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Ottavio dei Petrucci



Petrucci, Ottavio dei, inventor of movable metal type for printing mensural and polyphonic music, b. at Fossombrone near Urbino, Italy, June 18, 1466; d. there, May 7, 1539. In 1498 he secured from the City Council of Venice a twenty years' patent for the exploitation of his invention. Beginning in 1501, he continued his publications for ten years at Venice, after which he turned his establishment over to Amadeo Scotti and Niccolo da Rafael. He afterwards secured from the papal authorities a fifteen years' privilege or license for the Papal States. From 1513 to 1523 he operated a music-printing establishment in his native city, Fossombrone.

Until 1901 Petrucci was considered as the pioneer in the use of the movable metal type for the printing of liturgical books, but Dom Rafael Molitor, in his "Nachtridentinische Choral reform" (Leipzig, 1901, I, 94), demonstrates that it was Ulric Han, or Hahn, a native of Ingolstadt, residing at Rome, who printed the first Missal in metal type notes in 1476. Petrucci's great advance consisted in the triple process (i.e., first the text and initials, then the lines, and lastly the notes) and the wonderful neatness and perfection with which the printing was done, so that his publications have not only survived but have been unequalled by any of his successors. They were surpassed in distinctness only by a perfected engraving process of the eighteenth century. His work was of the greatest importance for the dissemination and preservation of the polyphonic compositions of his time, especially those of the Netherlands masters. In the libraries of Bologna, Treviso, the Paris Conservatoire, Venice, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, collections are preserved containing frottole, chansons, motets, and masses by contemporary masters, such as Josquin Depres, Hayne, de Orto, Obrecht, La Rue, Busnois, Compere, Ghisclin, Agricola, Isaac, Okeghem, Tinctoris, and a host of others, many of whom would probably have been altogether forgotten but for these remarkable prints, now four hundred years old.

Riemann, Geschichte der Musik, II (Leipzig, 1907), i; Idem, Musiklexicon (Leipzig, 1905); Molitor, Nachtridentinische Choralreform, I (Leipzig, 1901); Mendel, Musiklexicon, VIII (Leipzig, 1877).

Joseph Otten








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