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Primary Sources in Music

An introduction to finding primary source materials in music, including useful reference works and a selection of online resources organized by topic.

About RISM

RISM stands for Répertoire international des sources musicales, an ongoing project to document musical sources in libraries all over the world. Its purpose is to let researchers discover where particular sources are held and to see which sources a particular institution holds.

RISM is divided into three series.  Series A lists printed and manuscript music from 1600-1800, arranged by composer.  Series B documents materials dealing with specific topics.  Series C is a directory of music research libraries.

All of the libraries in RISM are identified by sigla, which generally give an indication of where the library is located.  The siglum for the Library of Congress, for example, is US-Wc: US=United States, W=Washington, D.C., and c=Library of Congress.  The RISM Sigla Catalogue is available online.

The RISM series is availabe in the Reference section of the music library under the following call numbers.

Series A

  • A/I: Printed music before 1800. (Location: available online; older version: Allen Music Library Reference ML113 .I62)
  • A/II: Music manuscripts from 1600-1800. (Location: available online; older verison: Allen Music Library Microfiche Mif 9)

Series B

Location: Allen Music Library Reference ML113 .I6

  • B/I: Printed music in collections, 16th-17th centuries (partly included in the online version)
  • B/II: Printed music in collections, 18th century
  • B/III: Music theory from the 9th century to about 1500
  • B/IV: Manuscripts of polyphonic music, 11th-16th centuries
  • B/V: Manuscripts of tropes and sequences
  • B/VI: Printed writings about music before 1800
  • B/VII: Lute and guitar tablatures
  • B/VIII: German hymns
  • B/IX: Hebrew music and music theory sources
  • B/X: Arabic music and music theory sources
  • B/XI: Ancient music and music theory sources
  • B/XII: Persian music and music theory sources
  • B/XIII: Sources of hymnody (not yet published)
  • B/XIV: Manuscripts of processionals
  • B/XV: Masses transmitted in sources from Spain, Portugal and Latin America

Series C

  • C/I: Libraries in Canada and the US (Location: Allen Music Library Reference ML113 .I63)
  • C/II: Libraries in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, East and West Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Great Britain, Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden, and Finland (Location: Allen Music Library Reference ML 113 .I5 D5 pt. 2)
  • C/III: Libraries in Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal (Location: Allen Music Library Reference ML 113 .I5 D5 pt. 3)
  • C/IV: Libraries in Australia, Israel, Japan, and New Zealand
  • C/V: Libraries in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Yugoslavia
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