Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
UCF Libraries Home


General Identifying Sources for Primary Sources

In addition to thematic catalogs of specific composers, the following sources are also useful in locating primary sources in music.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed.
Main Library Reference ML 100 .N48 2001
The "works," "writings," and/or "bibliography" sections appended to the entries of specific composers can offer some information about manuscripts and early printed editions. Also, the following entries in Grove may be of help:
Historical Sets, Collected Editions and Monuments of Music: A Guide to Their Contents, 3d ed.
Main Library General Collection ML 113 .H62 1980
Also known as "Heyer." The primary guide to 1,300 scholarly anthologies and collected works sets of major composers. Entries provide full bibliographic information and list contents of individual volumes. Numerous cross-references. An extensive index of composers, editors, and titles provides access to the contents of the anthologies.

 RISM: Repertoire international des sources musicales = International Inventory of Musical Sources
An ongoing major bibliographic series for pre-1900 source materials in music. It is intended to provide a catalogue of all available bibliographical musical works, writings about music, and textbooks on music from all countries of the world. There are three RISM series:

  • Series A
    • A/I: Einzeldrucke vor 1800 = Single Prints before 1800
      Main Library General Collection ML 113 .I6 [Bd. 1-9, 11-15]
      A catalog of printed music covering 1500 to 1800 and includes music by over 7,000 composers in 2,100 libraries. 
    • A/II: Musikhandschriften nach 1600 = Music Manuscripts after 1600
      Online version [Series A/II only]
      Lists only handwritten or holographic music by approximately 27,000 composers.
  • Series B
    Main Library General Collection ML 113 .I6
    Comprises a systematic series which documents a self-contained group of sources. Holdings of the UCF Libraries are indicated in backets [ ] after each series number.
    • B/I and B/II [B/II: pts. 1-2]: Recueils imprimés XVIe–XVIIIe siècles = Printed Anthologies from the 16th to the 18th Centuries
    • B/III [pts. 1-4, 6]: The Theory of Music from the Carolingian Era up to ca. 1500: Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts
    • B/IV [pts. 1-5, suppl. 1]: Handschriften mit mehrstimmiger Musik des 11. bis 16. Jahrhunderts = Manuscripts with Polyphonic Music from the 11th to the 16th Centuries
    • B/V [pts. 1-2]: Tropen- und Sequenzenhandschriften = Manuscripts of Tropes and Sequences
    • B/VI [pts. 1-2]: Écrits imprimés concernant la musique = Printed Writings about Music
    • B/VII [1 vol., complete]: Handschriftlich überlieferte Lauten- und Gitarrentabulaturen des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts = Manuscripts of Lute and Guitar Tablature from the 15th to the 18th Centuries
    • B/VIII [pts. 1-2]: Das Deutsche Kirchenlied = German Ecclesiastical Song
    • B/IX [pts. 1-3]: Hebrew Writings Concerning Music in Manuscripts and Printed Books from Geonic Times up to 1800
    • B/X [B/X and B/XA]: The Theory of Music in Arabic Writings, ca. 900–1900
    • B/XI [1 vol., complete]: Ancient Greek Music Theory: A Catalogue Raisonné of Manuscripts
    • B/XII [1 vol., complete]: Manuscrits persans concernant la musique = Persian Manuscripts about Music
    • B/XIII [pt. 1]: Hymnologica Slavica. Hymnologica Bohemica, Slavica (HBS), Polonica (HP), Sorabica (HS). Notendrucke des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts = Hymnal Music of the 16th to the 18th Centuries in Bohemia, Slovakia, Poland, and Sorbia.
    • B/XIV [pts. 1-2]: Les manuscrits du processionnal = Manuscripts about the Processional
    • B/XV [1 vol., complete]: Mehrstimmige Messen in Quellen aus Spanien, Portugal und Lateinamerika, ca. 1490–1630 = Polyphonic Masses in Sources from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, ca.1490–1630
  • Series C
    Directory of Music Research Libraries, 2d rev. ed.
    Main Library General Collection ML 12 .D615 1979
    Lists in five volumes all the music libraries, archives, and private collections which house historical materials listed in Series A and B. All of the libraries in RISM are identified by sigla, which generally give an indication of where the library is located; the RISM Sigla Catalogue is available online.
    • C/I: Libraries in Canada and the US
    • C/II: Libraries in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, East and West Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Great Britain, Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden, and Finland
    • C/III [pt. 1]: Libraries in Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal
    • C/IV: Libraries in Australia, Israel, Japan, and New Zealand
    • C/V: Libraries in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Yugoslavia
Thematic Catalogues in Music: An Annotated Bibliography, 2d ed.
Main Library General Collection ML 113 .B86 1997
Essential as a starting point to determine if a thematic catalog is available for a composer's works. This is a bibliography of published composer thematic catalogues, arranged by composer.

Specialized Sources
"...a database that assembles indices of the Latin ecclesiastical chants found in early manuscript and printed sources for the liturgical Office, such as antiphoners and breviaries" (website description).
A digital archive of images of European sources of medieval polyphonic music, captured directly from the original document.

Instrumental Music Printed Before 1600: A Bibliography
Main Library Reference ML 128 .I65 B77 1967
A list of sources on instrumental music from the sixteenth century.

Resources of American Music History: A Directory of Source Materials from Colonial Times to World War II
Main Library General Collection ML 120 .U5 R47 1981
Offers a survey of documents located in 3,000 repositories in the United States and abroad. The documents include sheet music, songbooks, manuscript music, printed music, concert programs, music publishers' catalogs, personal papers, and sound recordings. Geographical arrangement, with index of personal and institutional names and subjects.

Primary Source Databases

Provides the full text of articles, advertisements, illustrations, editiorial cartoons, obituaries, letters to the editor, etc., from more than 1,100 American magazines and journals published between 1741 and 1940. It includes special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines and many other historically significant periodicals. Articles are available as digitized images and therefore preserve the original typography, graphics, and page layout. The database allows searching by author, title, article type, publication title, date, and keywords in the full-text.

Offers facsimile page images and searchable full text for nearly 500 British periodicals published from the late seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries.

Based on Charles Evans' comprehensive American Bibliography (Main Library Reference Z 1215 .E92). The database makes available, in digital format, every book, pamphlet, and broadside published in the American colonies or the United States between 1639 and 1800 – in short, over 37,000 works. Among the range of publications included are advertisements, almanacs, bibles, catalogs, charters and by-laws, contracts, cookbooks, elegies, eulogies, laws, maps, narratives, novels, operas, plays, poems, primers, sermons, songs, speeches, textbooks, tracts, travelogues, and treaties. For assistance on identifying music in this database, see Donald L. Hixson's Music in Early America: A Bibliography of Music in Evans (Main Library General Collection ML 120 .U5 H6 1970).

"... Contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700" (publisher's description). When completed, this set will contain the full text of over 125,000 titles. Titles included are those listed in Pollard and Redgrave's A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 (Main Library Reference Z 2002 .P77 1976) and Wing's Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700 (Main Library Reference Z 2002 .W52), as well as the Thomason Tracts, 1640-1661 and the Early English Books Tract Supplement.

A nearly comprehensive collection of the works published in the English language (and non-English language works printed in the United Kingdom) during the eighteenth century, now comprising approximately 180,000 items. Includes poems, plays, novels, histories, travel books, parliamentary papers, parish registers, conduct books, cook books, and almanacs.

HarpWeek (1857-1912)
Provides full text and page images of Harper's Weekly, one of the most important serials of nineteenth-century America. A primary source for learning about nineteenth-century events, people, and culture in the United States.

A database of primary source collections for the nineteenth century, primarily British and American items, but including material from other nations and in other languages. NCCO is selective in coverage, including not all publications from the period, but eight thematic groupings of materials, called Archives, such as "British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture."

Based on Joseph Sabin's famed bibliography, Bibliotheca Americana: A Dictionary of Books Relating to America from its Discovery to the Present Time (Main Library Reference Z 1201 .S2 1961). An online collection of books, pamphlets, serials, and other works about the Americas, from the time of their discovery in the 1400s to the early 1900s.

Archival Resources
A directory describing over 220,000 collections of primary source material housed in thousands of repositories across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.
A collection of over three million archival material descriptions, providing information available about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and other archival materials. It also provides contact information for the institutions where the collections are kept.

National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)
Main Library Reference Z 6620 .U5 N3
Frequently referred to by its title abbreviation, pronounced "nuck-muck." Makes available the contents of archival and manuscript collections in research libraries, museums, state archives, and historical societies located throughout North America. From 1959 to 1993, the contents of NUCMC were published in print volumes. Since 1986, bibliographic records created for NUCMC have been made available in electronic format and can now be searched online.

Library and Repository Collections

In addition to the following links to national libraries and archives, also consult the Library of Congress' Gateway to Library Catalogs which has links to many library catalogs.
An online resource from the National Library of Spain (BNE), which provides free access to thousands of documents digitized by the Library. Allows the query, reading and downloading of books printed between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, sound recordings, manuscripts, drawings, prints, brochures, posters, photographs, maps, atlases, newspapers, and magazines.
Provides access to thousands of images taken from the British Library's collections which include manuscripts, rare books, musical texts, and maps spanning almost 3,000 years.
A digital library of French and francophone culture maintained by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, containing numerous electronic texts, scores, sound files, and other materials.
A rich source of online manuscripts and scores, such as the Leonard Bernstein Collection (3,823 items), The Early American Sheet Music Collection (2,492 items), and the Civil War Sheet Music Collection (2,577 items).
"... a comprehensive and authoritative list of international institutional and subject-based repositories..." (publisher's description). One of the categories in the "Browse" interface is fine and performing arts.
Austrian National Library's Department of Music holds extensive collections of music manuscripts, such as those by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Bruckner; music prints encompassing the entire history of music; and source material on musical theatre, especially opera of the Baroque era.
Includes the world's largest collection of Johann Sebastian Bach's and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's manuscripts, and the original score of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

What is a "Primary Source"?

For a brief overview of what is meant in music by primary sources, see the article "Sources" in The Oxford Companion to Music (Main Library Reference ML 100 .S37 2002). For a more extended treatment, see the entry "Sources, MS." in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Main Library Reference ML 100 .N48 2001).

Generally speaking, primary sources are documents or physical objects written or created at the time historical events occurred or well after the events in the form of memoirs or oral histories. They serve as the raw materials researchers use to analyze and interpret the past.

Examples of primary sources in the arts and humanities can include, but are not limited to:

> autobiographies or memoirs
> clothing
> data sets
> diaries
> e-mails
> government documents
> interviews or oral histories
> legal documents
> letters
> manuscripts
> newspaper articles
> opinion polls
> photographs
> speeches

Types of Music Primary Sources

Music manuscripts and early printed editions of music are the typical primary sources. They can include the following:

> Autograph or Holograph, which is the composer's own manuscript;

> Copies, which are scores handwritten by a relative, student, colleague, or copyist;

> First editions, typically published in consultation with a composer;

> Early editions, scores printed either during the composer's lifetime, or edited by a relative, student, or colleague after the composer's death; and

> Collected editions of a composer's complete works.

Tips for Locating Primary Sources in the UCF Library Catalog

The collections of the UCF Libraries include government documents, papers, speeches, oral histories, letters, diaries, photographs, and autobiographies collected in books and other formats. When performing an "Anywhere" or keyword search in the UCF Library Catalog, include terms that describe primary sources such as:

> archives
> autobiography
> correspondence
> description and travel
> diaries
> documentary films
> exhibitions
> interviews
> manuscripts
> maps
> notebooks
> papers
> personal narratives
> pictorial works
> portraits
> public opinion
> songs and music
> sources
> speeches