Search Strategies for Printed Music

Monday, March 25, 2019

Printed music is one of the “classic” RISM sources, with a long RISM tradition alongside music manuscripts, libretti, and treatises. Searching for printed music in the RISM catalog has only been possible since 2015, when printed editions by a single composer (to 1800) were added along with anthologies printed between 1500 and 1550. A translation for our long-time RISM users: this was all of series A/I and the first half of B/I, published in the blue books (see photo).

Since this major addition, we have been working on bringing the 16th century to a close and moving into the 17th century. The years 1601-1610 are now in RISM (and we’ll have a behind-the-scenes look at this on Thursday). But given the different projects being undertaken by our RISM contributors around the world, you’ll find printed music that falls into the supposed chronological gaps, and even beyond. So how do you know what you can search for?

When you have an A/I or B/I number, a good strategy is to search for it in the field A/I or B/I number in the Advanced Search. A/I numbers are generally a letter plus a number (example: S 6989). B/I numbers are the year plus a number (1684|3). The number is written in superscript but you can also search using formulations like this: 1684-3 1684|3 1684/3

If you don’t find what you are looking for, then search using the field All Fields and put the number in quotation marks: “1684-3”. Something might pop up then. The reason is because many entries from A/I are duplicates of B/I material (reason: it’s complicated), and in such cases the B/I numbers aren’t indexed and will only be found through the keyword search.

Printed music dating from 1551 to 1600 is mostly, but not entirely, in the catalog. Post-1610 material is the next project. However, records are continuously revised within the scope of individual RISM projects so it’s worth it to search the RISM catalog first before reaching for the blue books. And of course, we have RISM projects that focus on 19th-century music (such as these Chopin editions), which is something that was not even in the scope of RISM in earlier decades and which do not have A/I or B/I numbers at all.

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