Robert Ballard I (1527-1588) started the business Le Roy & Ballard with his cousin, the lutenist and composer Adrien Le Roy (ca.1520–1598). They received the privilege to print music from King Henri II in 1551. The partners then became music printers to the king, as would the next 7 generations. Le Roy continued the firm with Ballard's widow until he died in 1598. Ballard's widow, Lucrèce Dugué, continued operating the business with her son Pierre I until her retirement in 1607.
The firm Le Roy and Ballard was particularly famous for the beauty of their printing. They published over 3,000 works in 350 editions in the first 47 years. They printed 25 books of chansons between 1551 and 1585 (making 1,963 chansons). Works published included many of Lassus, and many others. The material used to print was good enough that it went largely unreplaced for almost 200 years, which would become the firm's eventual downfall.
Pierre I Ballard (1575-1639), Robert's son, took the helm next. He became official music printer to Henri IV in 1607. Pierre had 8-10 children, among them Robert III Ballard. Upon Pierre's death (24 October 1639), Robert III (1610-1673) was named sole musical printer to King Louis XIII. The firm retained a monopoly while Robert III ran it; they printed works by Du Mont, Macé, Lully, and others. Robert III was among the first to print orchestral scores, including the stage works of Cambert. By 1664, the firm owned three printing presses and employed three helpers.
Robert's eldest son, Christophe (1641-1715) likewise took over upon the death of Robert III Ballard, and was also named sole music printer to the king. His brother, Pierre III printed music as well, but he eventually had to turn it over to Christophe (his printing is insignificant by comparison). Under Christophe, the firm reached another high point, with 4 presses, and several helpers and two apprentices. Christophe Ballard, indeed, was practically the only music printer of the time in France ; works by Lully, Brossard, Campra, Charpentier, Collasse, Couperin, Dandrieu, Marais, and others were among the names in their catalogue. However, the Ballards were threatened by the new engraved plate method, as they still used movable type, and had expenses from a series of lawsuits—notably one brought against Lully's son, who had been printing and selling his father's music on his own.
Christophe's son, Jean-Baptiste-Cristophe (1663-1750) received the "royal privilege" before Christophe died (in "survivance") and ran the business after hisfather's death. He moved the shop to another house in the same street (rue Saint-Jean-de-Beauvais). In an attempt to attract broader audiences, Jean-Baptiste-Christophe printed a great many Parodies, Amusements, etc. However, he also printed works of Lully, Destouches, and Campra, and published Rameau's famous Nouveau système. The house began to decline at this time, the output of engraved music by his parisian competitors being larger and larger.
Jean-Baptiste-Christophe's son Christophe-Jean-François (1701-1765) was named printer to the King, as the previous six were, although such royal appointement meant about nothing at this time. The firm's significance basically ended during his tenure. A police report described him as 'lazy, untalented' and other, unkinder words. The Ballards were even abolished in 1790. Christophe-Jean-François's son, Robert-Cristophe (d. 1812), took over from his widow, and tried to carry on, moving frequently. The last of the dynasty was his son, Christophe-Jean-François II, who died in 1825.