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date: 26 February 2020

Rastell, Johnlocked

  • John Milsom


(b Coventry or London, c. 1475; d London, June 1536). English lawyer, publisher, and music printer. He had a diverse career in which music played only a small part; principally he was active as a lawyer, stage owner, playwright, adventurer, protestant propagandist, Member of Parliament, and printer of books and ephemera, including histories, law books, interludes, poetry, and statutes. As a music printer, Rastell was active in the 1520s, and pioneered the technology of printing music by single impression using movable type, seemingly for the first time in Europe. This advance over double-impression printing revolutionized the economics of music publishing.

To judge from the few surviving examples of Rastell’s printed music, his preferred format was the single sheet rather than the book. Two large songsheets are extant, each containing a single three-voice composition printed on one side of the sheet. Both are fragmentary and undated, but typographical evidence places one of them about ...

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Early Music History