News from the Czech RISM Working Group

Eliška Šedivá

Thursday, March 21, 2024

In the field of musicology and music documentation, the most important contributions of the Music Department of the National Library of the Czech Republic involve the cataloging of musical sources in the RISM database. Most of this work forms part of a project supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, aimed at developing research organizations in the longer run. The project currently takes stock of newly found collections at various places in the Czech Republic, as well as the revision of existing records in the Czech union catalog for music and the RISM database in an effort to make them available as printed thematic catalogs. The National Library has been publishing these in a special series Catalogus artis musicae in Bohemia et Moravia cultae for 50 years. The last volume to date is the catalog of the music collection of the Strachota family from Panenský Týnec, published in 2023. The thematic catalogs in this series are accompanied by substantial studies that examine in detail the contents of the collections and also place them in the history of the region they belong to.

Current research and cataloging focus on previously unexplored church collections in Litomyšl (CZ-LLk), Teplice (CZ-TEk), and Prague (Chorus Societatis Jesu Micro-Pragae ad S. Nicolaum, now in CZ-Pnm); the musical heritage of reputed Czech cantor families (the Hübner family in Dlouhý Most and the Strachota family in Panenský Týnec, now in CZ-Pu); aristocratic collections, such as the sheet music from the possession of Countess Elise Schlick at the library and the archive of the Prague Conservatory (CZ-Pk), or the Schwarzenberg collection in Český Krumlov (CZ-K). An overview of the fruits of this project has recently been made available in the form of a virtual exhibition and a critical catalog published as an e-book with the title Preserve, explore, revive: Czech collections of musical sources and their processing (Uchovat, prozkoumat, oživit: České sbírky hudebních pramenů a jejich zpracování, 2023, available only in Czech).

Some of these collections have already been recorded in the Czech union catalog for music. This has been built from the 1960s onwards as part of an extensive research inventory of sources pertaining to the history of early music. To date, it covers more than 180 Czech and Moravian music collections, some of which still await cataloging in the RISM database. The collections selected for inclusion have been described on carefully prepared cards that contain complete source descriptions and music incipits. Most recently, the historically significant music collection of the church of Peter and Paul in Mělník (CZ-ME) has been cataloged for RISM, as well as the manuscripts surviving in the estate of composer Kryšpín Josef Taschka in Bělá pod Bezdězem (CZ-BEL), the music collection of choirmaster J. J. Šimůnek in Paseky nad Jizerou (CZ-PAS), the music archives of the church of the Holy Trinity in Loukov (CZ-LO), and sources from the Dr. Bohuslav Horák Museum in Rokycany (CZ-RO).

We also cooperate with external RISM contributors, who catalog newly discovered music collections as part of their own research, among others in Mimoň (CZ-MIM), Zvíkovec (CZ-ZVk), and Nový Knín. The cataloging and digitization of printed music editions is also underway both in the National Library of the Czech Republic and, among others, in the music department of the South Bohemian Research Library (Jihočeská vědecká knihovna/ CZ-CBk) in České Budějovice. A unique case is the music collection CZ-Pnipos in Prague, which contains Czech choral music of the 20th and 21st centuries (the RISM siglum stands for the Public Specialized Library of the National Information and Advice Center for Culture). All these projects have funding for five more years, and they are being supervised by Zuzana Petrášková and Eliška Šedivá at the National Library (CZ-Pu).

Image: Astronomical tower of the Clementinum in Prague, Photo credit: Guido Kraus

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