Results of the RISM User Study, Part III: Your Comments - Chronological Limits

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Today, we’re continuing the conversation about comments we received from the recent RISM survey. On Monday we talked about countries represented in RISM and secondary literature. Today:

“Do you still have the cataloging limit of 1850?”- Respondent 372

“I thought you were limited to sources up to a certain date (1950? 1900?)…but is it true?” - Respondent 15

A question that comes up frequently, and not only in the user study, is the question of chronological limits. The time frame of 1600-1800 that was applied by RISM was used for the series A/I project, printed music. At the beginning of the project, no one even imagined that it would one day be a database. Publication as a series of books made constraints necessary. But the period 1600 to 1800 was not picked at random: while the number of music prints before 1600 is still manageable, the introduction of new printing techniques at the beginning of the nineteenth century made costs radically drop and print runs reached dimensions that were unimaginable in the eighteenth century. This time frame was taken up once RISM began cataloging music manuscripts and in the course of the project it was extended to 1850.

The terms of funding for the RISM Zentralredaktion and the German working group stipulate that the emphasis for describing musical sources should be the period 1600-1800. Projects undertaken by other national groups also typically have chronological limits, and 1600-1800 has frequently been applied.

However, this ought not be a barrier for other institutions or projects–which are funded independently from the Zentralredaktion–when they are describing their holdings. Due to the unique history of each country we work with, we leave it up to our colleagues in the national groups to determine cataloging priorities and what chronological limits fit best with the extant sources preserved there. Therefore you will find mostly printed music from 1900-1945 in Korea, Gustav Mahler in Canada, and works by Lili Boulanger, Maurice Ravel, Ethel Smyth, and Richard Strauss. RISM contributors are encouraged to enter sources from any time period.

Image: Max Bruch (1838-1920), autograph manuscript of 18 Lieder (ca. 1916-1919). Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (D-B), Bruch, M. 18 (RISM ID no. 464000858)

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