In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Printing and Publishing of Music

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Guides to Literature

Music Printing and Publishing of Music
Catherine Massip, Stanley Boorman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0306


This article covers the dissemination of musical scores by technical means. The function of both printing and publication is to produce multiple copies of a work or a group of works and to arrange for the distribution of those copies to many purchasers. This requires diverse skills: on the one hand, the ability to print, involving preparing a copy of the music in a form suitable for the printing press, and then producing the copies; on the other, to make marketing decisions, to handle advertising and distribution of copies to individuals or to music shops, and to budget and plan for profits. Since the first printed music produced by Ottaviano Petrucci at the beginning of the 16th century, printing has been developed in Europe on a broad scale. Its technical requirements have changed from movable type to engraving, lithography, and, most recently, the computer. Entries are arranged to cover these activities separately, and then provide an introduction to bibliography, the scholarly study of both activities. Descriptive bibliography and analytic bibliography are recent in the field of music; they have been primarily devoted to the study of the printers and publishers from the 16th to the 18th centuries established in the main centers in Europe, including Venice, Paris, Antwerp, Frankfurt, London, and Vienna. Specific topics have become of increasing interest in recent years, including patterns of distributing copies and reaching markets and music appearing in general cultural periodicals and magazines. In addition, two subjects have risen to importance, the first, the paratext, or matters of design, which is sparsely discussed in connection with music; and the second, the place of music and its editions in cultural and intellectual history. Use of printed music has changed during the 20th century. Employed as a mean for performing and circulating music among musicians, professionals, and amateurs during four centuries, printed music became a support to produce performing rights when audiovisual media became the main access to music. Another important evolution has been the production of different kind of editions. During a long period, publishers sold the music written day by day for the entertainment of specific groups in society and for a specific purpose—liturgy, concert life, house music. Following a growing interest in the music of the past, they began to produce collected works and critical editions that reconcile mass production to the quality of the publishing.

General Overviews

Few works other than encyclopedia articles (see Reference Works) attempt to treat printing and publishing of music. General studies help to orient the reader and define fundamentals. Krummel and Sadie 1990 give examples of historical essays with a dictionary of printers and publishers. Fenlon Knighton 2006 considers the Iberian world in drawing attention to recent trends, including circulation of repertoire. Fiore 2004 compares the role of printed and manuscript music.

  • Fenlon, Iain, and Tess Knighton, eds. Early Music Printing and Publishing in the Iberian World. Kassel, Germany: Reichenberger, 2006.

    A collection of essays about music publishing from the 15th century to the 17th century in Spain, Portugal, and South America. Treating all types of music, it gives insights into contracts, privileges, and costs. Includes a catalogue of European music books from before 1650 sent to or now existing in the former colonies.

  • Fiore, Carlo, ed. Il libro di musica: Per una storia materiale delle fonti musicali in Europa. De charta 7. Palermo, Italy: L’Epos, 2004.

    A collection of essays that considers the use of published music as well as manuscripts as parallel ways for disseminating of music.

  • Krummel, Donald W., and Stanley Sadie, eds. Music Printing and Publishing. Norton/Grove Handbooks in Music. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990.

    The volume has separate sections on printing (by Edmund Poole) and on publishing (by Donald Krummel) followed by an alphabetical series of articles on principal practitioners of the crafts, and a detailed glossary (compiled by Stanley Boorman) of terms in both printing and publishing, including many used in bibliographical work.

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