Music Publishing and Distributing: The Printing Press

Music Publishing and Distributing: Blog Post #2

This post will explore the advent of the printing press, including its creation, materials and mechanics, and lastly some of its vast impacts. However, before exploring its impact, it is important to understand the invention of the printing press. Along with details regarding how it actually works and the materials that were used when printing first began. As mentioned in my first blog post, before the invention of printing, books would have to be written by hand, usually by monks. Needless to say, the invention of the printing press exponentially sped up the process of publishing. Before getting into the specifics of the materials and mechanics of the original printing press, I believe that it is first important to learn some background information on the man who invented the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. He revolutionized the world of publishing and allowed distribution of paper materials ranging from books to music. Gutenberg is of German descent, however his invention actually came together while he was residing in the Holy Roman Empire in the year 1440. The Gutenberg Bible is known to be the first book ever printed on the Gutenberg printing press, with around 180 copies produced.[1]

As far as the mechanics of the machine, the Gutenberg printing press worked by having the reverse image of various letters and symbols etched into blocks. These blocks, which were referred to as movable types due to their ease of maneuverability and arrangement possibilities, would then be coated in a black oil-based ink. Gutenberg elected to use an oil-based ink because the oils allowed for better adhesion to the metal of the printing press’s movable types.[2] A sheet of paper would then be placed on top of the types and pressure would be evenly applied to the entire surface to ensure all letters and symbols were represented fully. Lastly, the paper would be removed from the movable types and the resulting image would be the letters and symbols in standard, readable view.[3]

The impacts of the printing press were felt far and wide, and the Gutenberg printing press is considered by some to be the single greatest invention ever made by humankind. This is mainly because it facilitated the spread of knowledge for every future generation of humans. In regards to printing, the advent of the Gutenberg press allowed for various printed materials to be produced at greatly accelerated speeds in comparison to the previous method of hand writing and copying. The Gutenberg press facilitated new and improved music publishing and distributing methods that would evolve over the next few centuries. The printed music markets of various regions throughout the 16th and 17th centuries will be discussed in great detail in my next blog segment.

[1] “Print Ink History,” Accessed October 26, 2016,

[2] “Print Ink History,”

[3] “The Invention of the Printing Press,” PsPrint. 2016. Accessed October 13, 2016,

Link to a video of the Gutenberg Printing Press in action.


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