Henry Purcell’s self-published full score of his music for the opera 'The Prophetess, or the History of Dioclesian' (1691) survives in approximately forty-nine exemplars today, of which eleven preserve handwritten annotations—including eight in a well-known Chapel-Royal hand and two in the composer’s own autograph. Using comparative analysis of these annotations, seen in the broader context of other music prints in the period, I seek to demonstrate that the production of print publications in the early modern period could both preserve and promote an independent and flexible approach to the musical text, employing techniques that were remarkably similar to those we already know existed for music manuscripts in this period. Thus—although we have come to associate music printing with notions of a fixed, complete, and unchanging text (and therefore with “anti-creative” approaches to notation)—the production of print publications could involve continuing creative input from many of those who came into contact with musical materials after the initial creative process had been completed. Such flexible attitudes to notation have important implications for the interpretative decisions that have to be taken by both editors and performers.
- Early modern
- music printing