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date: 24 February 2020


  • Leanne Langley


English firm of printers. It was established in London in 1803 by William Clowes the elder (1779–1847) and achieved success by making accuracy, speed and quantity its chief goals; periodicals and official reports as well as books and catalogues (from 1820 produced by steam machinery) were an important part of its output. By 1843 it operated the largest printing works in the world, with 24 presses, its own type and stereotype foundries, and 2500 tonnes of stereo plates and 80,000 woodcuts in store. It executed major works for the Royal Academy of Arts, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, the Great Exhibition and the British Museum (General Catalogue of Printed Books, 1881–1900).

William Clowes’s achievement in music printing rests on his advocacy of musical typography at a time when engraved-plate methods predominated. Aiming specifically for the increased efficiency and lower unit costs of type-printed music in large edition sizes, he effected real improvements in this method (better clarity, a more precise junction of staff lines), issuing as his pilot projects, for a variety of publishers, ...

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R.M.A. [Royal Musical Association] Research Chronicle
C. Humphries and W.C. Smith: Music Publishing in the British Isles