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  • Ottaviano Petrucci: A Catalogue Raisonné
  • Richard J. Agee
Stanley Boorman . Ottaviano Petrucci: A Catalogue Raisonné. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. vi + 1282 pp. index. chron. bibl. $250. ISBN: 0-19-514207-5.

By any objective standard this book ranks as a magnificent achievement. Stanley Boorman has been studying the publications and the biography of Ottaviano Petrucci — the first publisher to issue polyphonic printed music in multiple copies — for well over three decades. His twenty-six articles and reviews, cited in the bibliography, attest to Boorman's intense focus on painstaking bibliographic analysis, with the rationale that only after this kind of study is completed can one begin to say anything more than the vaguest generalizations about the contents of the books.

Consequently, a minutely-detailed bibliographical study of Petrucci's surviving books forms the nucleus of the study, along with an examination of the techniques of printing, an analysis of the printed music, the readings and the taste it represents, and the character of the repertoire. Boorman weaves together bibliographical, archival-notarial evidence, and political and epidemiological events that affected Petrucci's career from his initial presence in Venice, probably in the early 1490s, through the approval of his privilege by the Venetian Signoria for an undisclosed printing invention in 1498. Petrucci apparently had no standing at all in the printing and publishing trade (since he does not call himself a printer or bookseller in his application), but needed the help of his partners, Niccolò da Raphael and Amadeo Scotto, for financial support as well as the requisite technical skills of inking and presswork. The first published book was the famous 1501 Odhecaton A, a collection of popular French chansons, followed shortly thereafter by the similar Canti B of 1502. Petrucci gradually began to explore other repertoires, such as motets, masses by well-known members of the Josquin generation, homegrown Italian genres of the frottola and lauda, and instrumental music.

Of particular interest is Boorman's discussion of Petrucci's possible sources of musical repertoire, beginning with Petrus Castellanus, who was an active partner in preparing the musical material for the press. There follows speculation about [End Page 1201] additional connections in Ferrara, Rome, Venice, Verona, Padua, and Urbino, depending upon the genre and the musical readings involved. The author also sensibly suggests that the composers of instrumental music probably approached Petrucci directly.

Boorman demonstrates that throughout this period of printing in Venice, Petrucci never lost touch with his birthplace, Fossombrone, and served a number of roles in its governance. The disruptions in Venetian life caused by the War of the League of Cambrai apparently induced Petrucci to relocate there permanently sometime around 1510, where he continued to print music as well as some well-known nonmusical works, such as the splendid Paulina de recta Paschae by the Bishop of Fossombrone, Paulus de Middelburgh. The predated "hidden" editions from this period, Boorman argues, suggest Petrucci's reaction to political factors surrounding the war for the Duchy of Urbino. In the final publications from 1519 until his death ca. 1539, Petrucci seems to have abandoned the level of presentation and the quality materials that he had felt necessary years before.

A few corrections and concerns should be mentioned here. The book's cover is embossed with "Ottaviano Petrucci A Catalogue Raisonné," while the title page carries "Ottaviano Petrucci Catalogue Raisonne" (WorldCat lists three different versions of the title); an occasional awkward phrase — "indeed relations between Venice and Rome were not such as to encourage to a Venetian printer or bookseller in exploration of the Papal States" (230); read "Libro nono" for "Liber nono" (302) and "Libro undecimo" for "Liber undecimo" (305); Aron's Toscanello was published in Italian, not Latin (341); and Willaert's Musica nova of 1559 would seem an improbable member among "libri magni" as part of Luca Gaurico's library in 1557 (339-40), since, unlike the other music books cited, it was not published in folio but in upright quarto, and copies were not available from the publisher until late in 1558. The indices seem generally useful, although the reader should be prepared to consult both the "general index" and the "index of editions." While...


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Print ISSN
pp. 1201-1202
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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