Books about Music in Renaissance Print Culture: Authors, Printers, and Readers Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Brannon, Samuel
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music, Musicology Graduate Program
  • This study examines the ways that printing technology affected the relationship between Renaissance authors of books about music and their readers. I argue that the proliferation of books by past and then-present authors and emerging expectations of textual and logical coherence led to the coalescence and formalization of music theory as a field of inquiry. By comparing multiple copies of single books about music, I show how readers employed a wide range of strategies to understand the often confusing subject of music. Similarly, I show how their authors and printers responded in turn, making their books more readable and user-friendly while attempting to profit from the enterprise. In exploring the complex negotiations among authors of books about music, their printers, and their readers, I seek to demonstrate how printing technology enabled authors and readers to engage with one another in unprecedented and meaningful ways. I aim to bring studies of Renaissance music into greater dialogue with the history of the book. Renaissance books about music combine text, sound, and image in ways that resonate with contemporary developments in literary, philosophical, and scientific books. I show that Renaissance writers about music grappled early on with issues that also plagued (and continue to vex) authors in all fields: engaging unknown and distant readers, writing clearly about difficult subjects, and publishing timely and commercially viable texts. Surviving copies of books by music theorists contain unusually significant evidence of intense interactions between their producers and consumers. Textual and paratextual features introduced by authors, technical innovations by printers, and heavy annotations by readers all demonstrate each party reaching out across the page to the others. I argue that these attempts to diagnose and to solve the unique challenges of writing and reading about music constitute a critical chapter in the history of the book and in the history of music.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Bonds, Mark Evan
  • Carter, Tim
  • Vandermeer, Philip
  • MacNeil, Anne
  • Nádas, John Louis
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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