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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Locating Primary Sources of Music in Libraries and Archives

A guide for identifying and locating primary manuscript (and early edition) sources by using RISM and other tools.


RISM (Repertoire International des Sources Musicales) is an ongoing scholarly project to document the existence of printed and manuscript music before 1800. It gives detailed descriptions of music manuscripts, early printed editions of music, and early treatises on music.

There are three series in RISM:

A = Inventories of musical sources from 1600-1800, in manuscript and printed editions, organized by composer

B = Bibliographies of materials organized by particular topic 

C= Directories of music libraries around the world

We've organized the RISM description by type of contents inventoried below.

***All RISM volumes are shelved at Reference ML113 I67***

Parts of RISM are searchable online--see links provided.

Music Manuscripts

The RISM Series A/II Database contains bibliographic records of music manuscripts written after 1600. The records include information in standard bibliographic categories as well as graphical images of over 780,000 music incipits. The Music manuscript database is linked to three other databases providing additional information to specific content: Composer, Library Sigla and Bibliographic Citations. (occasionally, these databases include information from other RISM series too.) The database can be searched from hyperlinks in the Music manuscript database, or directly from a database search menu.

The RISM Composer Database contains more than 29,500 composer names taken mostly from RISM series A/I and A/II. The composers are researched in standard music dictionaries as well as in local special literature.

The RISM Libraries Sigla Database identifies more than 7,150 libraries worldwide that hold music materials relevant to RISM series. All libraries are identified by name and RISM siglum. Other information provided may include the addresses.

The RISM Bibliographic Citations Database contains references for all thematic catalogues and other secondary sources cited in the RISM A/II Music Manuscripts Database.

Another RISM A/II database freely available online is Music Manuscripts (1600 to 1800) in British and Irish Libraries

Printed Music

  • B/I-II -- Printed music in collections, 1500-1799 (not fully online)

    • B/I -- Lesure, François. Recueils imprimés, XVIe-XVIIe siècles: liste chronologique = Printed collections, 16th-17th centuries: chronological list. (München-Duisberg, 1960).

    • B/II -- Lesure, François. Recueils imprimés, XVIIIe siècle. (München-Duisberg, 1961). [Note: Supplement in François Lesure, "Recueils imprimés, XVIIIe siècle (RISM, B II) Supplement," Notes 28 (1971-72): 397-418.
  • B/VIII -- The German hymn

    • B/VIII/1 -- Ameln, Konrad, et al. Das deutsche Kirchenlied: kritische Gesamtausgabe der Melodien: Verzeichnis der Drucke von den Anfängen bis 1800 (Kassel,1975); Register (Kassel, 1980)


  • B/III -- The theory of music from the Carolingian age (c. 9th century) to c.1500

      • B/III/1 -- Waesberghe, Joseph Smits van. The theory of music from the Carolingian era up to 1400, I: descriptive catalogue of manuscripts (München-Duisberg, 1961).

      • B/III/2 -- Fischer, Pieter. The theory of music from the Carolingian era up to 1400, II: Italy (München-Duisberg, 1968).

      • B/III/3 -- Huglo, Michel, and Christian Meyer. The theory of music: manuscripts from the Carolingian era up to c.1500 in the Federal Republic of Germany (München, 1986).

      • B/III/4 -- Huglo, Michel, and Nancy C. Phillips. The theory of music: manuscripts from the Carolingian era up to c.1500 in Great Britain and in the United States of America (München, 1992).

      • [B/III/5] -- Meyer, Christian, et al. The theory of music from the Carolingian era up to c.1500: descriptive catalogue of manuscripts: Nachträge zu Deutschland, Österreich, Slowakei, Tschechei, Ungarn, Spanien, Schweden. (München, 1997).

      • [B/III/6] -- Ruino, Cesarino, et al. The theory of music from the Carolingian era up to c.1500: descriptive catalogue of manuscripts: Nachträge zu Italien und Frankreich. (München, 2003).
  • B/IV -- Manuscripts of polyphonic music, 11th-16th centuries (the entire RISM Series B/IV is available online at Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music

    • B/IV/1 -- Reaney, Gilbert. Manuscripts of polyphonic music: 11th-early 14th century (München-Duisberg, 1966).

    • B/IV/2 -- Reaney, Gilbert. Manuscripts of polyphonic music (c.1320-1400) (München-Duisberg, 1969).

    • B/IV/1-2 Suppl. -- Wathey, Andrew. Manuscripts of polyphonic music: the British Isles, 1100-1400 (München, 1993).

    • B/IV/3-4 -- von Fischer, Kurt, and Max Lütolf. Handschriften mit mehrstimmiger Musik des 14., 15., und 16. Jahrhunderts (München-Duisberg, 1972).

    • B/IV/5 -- Bridgman, Nanie. Manuscrits de musique polyphonique, IVe et XVIe siècles: Italie (München, 1991)

  • B/V -- Manuscripts of tropes and sequences
    • B/V/1 -- Husmann, Heinrich. Tropen-und Sequenzen Handschriften (München-Duisberg, 1964)

    • [B/V/2] -- Deusen, Nancy van. Katalog der mittelalterlichen Sequenzen. (In preparation)
  • B/VII -- Lute and guitar tablatures

    • B/VII -- Boetticher, Wolfgang. Handschriftlich überlieferte Lauten- und Gitarrentabulaturen des 15. Bis 18. Jahrhunderts (München-Duisberg, 1978).

  • B/IX -- Hebrew sources of music and music theory

    •  B/IX/1 -- Adler, Israel. Hebrew notated manuscript sources up to circa 1840: a descriptive catalogue with a checklist of printed sources (München, 1989)

  • B/XIV -- Manuscripts of processionals (liturgical books)

    • B/XIV/I -- Huglo, Michel. Autriche á Espagne (München, 1999)

    • B/XIV/II -- Huglo, Michel. Autriche á France à Afrique du Sud (München, 2004)

  • B/XV -- Masses transmitted in sources from Spain, Portugal and Latin America

    • B/XV -- Urchueguía, Cristina. Mehrstimmige Messen in Quellen aus Spanien, Portugal und Lateinamerika, ca. 1490-1630: Drucke, Handschriften und verlorene Quellen (München, 2005)

Writings about Music

  • B/VI -- Printed writings about music, to 1800
    • B/VI/1-2 -- Lesure, François. Écrits imprimés concernant la musique. (München-Duisberg, 1971)

  • B/IX/2 -- Adler, Israel. Hebrew writings concerning music in manuscripts and printed books from Geonic times up to 1800(Kassel, 1975); Register (Kassel, 1989)


    • B/X -- Arabic sources of music and music theory

      • B/X -- Shiloah, Amnon. The theory of music in Arabic writings (c.900 - 1900): descriptive catalogue of manuscripts in libraries of Europe and the U.S.A. (München, 1979)

      • B/X A -- Shiloah, Amnon. The theory of music in Arabic writings (c.900 - 1900): descriptive catalogue of manuscripts in libraries of Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, and supplement to B X (München, 2003).

    • B/XI -- Ancient sources of music and music theory

      • B/XI -- Mathieson, Thomas J. Ancient Greek music theory: a catalogue raisonné of manuscripts (München, 1988)

    • B/XII -- Persian sources of music and music theory

      • B/XII -- Massoudieh, Mohammed Taghi. Manuscrits persans concernant la musique: catalogue (München, 1996)


    C -- Directory of music research libraries

    • C/I -- Kahn, Marian, et al. Canada and the United States, 2nd rev. ed. (Bärenreiter, 1983)

    • C/II -- Benton, Rita. Thirteen European countries [Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Great Britain, Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden, Finland]. (Iowa City, 1970)

    • C/III -- Benton, Rita. Spain, France, Italy, Portugal. (Iowa City, 1972)

    • C/IV -- Hill, Cecil, et al. Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand. (Kassel, 1979)

    • C/V -- Moldovan, James B., and Lilian Pruett. Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia. (Kassel, 1985)

    Anatomy of a RISM entry


    For any given manuscript, you can expect to see the folowing data in RISM:

    Description of the manuscript

    Text incipit, music incipit (first line of text, first few bars of the music)

    Brief bibliography (articles about this manuscript)

    Library that owns the manuscript (abbreviations are used; see the library's full name in the list at the front of the volume). ***Note that library sigla in RISM are not the same as listed in Grove, and are case-sensitive when searching. Our RISM siglum is US-U.

    Early Printed Editions

    For any early printed edition of a musical work, you can expect to see the following data in RISM:

    Bibliographic citation (including a full transcription of the original tite page)

    Libraries that own a copy of the edition (abbreviations are used; see the libraries' full names in the list at the front of the volume)

    RISM entry number (you may see this number included in other authors' citations of this edition)

    RISM Help