Catalogue of the Fondo Cappella Sistina in RISM

This catalog contains manuscripts and printed music from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (V-CVbav). The bulk of the sources date from between 1474 and ca. 1620 and are from the Fondo Cappella Sistina collection (shelfmarks Capp. Sist. 13-80). All of these sources can also be found in the international RISM online catalogue.

The Introduction by Thomas Schmidt provides background information on the Fondo Cappella Sistina cataloging project. Please see the User Guide and the Abbreviations for help.

You can start with a search directly below and then use the filters in RISM Online to refine the results. A search with more than one word will find only the sources that match all the criteria. The words do not have to be in the same field. Please contact the RISM Editorial Center if you have any questions:


The catalogue of the music sources of the Fondo Cappella Sistina in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana goes back to the research project “Cappella Sistina” under the direction of Ludwig Finscher, funded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences between 1989 and 2001. One of the main objectives of this project was the preparation of a catalogue raisonée of the Fondo, setting new codicological standards. Following preparatory work by Adalbert Roth and Bernhard Janz, the substantive work on this catalogue took place between 1995 and 2002 by Thomas Schmidt (manuscripts) and Gottfried Heinz (printed editions), with a planned book publication in the catalogue series of the Vatican library. However, due to the end of the project’s funding and changes in personnel, this publication is yet to see the light of day. It is therefore all the more gratifying that the bulk of the catalogue data is now finally publicly accessible in the context of the RISM online catalogue. It is a source of great sadness that the spiritus rector of the project, Ludwig Finscher, did not live to see this happen as the non-completion of the Cappella Sistina project was always a source of great regret to him; he passed away on 30 June 2020.

Since the project has remained a torso, the data density of the individual entries varies greatly. All manuscripts and printed editions up to Capp. Sist. 80 and all manuscripts with polyphonic music copied before 1600 are recorded completely and in the level of detail developed for the printed catalog (the chant manuscripts, which were also cataloged, are not part of the RISM remit and thus for the time being not accessible here). For the remaining entries, the catalogue provides the basic inventory data on the codices and the repertoire, initially taken from LlorensS 1960 and only partially amended and updated.

The detailed descriptions are based on an in situ examination of the codices in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, with a few exceptions where the poor condition of the volumes made this impossible; this examination took place between 1995 and 2002 and therefore represents that specific chronological state of the collection. Much has happened in early music source research since 2002, most notably the digital revolution making an ever-increasing number of books available in high-resolution photography online (whereas the research for this catalogue was based on either microfilms or on working directly with the originals). The BAV has become a pioneer of making their sources accessible to the world, which means that a very substantial portion of the books here can also be accessed on their site, increasingly in the form of high-resolution color images. The catalogue is put to best use when consulted alongside the online images which are linked to the relevant RISM entries when available.

User Guide

For the fully described entries, the breadth and depth of the codicological and palaeographic data (including gathering structures, preparation of the page, copying space, layout, notation, state of preservation, etc.) goes far beyond the RISM cataloging scheme; this information, when not articulated in more specific catalogue fields, is brought together in the “Material” field under “Source description” and more particularly in the “Notes” field.


  • Date copied
  • Place copied
  • Watermarks
  • Page measurements

Material description notes:

  • Current gathering structure (called “Aktuelle Lagenstruktur” in the records)
  • When relevant, the original structure (called “ursprüngliche Lagenstruktur” in the records) is described. This refers to the state prior to restoration and rebinding, which regularly resulted in the loss of the original gathering structure, as the manuscripts were almost all made from individual leaves that were combined to form artificial bifolia.
  • Binding and covers, including condition
  • Material support

General notes

  • Title (when present)
  • Current foliation/pagination
  • Type of notation
  • Condition, including remarks on subsequent restoration
  • Previous foliation(s)/pagination(s)/gathering signatures/numbering of compositions
  • List of flyleaves/endpapers, blank pages
  • List of codicological units, numbered through, each listing:
    • Folio range
    • Type of unit
    • Material support, including paper format and condition
    • Preparation/ruling: size of ruled space, number of staves on pages, type and size of rastrum, indentations, type of ink, Schriftspiegel (writing space, i.e. measurements excluding underlaid text, in brackets including text)
    • Copyist
    • Type of notation and script
    • Type and position of decorations
    • Watermarks

The identification of copyists and their stages of activity draws substantially on the work of Mitchell Brauner, Jeffrey Dean, Adalbert Roth, Richard Sherr, and others. The system used to refer to scribal stages in this catalogue will be published on this site as soon as possible.

Items in the source

  • Individual compositions


Sections/movements include

  • Mise-en-page (e.g. ST|AB refers to Superius and Tenor on the verso, Altus and Bassus on the recto)
  • Canons or other written instructions when present

Further information (included where relevant):

  • Text source
  • Cantus prius factus source
  • Number in source
  • Title in index
  • Composer in index
  • Liturgical assignation
  • Composer attribution

Frequently used abbreviations

BL Blindline (blind ruling)
ggf. gegebenenfalls (where present)
GUZ gegen den Uhrzeigersinn (counterclockwise)
IB Initialblatt (first leaf of a unit ruled differently to accommodate initials)
KE Kodikologische Einheit (codicological unit), corresponding to the original compilation process of the books which were almost invariably composed of separately copied sections as opposed to the current gathering structure
KN Kalligraphisches Niveau (calligraphic level)
ltf littera textualis formata
UZS Uhrzeigersinn (clockwise)
z.T. zum Teil (in part)

Huddersfield, January 2021
Thomas Schmidt

Image: Jacob Barbireau, Missa Virgo parens Christi, f. 2v (ca. 1513-1521). V-CVbav CS 160. RISM ID no. 857000143 (RISM Catalog | RISM Online). Available online. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Used with permission.


Series A/I; series B, volume VIII, parts 1 and 2; series C
Series B (except for volume VIII, parts 1 and 2)
Series A/II CD-ROM (1995-2008)
Series A/II subscription database (2002-2006)
Series A/II subscription database (2006-present)
Congress report (2010)