with only one entry.

This is something I do often, with a variety of different kinds of documents, and in several different languages. The name "Peter Philips" actually appears in many linguistic forms: Pierre Philippes in French, Petrus Philippus in Latin, Pedro Philippe in Spanish, Pieter (or Peeter) Philips in Dutch. Sometimes "Philips" is also just shortened to "Phls." And since none of the documents I'm looking at are in English, I can't just look for plain, old Peter Philips.

Just looking for the name "Philips" also presents problems in itself. For example, during the period which I'm studying we have:
  • Philip II and Philip III, Kings of Spain
  • A "Grd" (Gerard?) Philips, who was also working at the Archducal Court
  • A Phillippe was also a monetary value used in the Low Country at this time
  • Thomas Phellippes, an English cipher working for Walsingham

This last one poses a particular problem because of my recent theory that Peter Philips was actually more involved in plots to bring down Queen Elizabeth than previously thought. The regional spellings differences make the distinction between my Philips and this Thomas Phellippes a problematic one.

But maybe I shouldn't complain too much. After all, my composer could be named "John Smith."

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