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University Library


MUS 501: Grad Music History Review

Understanding Editions & Catalogs

This box will walk you through different editions and catalogs and their usage.

Performing editions: These are the scores that you'll find on the 2nd floor of MPAL.

  • They have been edited by publishers, teachers, and performers to include fingerings, phrasing, and sometimes tempo indications.
  • These editions range in quality, but you'll find that publishers such as Henle, Wiener Urtext, Breitkopf and Hartel (among others) tend to put out better editions than, for example, International.

Collected works or Critical editions: These are sets of composers' collected works compiled by scholarly editors to try to give the closest indication of what the composer truly intended.

  • Critical commentary is included that discusses any alterations in accidentals, notes, ornaments, and so forth.
  • The editors refer to any manuscript sources available and also research whether the composer later made changes (such as notes or cuts, etc.).
  • These editions are also sometimes called ‘complete editions’ or ‘Gesamtausgabe’.

Monuments or Denkmäler: Are collected editions that focus on a particular country, region, or type of music rather than a single composer.

Thematic Catalogs: Provide organized lists of a composer's works.

  • Many include incipits for the beginning of each work or movement.
  • Thematic catalogs can help you locate individual works in a composer's collected edition or locate the original manuscript and other significant copies. 

How to Find Them

This box explains how to find Collected Works and Thematic Catalogs through the Library.

Monuments & Collected Works

  • Collected editions for composers are primarily classified in the M3s (located on the first floor at the back of the Reference collection).
  • Monuments or Gesamtausgabe are in the M2s.

You'll likely need to first find the call number for the set you need. Do this by searching the Library catalog:

  • You can search the Library catalog with the title you find in Grove (Oxford Music Online), Heyer, or Hill, or, you can simply do a keyword search for [composer name] and works.
  • Caveat: sometimes we call things by nicknames, and you won't find those in the catalog. Perhaps the best example of this is the Neue Bach Ausgabe. This is what we call it, but the official name, and the name under which it is listed in the library catalog, is Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke.

Thematic Catalogs

To find a thematic catalogue for a particular composer you can:

  1. Search in the Library catalog for the composer's name and catalog or thematic catalog.
  2. Check in Barry S. Brook's Thematic Catalogues in Music: An Annotated Bibliography ML113 B8955 T4 1997 (Ready Reference)
  3. Check the Grove entry for the composer, which often lists the thematic catalog before the works list.

You can also use the following tools to identify online thematic catalogs:

How to Use Them

To identify a composer's collected works and associated thematic catalog, start by using Grove in Oxford Music Online (linked below). Once you have completed these steps, continue to the next tab of this box to locate a particular piece.

  1. Search for the composer
  2. Select "Works" (which you can find listed under Article Contents on the left side of the screen)
  3. Collected editions for that composer will be listed at the start of the Works section (indicated with orange boxes on the screenshot below)
  4. Thematic catalogs for that composer will be listed before the works list and after editions (indicated with red boxes on the screenshot below)
  5. Pay attention to the abbreviations associated with a particular collected edition - you'll need that information later!

To learn how to find a specific piece in a collected edition, see the next tab of this box.

Collected editions, thematic catalogs, and their identifying abbreviations are listed in the first two sections of the Works section in Grove.


Annotated screenshot of the Works section in a composer's entry in Grove emphasizing the listings of collected editions and their identifying abbreviations.


Once you've completed the steps on the previous tab to identify the name and associated abbreviation of a composer's collected edition, follow the steps below to identify the location of a particular piece within the collected works:

  1. Remember the abbreviation (listed in brackets) associated with the collected edition that you noted in the previous steps
  2. Find the piece you are looking for in the works list
  3. Look to the far right-hand columns: the column headings will indicate the collected work by using the abbreviation you noted earlier
  4. Go down the column until you get to the row for the piece you want to find a listing for the series, volume, and page in a composer's collected works where you can find that piece

The location of a specific piece is given for each collected work (identified by the abbreviated title at the top of the column)

Annotated screenshot of a works list in grove emphasizing the column that lists a piece's location in a collected work.

You may find a glossary of German musical terms helpful for your consultation of collected works and thematic catalogs. Refer to the list below to help in your research.

Abkuerzungen: abbreviations
Anmerkung: remarks/observations
Ausgaben: editions
Autograph: manuscript written in the hand of a particular person; in normal musical parlance, the manuscript of a work in the hand of its composer
Band: volume
Bearbeitungen: arrangements
Begleitung: accompaniment
Besetzung: instrumentation
Briefe: Letters (correspondence)
Buhnenwerke: Stage works
Druck: print
Faksimile: exact copy (usually of a manuscript)
Handschrift: manuscript
Holograph: sometimes used to distinguish a manuscript wholly in the hand of its author or composer
Kammermusik: chamber music
Klaviermusik: piano music
Kirchenmusik: church music
Kritischer bericht: critical commentary
Lieder: songs
Literatur: articles/studies about work
Manuscript: source that is written by hand
Mehrstimmige Gesange: Songs for multiple voice parts
Opera Omnia: all works
Opus Zahl: Opus (work) number
Orchesterwerke: Orchestral works
Oeuvres completes: complete works
Partituren: scores
Quellen: sources
Reihe: Row or series
Sammtlicher: collected
Skizzen: sketches
Stimmen: voices/parts
Takte: measures
Thematisches-Verzeichnis: thematic catalog, inventory
Teil: part
Urtext: intended to reproduce the original intention of the composer as exactly as possible, without any added or changed material
Vergleiche (Vgl.): see also, compare
Werke: works
Widmung: dedication (gewidmet= dedicated to)