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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sacred Music and Hymnology

A guide to reference material, books, articles, and performance materials for sacred music.


This page is an introduction to finding primary sources of sacred music and hymnology including early printed editions of hymns, digital copies and facsimiles, and non-musical sources that may help you contextualize the musical works you're studying and develop a more holistic sense for the time period and social circumstances surrounding the work you've selected.

Locating Music Manuscripts and Early Printed Editions

Depending on the subject you're researching, it may not be immediately obvious what kinds of primary sources are available to you. We've collected resources to help you identify what kinds of primary sources survive for the specific work you are studying.

In particular, this box includes tools to find manuscripts and early printed editions, as those source types can be particularly tricky to track down.

Finding a Digital Copy

Although some early editions and manuscripts exist only in particular libraries and archives that you might not be able to access in person, there are a wealth of online versions and facsimiles that you can search for once you know exactly what you're looking for. In some cases, scores and manuscripts have been digitized and are posted online for public access.

There are several ways you can check to see if a copy is available online. If you know the institution that houses the item, check their website to see if the item is part of any digital collections. If not, there are several online resources that specialize in facilitating access to digitized materials.

MPAL Microfilm Collection

To supplement use of The Hymn Tune Index, MPAL also houses a collection of hundreds of microfilm copies of hymn editions, primarily dating from the 16th century to 1820.  Patrons interested in this collection may review the microfilm inventory below.  Please inquire at the Music and Performing Arts circulation desk to borrow microfilm for in-library use. 

Finding Non-Musical Sources

When doing music research, it is important to contextualize the musical work(s) with cultural events and objects of that time. Some types of sources will help with this, such as newspapers, books, and article clippings containing topics such as book reviews, performance reviews, and current events. We've collected several databases and catalogues below that can help you track down non-musical primary sources that might be of use.