How Music Was Printed in 1600

Please forgive me while I geek out. As a writer, magazine editor, and book lover, I have a natural curiosity about the history of publishing. As it happens, while in Graphic Design school I learned several historic book-making techniques, as well as printing press operation. I later worked for an engineering firm that manufactured hardware and software for the graphic design industry, and helped firms create workflows from their design platform to finished printed product. So, those are my excuses for nerding out over this mini-documentary about how music was printed during the Renaissance. What’s yours? 🙂

I found this video and the following intro on Luis Henriques’ blog.

Mr. Henriques said the nine-minute video “features the process using movable pieces of type, very similar to that of traditional printing of the time. Most of the video takes place in the Plantin workshop in Antwerp, one of the most important music printing houses of Europe during the sixteenth century and where Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo printed four polyphony books in 1602, 1607, 1621 and 1639 respectively. The video is provided by The Open University.”

Luís Henriques is a PhD candidate in Musicology at the University of Évora. He holds a Master’s Degree in Musical Sciences from the FCSH of the Nova University of Lisbon and Licenciate’s Degree in Musicology from the University of Évora. He is a member of the University of Évora branch of CESEM- Sociology and Musical Aesthetics Research Centre and the MPMP – Patrimonial Movement for the Portuguese Music, in the MPMP Editions and the Glosas magazine, and is also a consultant for ACROARTE conservation and restoration studio. Learn more about Mr. Henriques on his blog.


6 thoughts on “How Music Was Printed in 1600

      1. Thanks! In 2012 I found two plantinian editions (of Duarte Lobo’s music) in the archives of Angra Cathedral. There is a brief slideshow video of the small exhibition I put together there. The editions are amazing, very accurate in detail, especially the decoration of the initial letters… although in some of the 1621 masses there are quite a few errors regarding the musical text.


      2. THank you for sharing! Your work must be a treasure to Portugal. It’s amazing to think of how music has affected generations of people around the world. It’s entwined in our human existence–we must make music. Considering how social media has helped hard-working musicians and performers earn recording contracts, I imagine that Duarte Lobo was both excited and grateful to be living in a time of “advanced technology” when his work could be published and shared.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, Lobo was by far the best known Portuguese composer in Europe and the New World (Mexico, Guatemala…), although records say that he didn’t received much of the payments, i.e. for the 1621 book, of which 200 copies were printed. The printing was sponsored by Duke D. João of Braganza (Portugal at that time was under Spanish rule), future D. João IV, owner of – I may dare to say – the biggest musical library of Europe at that time. The period 1580-1640 has been my focus of study and, like you say, it changed a lot how things were done in Portugal at that time.


      4. So fascinating! The link you posted of the music sounded beautiful. While he may not have reaped the financial reward during his lifetime, Lobo has left us all rich with his music:) I’m thankful you are a steward of his art.

        Liked by 1 person

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