In 1546, Alonso Mudarra’s Tres libros de música en cifras para vihuela was printed in Seville by Juan de León, who in the next few years also went on to work in the nearby town of Osuna, where the Count of Ureña, Juan Téllez Girón, had recently founded a university. Both there and in Seville itself, León experimented with printing both polyphonic music and related musical literature, both aspects of the book trade for which there was little precedent in Spain. Thereafter, for a brief period of some fifteen years both León, and the Spaniards Martín de Montesdoca and Juan Guttiérez, devoted part of their respective printing operations to the production of a variety of musical repertories in a range of formats including vihuela collections (notably Fuenllana’s Orphenica lyra), and the earliest set of partbooks printed in Iberia, Francisco Guerrero’s Sacrae cantiones of 1555.
Based on a study of many of the surviving copies of their music books, including a number newly identified, this chapter explores both the technical features of this attempt to fashion a local market for music, including paper types and typographical materials (some of which were shared if only temporarily), considered in relation to the non-musical editions of these three printer-publishers. From what can be reconstructed of the local networks that connected their businesses both to other printers as well as patrons, their activities can also be placed within the general context of the fragile Sevillian book trade at mid-century.
Yet despite their efforts, the attempt to establish music within the local commerce of print ultimately failed in the face of a highly competitive environment in which too many printers were chasing a diminishing share of a specialised market increasingly dominated by the merchant-publishers of Lyons, Venice and the Local Countries, and the quality of craftsmanship necessary to print music was difficult to find. The history of the editions of Guerrero’s music is symptomatic; Juan de León disappears from the records in 1555, and when Montesdoca went out of business a few years later, the composer turned to printers in Italy.