A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke, Set downe in forme of a dialogue
Henry VIII and his children were fond of music and so was Tudor England. In Henry’s court, the latest Italian and French dances were popular, and musical instrument makers were flocking to London. Daughter Mary presented recitals on the virginals (a keyboard instrument) when she was only a young girl and Elizabeth played the virginals and the lute (and liked to sing). A half-century of musical splendor in England followed, which is reflected in part by the history of printed music over that time period.
Music appeared in print for the instruction of and use by musicians. In the 1560s three tutorials on lute playing were published, and the first post-Reformation book of English songs was printed in 1571. The two noted composers, William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, were granted a twenty-one-year monopoly for printing music. Their Cantines Sacrae in 1575 was their first publication; neither Byrd nor Tallis, however, paid much attention to the business and little happened until Tallis died. Then Byrd turned to Thomas East as the printer, who published Byrd’s Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs in 1587. In 1594 East issued Thomas Morley’s four-part madrigals—among the first madrigals written in English. The ensuing flowering of the madrigal school was a highpoint in the history of English music.
When Byrd’s monopoly for printing music expired in 1596, Morley, who was trained by and a friend of Byrd, applied for the license and was granted it in 1598. The year before he had worked with printer Peter Short to publish his Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music, a comprehensive guide for a novice to learn music. The book is divided into three sections: the first deals with the basics of music and music terminology, the second with counterpoint, and the third with composition. Practical Music is the product of a man who was well-trained in music and gifted at instruction (as was his mentor, Byrd). The difficult material is presented to the reader through a witty dialogue between a gentle master and two pupils.
The book is a masterwork of typography with, for example, some two-color printing and pages laid out for use by singers standing on each side of the book. The present copy is the second edition, published in 1608, which is a corrected reprint of the 1597 first edition. Humfrey Lownes married the widow of the first printer, Peter Short, and used his type for the second edition.
Chrzanowski 1608m *