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Full score for Monteverdi's 1607 opera L'Orfeo,
printed in 1615.

About 150 years later. The score for Gluck's
Iphigénie en Aulide, from 1774 edition reprinted
in 1811.

And about 100 years after that, a 1913 printing
of Verdi's 1871 opera Aida.

Well I think the Monteverdi score is certainly
beautiful. And I think they did a great job
considering the printing press was invented only
about 80 years prior. But I'd much rather read
off the Verdi.

And there's another thing. Although there were
printed scores for the Monteverdi and Gluck, the
instrumentalists themselves had to read off of
hand written and most likely hastily written parts.
Reading by candle light.

From what I gather, not all that many scores
were printed in the 17th and 18th centuries,
even works by famous composers. Vivaldi, for
example, carried his hand written manuscripts
around with him.

Frankly, I don't know how they ever did it back
then. It's pretty amazing.

It varied from composer to composer but the
turning point came at about the time of Beethoven,
with various publishing houses competing against
each other for new works. Beethoven's compositions,
for example, were grabbed up quickly even at the
beginning of his career. And of course with Beethoven
we have the start of a new aspect of music publishing
— constant bickering and feuds between composers
and their publishers.

And that of course continues today, even more so
with the addition of the recording industry to
printed publishing.

Oh yeah, now that's clarity for ya.

The problem these days is trying to figure out what
on the score is the composer's and what may have been
additions by people who edited the manuscript for
printing. For example the tempo notation for the
slow movement of the above concerto is given in the
Peters Edition as largo, whereas the original
indicates only cantabile — in my mind not really
the same thing. And even though it doesn't affect the
music, the date of Vivaldi's death on the Peters score
is given as 1743, whereas it was in fact 1741.

Thus you have conductors and performers today
trying to in a sense reverse-engineer printed editions,
going back in the past and trying to determine what
errors may have crept in along the way and what exactly
the composer indicated from earlier scores
and manuscripts.