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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding Primary Sources of Music in Libraries and Archives

A guide to identifying, locating, and accessing primary sources (including manuscripts, early editions, programs, interviews, and more). This guide covers both digital and physical collections.

Introduction

This page provides a general introduction to RISM covering the data you can expect to find in a RISM entry as well as recommendations for which series of RISM to consult depending on the topic you're researching. Navigating RISM can be a little tricky, so we are also including links to RISM's help documentation throughout (note that it includes both video tutorials and step by step guides to navigating basic and advanced searching in RISM). 

If you're having trouble searching in RISM or can't find the source you need, schedule an appointment with one of our music librarians using the buttons below.

What Is RISM?

RISM (Repertoire International des Sources Musicales) is an ongoing scholarly project to document the existence of printed and manuscript music. Even though the emphasis of manuscript cataloging is on the years 1600-1850, you will find both older and newer sources in the online catalog. It gives detailed descriptions of music manuscripts, early printed editions of music, and early treatises on music and includes information about which library or archive holds each item. In short, RISM records "what" exists and "where" you can find it!

RISM is searchable by composer, work title, thematic catalog number, music incipit, and genre, among other options.

There are three series in RISM:

  • A = Inventories of musical sources, in manuscript and printed editions, organized by composer
  • B = Bibliographies of materials organized by particular topic 
  • C= Directories of music research libraries around the world

We've organized the RISM descriptions at the bottom of the page by type of contents inventoried. Note that parts (but not all) of RISM are searchable online. If the portion you need to consult is not included in RISM online, refer to physical volumes of RISM at MPAL shelved in the Reference section at ML113 I67.

Anatomy of a RISM Entry

To help you as you explore RISM, we've provided an outline of the information you can expect to find included in the RISM entry for a particular source type. For all entries, RISM assigns an abbreviation, called a library siglum, to institutions worldwide that hold musical sources or material related to the research of music. For help deciphering these, refer to RISM's Directory of Library Sigla

Manuscripts

For any given manuscript, you can expect to see the following 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 title 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 Contents by Type

A/II: Music Manuscripts After 1600

A/II was published as a freely available online catalog with over 700,000 entries. The nature of the A/II project has expanded over the years to include music manuscripts from before 1600 to the present day, and all music manuscripts are now part of the larger RISM electronic database.

Another RISM A/II database freely available online is the RISM UK Catalogue which lists music manuscripts ca. 1600 – ca. 1800 and printed music before ca. 1800 in UK libraries.

A/I: Einzeldrucke vor 1800 (Individual Prints before 1800)

All of Series A is available online through the RISM electronic database

B/I and B/II: Printed collections of the 16th-18th centuries

All of B/I and about 25% of B/II are included in the RISM electronic database. Includes:

  • B/I: François Lesure, Recueils imprimés, XVIe-XVIIe siècles (1960).
  • B/II: François Lesure, Recueils imprimés, XVIIIe siècle (1964)

B/VIII: German hymns (DKL)

B/VIII is a catalog of traceable printed sources of German hymns, of all denominations, from the end of the 15th century until 1800 that contain at least one melody in musical notation. A very small number of sources from B/VIII are in the RISM electronic database. For the remainder, consult the print volumes.

  • B/VIII/1: Konrad Ameln, Markus Jenny, and Walter Lipphardt, Das deutsche Kirchenlied. Kritische Gesamtausgabe der Melodien. Band 1, Teil 1: Verzeichnis der Drucke von den Anfängen bis 1800. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1975.

  • B/VIII/2: Markus Jenny, Das deutsche Kirchenlied. Kritische Gesamtausgabe der Melodien. Band 1, Teil 2: Verzeichnis der Drucke. Register. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1980.

B/III: The theory of music from the Carolingian Era up to c.1500

RISM Series B/III is searchable through Lexicon musicum Latinum and in revised form through Musmed.fr. It includes:

  • B/III/1: Joseph Smits van Waesberghe with Peter Fischer and Christian Maas, The Theory of Music from the Carolingian Era up to 1400. Volume I: Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts, 1961.
    • Countries included: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland.
  • B/III/2: Pieter Fischer, The Theory of Music from the Carolingian Era up to 1400. Volume II: Italy, 1968.
  • B/III/3: Michel Huglo and Christian Meyer, The Theory of Music. Manuscripts from the Carolingian Era up to c. 1500 in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1986.
  • B/III/4: Michel Huglo, Christian Meyer, 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: Descriptive Catalogue, 1992.
  • B/III/5: Christian Meyer, Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, Karl Werner Gümpel, The Theory of Music: Manuscripts from the Carolingian Era up to c. 1500 in the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal and Spain: Descriptive Catalogue, 1997.
  • B/III/6: Christian Meyer with Giuliano Di Bacco, Pia Ernstbrunner, Alexander Rausch, and Cesarino Ruini, The Theory of Music. Manuscripts from the Carolingian Era up to c. 1500: Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts: Addenda, Corrigenda, 2003.

B/IV: Manuscripts of polyphonic music, 11th-16th centuries

All of RISM Series B/IV is searchable via DIAMM (Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music). It includes:

  • 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

Consult Musicologie Médiévale to search a list of B/V entries for which digitized music exists, as well as some sources not in B/V but of a similar scope. Includes:

  • 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

To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

  • B/VII/1: Boetticher, Wolfgang. Handschriftlich überlieferte Lauten- und Gitarrentabulaturen des 15. Bis 18. Jahrhunderts (München-Duisberg, 1978).

B/IX: Hebrew sources

To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

  • B/IX/1: Israel Adler. Hebrew notated manuscript sources up to circa 1840: a descriptive catalogue with a checklist of printed sources (München, 1989)
  • B/IX/2: Israel Adler, Hebrew writings concerning music in manuscripts and printed books from Geonic times up to 1800, 1975.

B/XIV: Manuscripts of the processional

Descriptions of over 1,100 notated processionals and over 150 manuscripts with processional chant. To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

  • B/XIV/1: Michel Huglo, Les Manuscrits du processionnal, vol. 1: Autriche à Espagne, 1999.
  • B/XIV/2: Michel Huglo, Les Manuscrits du processionnal, vol. 2: France à Afrique du Sud, 2004.

B/XV: Polyphonic music in Ibero-American sources (Spain, Portugal, and Lantin America)

To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

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

B/VI: Printed writings about music

B/VI attempts to bring together all literature concerning music 1474-1800, whether theoretical, historical, aesthetic, or technical. 

A very small number of sources from B/VI are in the RISM electronic database. More than 2,000 publications from the Library of Congress (US-Wc) reported in these volumes are digitized and available online through the collection Books About Music Before 1800.

  • B/VI/1: François Lesure, Écrits imprimés concernant la musique (A-L), 1971.
  • B/VI/2: François Lesure, Écrits imprimés concernant la musique (M-Z), 1971.

B/IX: Hebrew sources

A corpus of Hebrew writings concerning music (not only a catalog of these sources), arranged alphabetically by author. To search, consult the print volumes.

  • 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: The theory of music in Arabic writings, c. 900 - 1900

Over 500 sources of Arabic music theory from its beginnings to the end of the 19th century. To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

  • B/X: Amnon Shiloah, The theory of music in Arabic writings (c. 900-1900). Descriptive catalog of manuscripts in libraries of Europe and the U.S.A, 1979.
  • B/X/A: Amnon Shiloah, The theory of music in Arabic writings (c. 900-1900). Descriptive catalog of manuscripts in libraries of Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, and supplement to B/X, 2003.

B/XI: Ancient Greek music theory

Descriptions for nearly 300 codices, extending from the 11th through the 17th centuries. To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

  • B/XI: Thomas J. Mathiesen, Ancient Greek music theory: A catalogue raisonné of manuscripts, 1988.

B/XII: Persian music theory

Over 200 Persian musical manuscripts, encompassing virtually the total corpus thereof. To search, consult the print volumes. Includes:

  • B/XII: Mohammed Taghi Massoudieh, Manuscrits persans concernant la musique, 1996.

Canada and the United States

  • C/I: Marian Kahn, Helmut Kallmann, Charles Lindahl, Directory of music research libraries. Volume 1: Canada and the United States, 2nd ed., 1983.

Sixteen European Countries

  • C/II: Elizabeth Davis, Directory of music research libraries. Volume 2: Sixteen European countries. 2nd ed., 2001.
    • Countries included: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Switzerland.
  • C/III/1: Elizabeth Davis, Directory of music research libraries. Volume 3, 1: Sixteen European countries. 2nd ed., 2001.
    • Countries included: France, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom.

Israel, Japan, and Oceania

  • C/IV: Cecil Hill, Katya Manor, James Siddons, Dorothy Freed, Directory of music research libraries. Volume 4: Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, 1979.

Eastern Europe

  • C/V: James B. Moldovan, Lilian Pruett, Directory of music research libraries. Volume 5: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, 1985.

What if my source isn't in RISM?

If the source you're looking for doesn't appear to be in RISM, check out their Resources page that inventories related projects and other places you can search (linked below).