Commentary on:
Petition from and Privilege granted to Marcantonio Rossi for publishing choral work by the late Giovanni Guidetti of Bologna (1602)

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Commentary on Sec. Brev. Reg. 324 F 253 (1602)


1.  The Petition

Marcantonio Rossi’s petition asserts the usual justifications of labor and expense in preparing the work for publication.  But the petition features additional distinguishing aspects concerning the nature of the work, a re-edition of a musical work, Directions for Choirs, created twenty years earlier by the late Giovanni Guidetti, and the nature of the labor and expense, which involved completely re-engraving the original’s musical notation, and modifying the work to conform to the new Roman Breviary. Guidetti’s original Directions for Choirs would have reflected the 1568 reforms of the Breviary under Pius V; a new reform was completed under Clement VIII and its changes made mandatory through the Bull Cum in Ecclesiâ, dated 10 May, 1602, see “Reforms of the Breviary,” .  While Rossi’s petition is not dated, his privilege issued on August 19, 1602, 3 months after the Bull; we can infer that Rossi saw a business opportunity in updating the prior work for the new prayer book.  Rossi may also have been well-positioned to undertake the publication of a work consisting largely of engraved content: in 1598, he received a privilege for his work with the Flemish engraver Martin van Buyten on letterings of religious texts, see Sec. Brev. Reg. 269 F. 34, petition partially reproduced in Christopher LCE Witcombe, Copyright in the Renaissance: Prints and the Privilegio in Sixteenth-Century Venice and Rome (Leiden, Brill 2004) p. 151 n. 61. 

2.  The Privilege

Rossi’s petition identifies Guidetti’s original work, but does not mention that it initially received a privilege in 1581 from Pope Gregory XIII.  That privilege was printed in the original 1582 edition, and a summary of that privilege was reprinted in a 1589 edition of the work subsequent to Gregory XIII’s death. [see image] But that privilege would have lapsed over ten years before Rossi sought a privilege in his revision of the same work.  The privilege that issued does not reference the earlier privilege.  Rossi’s privilege is not strictly a renewal of Guidetti’s: there is no indication that Rossi acquired any rights from Guidetti, whose rights in any event had expired, and the money and labor Rossi expended in the re-engraving and updating could have entitled him to a privilege in his own right.  Part 4 of this Commentary will nonetheless examine privileges more aptly characterized as renewals.

Rossi’s privilege is typical in form and content, including its caveat that the privilege is conditioned upon approval of the work by the Papal censors.  For other such caveats, see, e.g., Sec. Brev. Reg. 208 F. 74 (Antonio Tempesta, petition) va_1593.

Rossi’s privilege, while much shorter in form, does not diverge substantively from Guidetti’s.  The differences might be ascribed to different holders of the office of Cardinal Secretary of Papal Briefs under different popes.  Guidetti’s privilege, however, offers a more elaborate discussion of the rationale for issuance of the privilege: “We, judging that no one should be defrauded of the fruits of his recent industriousness and the benefits of his own wakefulness, and therefore [judging] that it is timely to provide for your indemnification, and no less wishing for you, a familiar and one always belonging to our own table . . .  In other words, Guidetti earned the privilege not only because of his labors but also because he was close to the Pope’s inner circle.  For another privilege addressed to a “familiar,” see Sec. Brev. Reg. 61 F 348 (1584) [va_1584 hyperlink and document to be supplied] (referencing “familiars” of Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici).


3. Privileges for musical works

Musical works, mostly liturgical, received several privileges throughout the 16th century, as did methods for printing musical notation.  For the latter see Registrum supplicationum 1430 F 22r (1513): privilege of Ottaviano Petrucci for printing of music; the privilege rewards Petrucci for inventing a method of printing organ music, and recognizes Petrucci’s earlier invention of methods of printing for which he received Venetian privileges.  The Papal privilege grants him exclusive rights for 15 years in all printed scores of organ music, as well as over the reproduction of other scores:

We, disposed to favour your petition, and willing that you, as the inventor and the first printer of the same, should enjoy the privileges annexed to our apostolic indulgence and leave, provided you vend the same at a moderate price, and in order effectually to prevent other printers from reaping the advantages of your labour and expense, and that we may encourage you to attempt discoveries of greater moment, we, in consideration of your being the inventor and first printer of the same, forbid other printers and booksellers to print or vend any organ scores within fifteen years, or any other books on other subjects which you have already printed, or mean to print (not hitherto published by any other person whatsoever), within fifteen years from the date of their first publication.

English translation in William H. Cummings, Music Printing, Proceedings of the Musical Association, 11th Sess. (1884 - 1885), pp. 99-116 at 103-04, Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Royal Musical Association; Stable URL:

Toward the end of the century, Pope Clement VIII granted Leonardo Parasole and Fulgenzio Valesi a privilege over a new method of printing canto fermo (plainchant).  See Sec. Brev. Reg. 207 F. 50 (Sept 16, 1593).  In his petition, Parasole vaunts the improvements of his method over the “ordinary and customary method” of printing scores.   The privilege, Parasole asserted, was his “just due” for

having brought so much utility to clerics and churches, which to their great inconvenience are deprived of said books, or, if they have them, some of them are ruined by weather, and others are badly corrected, with infinite errors, as one can see, but through the intolerable expense and time that goes into having them written, sometimes amounting to twelve thousand scudi with the engravings, and at least three thousand without them, they use those which, in addition, require at least five years to finish a whole chorus; where[as] with this invention of printing them not only whoever needs it will have it quickly, but also at such a price that their expense will not increase. 

The privilege grants 15 years of exclusive rights in

the said books with great letters and words, as aforesaid, in whatever form greater or smaller, in whatever way different from that form in which is accustomed heretofore to be printed, or any other thing looking similar to them.

“The said books” were probably referenced in an annex to the petition, that has not been preserved. Since Valesi was a composer, the “said books” may have been his works.  (On Valesi and this privilege, see Gaspare Nello Vetro, Valesi Fulgenzio in Dizionario della Musica del Ducato di Parma e Piacenza, )

Another example of the merger of music and methods, an early privilege issued to Stefano Vanneo, (ca. 1493-ca. 1540), for his book of rules of choral singing.  See ARM XL v 34 F 248; ARM XXXIX v 51 F 1250 (No 842)) (20 Dec. 1531), [CNCE 45725] published in Rome in 1533 see (asserting Clement VII privilege on frontispiece and on last page, but not reproducing text of privilege)

And a later privilege to Giovanni Luca Conforti (1560-1608), for a book on the performance and writing of compositions to be sung as well as for playing the violin or wind instruments.  See Sec. Brev. Reg. 196 F 86 (3 October 1592).  The book was published in rome the following year:

Breue et facile maniera d'essercitarsi ad ogni scolaro, non solamente a far passaggi sopra tutte le note che si desidera per cantare, et far la dispositione leggiadra, et in diuersi modi nel loro valore con le cadenze, ma ancora per potere da se senza maestri scriuere ogni opera, et aria passeggiata che vorranno, et come si notano. Et questo ancora serue per quei che sonano di viola, o d'altri istromenti da fiato per sciogliere la mano et la lingua et per diuentar possessore delli soggetti et far altre inuentioni da se fatte da Gio. Luca Conforto:      In Roma, 1593

CNCE 44954 (“In Roma con licentia de’ Superiori et Privileggio 1593”)  Privilege not reprinted in book (accessible via link from EDIT 16)

Privileges awarded for works of identified composers include:

Index 294 F 406r (August 1532) (breve not found), to Elzéar Genet (ca. 1470 – June 14, 1548) Director of Music of the Papal Chapel of Pope Leo X, a ten-year privilege in the Papal States for masses in figured chant that he composed and had printed at his expense

Sec. Brev. Reg. 59 F 21 (13 April 1584), to Roman publishers Jacopo Tornieri and Giacomo Bericcia for books of sacred music by Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina (1525-04) and Luca Marenzio (1553-99). 

See Marenzio, Luca, Madrigali spirituali di Luca Marenzio a cinque voci nouamente stampato & dato in luce. Libro primo. Roma : Alessandro Gardane, 1584, CNCE 45289; Marenzio, Luca, Il terzo libro delle villanelle a tre voci composte dal s. Luca Marentio nel modo che hoggidi si usa cantare in Roma. Raccolte da Cristoforo Ferrari, et di nuovo date in luce. Roma : Alessandro Gardane, 1585; CNCE 45382 (Frontispiece says “Con privilegio e licentia de’ Superiori”.  Full text not reprinted in book.)

Petraloysii Praenestini motettorum quinque vocibus liber quintus.   Roma : Alessandro Gardane, 1584; CNCE 44751. (Frontispiece says “Cum privilegio”. Full text not reprinted in book.)

Sec. Brev. Reg. 62 F 191 (13 Feb 1585) to composer Tomàs Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) for his motets.

See Thomae Ludovici a Victoria Abulensis motecta festorum quae partim senis, partim quinis, partim quaternis, alia octonis vocibus concinuntur.  Romae : ex typographia Dominici Basae, 1585 (Romae : apud Alexandrum Gardanum, 1585). CNCE 46487

(Full Gregory XIII privilege reproduced in first inside page following frontispiece; Frontispiece refers to Licentia Superiorum but not to privilege)

Sec. Brev. Reg. 115 F 72 (1 Sept 1585) to Giovanni Guidetto for other religious musical compositions:

Cantus ecclesiasticus officii maioris hebdomadae iuxta ritum capellae sanctissimi domini nostri papae ac Basilicae Vaticanae collectus et emendatus, a Ioanne Guidetto Bononiensi eiusdem Basilicae perpetuo clerico beneficiato nunc primum in lucem editus,

Romae : ex typographia Iacobi Tornerij, 1587 (Romae : excudebant Alexander Gardanus, & Franciscus Coattinus socij, 1587) [CNCE 44378]

Cantus ecclesiasticus passionis Domini Nostri Iesu Christi secundum Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucam, et Ioannem, iuxta ritum capellae s.d.n. papae ac sacrosanctae Basilicae Vaticanae a Ioanne Guidetto Bononiensi ... in tres libros divisus ... Liber primus [-tertius]

Roma : Alessandro Gardane, 1586  [CNCE 44376]

Praefationes in cantu firmo, iuxta ritum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, emendatae, et nunc primum in lucem editae a Ioanne Guidetto Bononiensi Basilicae principis apostolorum de urbe clerico beneficiato

Romae : ex typographia Iacobi Tornerij, 1588  [CNCE 44381]

Frontispiece asserts “Cum Privilegio”

Includes summary of 1585 privilege:

Extat Privilegium Sanctissimi D.N. SIXTI Papae V. ne quis per Decennium

Has Praefationes audeat, imprimere, aut vendere, sub pena excommunicationis

Maioris latae sententiae, & Ducatorum Quingentorum, ut apparet in Privilegio,

Sub Die Decima septima Septembris MDLXXXV


There exists [be aware of] the Privilege of the Most Holy D.N. SIXTUS POPE V. that no one for ten years

Dare to print or sell these Prefaces, under penalty of self-executing major excommunication,

& Five Hundred Ducats, as appears in the Privilege,

On the seventeenth day of September 1585


Sec. Brev. Reg. 148 F 34v (Oct 1589)  to Vatican Printer Domenico Basa for the psalter of Giacomo Cacciaconti, published in Rome in 1591, see Psalterium iuxta reformationem Breviarii Romani ex decreto Sacrosancti Concilij tridentini, & Pii V. ... iussu editi. In quo hymni, psalmi, invitatoria, antiphonae nocturnorum, officium defunctorum, & multa alia pro diebus tam festivis quam ferialibus necessaria, disposita & notata inueniuntur, quae hactenus a quamplurimis desiderabantur. Per R.P. fratrem Iacobum Cacciacontum ...            Romae, ex Typographia Vaticana 1591.  CNCE 11912


4. Renewals of privileges

In addition to Rossi’s receipt of a new privilege for the revision of a privilege-expired work, the documents found in the Vatican Archives include privileges renewed to the original grantee or his heirs for an additional term of years, see, e.g., Sec Brev Reg 268 F 134 (March 1598) to Michaele de Azpilcueta, an heir of canon lawyer Martin de Azpilcueta, for renewal of a 1589 privilege to the heirs of Azpilcueta and of another nephew, Martin Zuria; the privilege expressly references the 1589 privilege granted under Sixtus V, see Sec Brev Reg 148 F. 50 (Oct. 1589).  That privilege itself transferred to Zuria’s and Azpilcueta’s heirs the rights in a 1586 privilege to Zuria, see Sec. Brev. Reg. 122 F. 527 (3 Sept. 1586).

Some privileges reissue extant privileges under popes who succeeded the original granting pontiff.  This practice suggests some uncertainty as to whether a privilege granted under one pope automatically (within the granted term, usually ten years) continued in force under a subsequent pope. See, e.g., Sec. Brev. Reg. 221 F 98 (Nov. 17, 1594) (petition of Domenico Basa, Vatican printer, to Clement VIII referring to privilege granted his predecessor Paolo Manuzio by Sixtus V). There does not appear to have been a limit on the number of renewals sought, nor were the periods of exclusivity strictly contiguous.  See, e.g., Sec. Brev. Reg. 284 F 191 (June 23, 1599) (granting a privilege to printer Giovanni Antonio di Paoli for engravings of images of saints); Sec. Brev. Reg. 481 F 427 (July 7, 1612) (renewing privilege in Sec. Brev. Reg. 284 F 191); Sec. Brev. Reg. 688 F 402 (Mar. 23, 1624) (seeking renewed privilege for engravings referenced in Sec. Brev. Reg. 284 F 191.  See Eckhard Leuschner, The Papal Printing Privilege, 15 Print Q. 359, 368 (1998) (describing renewals by Paul V and by Urban VIII of a privilege granted by Clement VIII to printer Giovanni Antonio de Paoli for engravings of religious images). 

In at least one instance, it appears that a privilege initially issued for a book that may not have been published during the initial ten-year period, perhaps for inability to find a willing publisher, and the author obtained a subsequent privilege as the first neared expiration; the second privilege refers to the grantee’s self-publication, or the “person you will select to publish” the work (“ad id tui seu illius cui illum imprimendum eligederis”); the book described in the privilege then was published the following year by a leading Venetian printer.  See privilege granted Girolamo Giganti, d. 1566, for a legal treatise on pensions, ARM XL v 34  F 119 (4 Nov. 1531) and ARM XLI v 21 (19 July 1541); bibliographic records show no publication during the 1530s, but a 1542 publication of Tractatus de pensionibus ecclesiasticis causarum patronis et in ecclesiastico foro versantibus ceterisque legum & canonum studiosis non minus utilis quam necessarius. Continens in se questiones centum elucubratum per ... d. Hieronimum Gigantem Forosemproniensem.  [Venezia : Francesco & Michele Tramezzino], 1542 (Venetiis : impressum, mandato & expensis dominorum Francisci & Michaelis de Tramezinis, a Nicolao Bascarino, mense Maio 1542)  CNCE 20971; the book’s frontispiece asserts “Con Privilegio Summi Pontificis Venetorumque Senatus”


5. Persons Mentioned

Pietro Aldobrandini (1571 – 1621). Italian Catholic Cardinal and patron of the arts, made cardinal in 1593 by his uncle, Pope Clement VIII.

Cesare Glorieri (1505 - 1595). Cardinal-Secretary of Papal Letters. Glorieri was a long-serving papal secretary who began working for the Vatican sometime around 1526. Over the course of his career he amassed great personal wealth, which was subsequently seized from him by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 due to Glorieri's alleged involvement in a financial scandal related to Pope Pius IV's estate. After Gregory's death in 1585, Pope Sixtus V restored Glorieri's wealth to him, but it does not appear that Glorieri returned to his secretarial duties. In 1575, he commissioned the building of the Chapel of the Assumption in Santo Spirito in Sassia, which can be viewed here. For more on Cesare, see "Glorieri, Alessandro." Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 57 (2001).

Giovanni Guidetti (1531-1592) was born in Bologna, Italy, before moving to Rome to study under Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestria. In 1575, he was made the singing chaplain of the Pontifical Chapel and in November of the same year Gregory XIII made him “beneficatus perpetuus” of Saint Peter. In 1582, Guidetti had published the Directorium Chori ad Usum Sacrosanctae Basilicae Vaticanae, et Aliarum Cathedralium, which gave direction on how songs should be conducted according to the use of the chapel. This volume provided rhythmic notation

Marcantonio Rossi, not a well-known figure in the Roman printing industry, is known for having attempted to use papal privileges to derive economic advantage from the ecclesiastical tensions between Venice and Rome: when Venetian missals were banned in 1601, leaving a void in the printing market, Marcantonio Rossi sought the exclusive right to print Roman missals which he planned to have printed at numerous presses and market to a wide range of readers. See Andrea Ottone, Il privilegio del Messale riformato. Roma e Venezia fra censura espurgatoria e tensioni commerciali, in Erika Squassina and Andrea Ottone, eds., Privilegi librari nell’Italia del Rinascimento (FrancoAngeli 2019) at 301-302.

Marcello Vestrio Barbiani (? –1606). Cardinal-Secretary of Brevi (papal letters). The son of a famous lawyer, Barbiani joined the Papal court after his wife, a Roman noblewoman, passed away. In 1596, he was granted a canonicate in the Vatican Basilica. Barbiani served in various capacities under Gregory XIV, Clement VIII, and Paul V, before dying at a very old age shortly before July 9th, 1606. See Giammaria Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d’Italia. Vol. 2,1 at 178 (1758)


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