The technology for printing music from movable type was developed in about 1500 in Italy. In the 1520s the English printer John Rastell began using the single-impression method. This technique, which uses type fonts with both notes and staves, made commercial music printing possible.
England, however, did not become a major center for music printing, perhaps because of the systems of control exercised by royal patents and by the Company of Stationers. Printers found various means to get around these restrictions, including the printing of “hidden editions.”
When students of music and of early modern history look at early editions of music publications, it is important for them to have a clear understanding of the ways music was printed, performed, and collected from the sixteenth century up until today.