Protected publications: the imperial and Saxon privileges for printed music, 1550-1700

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In the decades around 1600 many privileges for printed music were issued by the Holy Roman Emperor and the Elector of Saxony. Such privileges gave a bookseller or author an exclusive right to publish specified works for a limited period (usually ten years). The privileges threatened confiscation of any unauthorised copies, and fines for anyone caught printing or selling them. This article offers the first systematic study of archival material documenting the privileges for music, as preserved in the Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Vienna, and the Sächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Dresden. It reconstructs the ritualistic procedure for obtaining a privilege, analyses how composers justified their applications for privileges, and asks whether privileges gave effective protection against unauthorised editions. Revising previous interpretations of the privilege system as an early form of copyright, I instead argue that privileges enhanced the commercial and symbolic value of printed music.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-313
Number of pages67
JournalEarly Music History
Early online date4 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Johann Hermann Schein
  • Heinrich Schütz
  • music printing
  • Music Publishing
  • Seth Calvisius
  • Andreas Hammerschmidt
  • authority
  • censorship
  • Michael Praetorius
  • Adam Krieger
  • women and music

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