A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Petrucci, Ottaviano dei

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PETRUCCI, Ottaviano Dei, an illustrious printer, the father of the art of type-music-printing, was born of a good family at Fossombrone, between Ancona and Urbino, June 14 [App. p.746 "June 18"], 1466. Before 1498 he had established himself at Venice; for on May 25 of that year he obtained from the Seignory the sole privilege, for 20 years, of printing 'figured music' (canto figurato) and music in the tablature of the organ and lute—a privilege which he exercised there till about 1511. At that date he left the Venetian business in the hands of Amadeo Scotti and Nicolò da Raphael, and returned to Fossombrone, where, on Oct. 22, 1513, he obtained a patent from Pope Leo X for the monopoly of music-printing in the Roman States for 15 years. His latest work is dated 1523, and shortly after that he probably died [App. p.746 "he died May 7, 1539".

Petrucci's process was a double one; he printed first the lines of the stave, and then, by a second impression, the notes upon them. In fact he discovered a method of doing by the press what the German printers of patronendruck or pattern-printing, had done by hand. His work is beautifully executed. The 'register,' or fit, of the notes on the lines is perfect; the ink is a fine black, and the whole effect is admirable. But the process was expensive, and was soon superseded by printing in one impression, which appears to have been first successfully accomplished by Oglin[1] of Augsburg in 1507.[2]

Petrucci printed no missals, service books, or other music in canto fermo; but masses, motets, lamentations, and frottole, all in canto figurato, or measured music, and a few works in lute-tablature. [See Musica Mensurata; Tablature.] His first work was 'Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A.… Venetiis decimo octavo cal. junias. Salutis anno 1501,' a collection of 96 pieces in 3 and 4 parts by Isaac, Josquin, Obrecht, Ockeghem, and other masters of the day, the parts printed opposite one another on the open pages of a small 4to. His activity was very great; Chrysander[3] gives a list of 18 works certainly and 2 probably issued between June 12, 1501, and Nov. 28, 1504. The last work cited by Eitner (Bibliographie) is the 'Motetti della Corona,' a collection of 83 motets for 4, 5, and 6 voices (in separate part books) in 4 portions, the 4th portion of which was published at Fossombrone Oct. 31, 1519. Fétis however[4] mentions three masses, in large folio, printed for the lectern of a church, with the date 1523–25 and knocked down to an unknown buyer at a sale at Rome in 1829. His life and works are exhaustively treated by Anton Schmid, 'Ottaviano dei Petrucci,' etc., Vienna, 1845. [App. p.746 "See Part-Books, above, p. 739."]

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  1. In his 'Melopolae,' see Chrysander (Musical Times, 1877, p. 326a). Fétis however quotes this very work as an evidence that Oglin followed Petrucci's method of two printings (Biogr. univ. vol. vii. p. 13 note, ed. 1864).
  2. The method of printing by double impression—so as to obtain the stave lines continuous without the breaks inevitable in printing by a single impression—was patented by Scheurmann in 1866. [See Scheurmann.]
  3. Musical Times, p. 325a.
  4. Biog. univ. vii. 16a.