Music in the National Libraries of Europe

October 1, 1968

In an age when travelat home and abroadis relatively commonplace, the college music faculty member is able to visit Europe much more easily (and inexpensively) than ever before. While travelling in Europe, many of us visit the National Libraries with the hope of examining portions of their music holdings.

Many times, however, we are uncertain as to which European library houses which musical collection(s). Consequently, precious time is often lost in locating desired items and, in too many cases, great musical treasures are completely overlooked.

In an effort to provide the American college music faculty member with an up-to-date bibliographic "Baedeker," SYMPOSIUM has asked an expert in the field, Dr. Keith Mixter, to describe principal music collections in the National Libraries of Europe. We hope that his comments will help to make your next visit to these libraries a bit easierand more enjoyable.

European music collections may belong to one of several types of institutions. Such a collection may be part of a national, religious (church, diocesan, or monastic), public, academic (university or academy), or special library, or may be part of a conservatory. Although national libraries vary greatly in quality and size, they probably contain on the average more music of historical importance than does any other class of library.1 The following survey, in which documentation will be kept to a minimum, provides a brief introduction to the national libraries of Europe, with emphasis on their music holdings.2

Certainly one of the major national collections is that of the British Museum (London, W. C. 1).3 Besides the internal collections, the Museum has on loan the Royal Music Library, the manuscript collection of the Royal College of Music, and the Library of the Royal Philharmonic Society. As well as possessing British music, the Museum has strength in the Vienna Classics and Handeliana. Benefactors, either through gift or sale, have been the sovereigns, Sir John Hawkins, Paul Hirsch, Domenico Dragonetti, Sir George Grove, and Horace de Landau.

The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth (Cardiganshire) is readily open to outside users by reader's ticket. There is a collection of Welsh music and music by Welsh composers, in excess of 6,000 pieces of sheet music and 500 scores. The National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh 1) was formed in 1925 from the non-legal collections of the Advocates' Library, which had existed since 1682 and which had been a copyright library since 1710. The strengths of the National Library, besides certain medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, are Handel (Balfour collection), Berlioz (Hopkinson collection), and Scottish and English music of the 19th and 20th centuries. The National Library of Ireland (Kildare Street, Dublin 2) contains much late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music published in Ireland.

The Département de la Musique of the Bibliothèque nationale of France is housed in new quarters (2, rue Louvois, Paris). This collection, that of the Opéra, and the older holdings of the Paris Conservatoire have been united since 1935. These collections are of such overwhelming importance, reaching from antiquity to the present, that it would be difficult to isolate any one particular strength.4 The Bibliothèque is the legal deposit for all French music publications, and mention should be made of numerous special indexes within the Département, which extend beyond the limits of the collection itself.

While the Bibliothèque nationale of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (14a, Boulevard Royal, Luxembourg) has but a small music collection, we find in neighboring Belgium a very significant national library, the Bibliothèque Albert Ier (Boulevard de l'Empereur, 4, Brussels I). Collections of Fétis, Van Hulthem, and Coussemaker contribute to holdings which number about 22,000 books on music and 19,000 volumes of music.5 The Biblioteca Nacional of Portugal (Alameda do Campo Grande, Lisbon 5) was created in 1796 as a royal public library. The Secção de Música contains special strength in Portuguese music of the 18th and 19th centuries. A very rich collection from a historical standpoint, and one which reflects the musical culture of a domain which once reached into the Netherlands and Italy, is that of the Biblioteca Nacional of Spain (Po Calvo Sotelo 20, Madrid).6

In Italy we find not one, but several "national" libraries, a situation common to several European countries, especially those with strong ethnic representations.7 Each of these has probably a more important music collection than the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II (Via del Collegio Romano, 27, Rome), for most of the holdings of this institution have been turned over to the Biblioteca Musicale di S. Cecilia (Via dei Greci, 18, Rome). In short, the other national libraries are the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence (Piazza Cavalleggeri, 1), the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense in Milan (Via Brera, 28, or Via Clerici, 5), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III in Naples (Palazzo ex Reale), the Biblioteca Nazionale in Palermo (Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 431), the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria in Turin (Via Po, 19), and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice (Piazzetta S. Marco, 7). The Milanese library houses a very important "Ufficio per la ricerca e la schedatura dei fondi musicali italiani," which, under the direction of Professor Claudio Sartori, is making an inventory of Italian musical sources.

The major library of the Vatican City is the justly famous Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Porta S. Anna, Cortile di Belvedere). Besides a general collection of music, the library contains the Casimiri, Cappella Sistina, and Cappella Giulia collections.8 The musical significance of the Biblioteca lies chiefly, of course, in the realms of sacred music and music theory.

The capital of Switzerland is the site of the Schweizerische Landesbibliothek/Bibliothèque nationale suisse/Biblioteca nazionale svizzera (Hallwylstrasse 15, 3000 Berne). The library collects primarily Helvetica (i.e., music of Swiss composers), literature about Swiss music, and musical works and books on music published in Switzerland. Preserved on microfilm are all compositions reported to the Schweizerische Gesellschaft der Urheber und Verleger composed by members of the Schweizerische Tonkünstlerverein, but which remain unpublished.

The political situation in Germany forces us to look at a library in the East and two in the West.9 The collections of the earlier Preussische Staatsbibliothek are now divided between the East-German Deutsche Staatsbibliothek (Unter den Linden 8, 108 Berlin) and the West-German Staatsbibliothek der Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Archivstrasse 12/14, 1 Berlin 33). Together they form one of the great collections of the world of historical importance, particularly for Bach-research. The Musiksammlung of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich (Ludwigstrasse 16), already a magnificent collection before the war, has become a collecting point for music in West Germany. The specialties of this library are the music of the 16th to the 18th centuries, liturgical music of the middle ages, and theoretical and general music literature from the 16th century to the present day. We should not leave Germany without mention of the Deutsches Musikgeschichtliches Archiv in Kassel (Ständeplatz 16). The Archiv collects microfilms of German music inside and outside Germany.10

The Koninklijke Bibliotheek of Holland (Kazernestr. 39, The Hague) was the recipient, together with the Gemeentemuseum (Stadhouderslaan, 41), of the valuable music library of Dr. D.F. Scheurleer.11 To the Royal Library went the church music and folk music holdings. The Danish Kongelige Bibliotek (Christiansgade, 8, Copenhagen) excels in the music of the 16th to the 18th centuries and has a fine collection of Kuhlau and Nielsen. The Swedish Kungliga biblioteket (Humlegården, Stockholm 5) has not only a nearly complete collection of all printed Swedish music and a remarkable Wagner collection, but also houses the Nationalfonoteket, a depository for all Swedish musical recordings as well as a non-musical documentary collection. This sound recording library, founded in 1956, reflects a growing concern for the archival collection of such documents throughout Europe.12 The national depository for Norwegian music is the Norsk Musiksammling at the Universitets biblioteket in Oslo (Drammensveien 42 B). The library is also very strong in Schubert's songs. In Finland it is also to a university library that we must look, the Yliopiston kirjasto in Helsinki. Most attention has been paid to the liturgical manuscripts of this collection.

The musical resources of the Gosudarstvennaia biblioteka SSSR imeni V.I. Lenina (ul. Kalinina, 3, Moscow) are largely unknown in the West, but it has been a dépôt légal since 1862. The music department came into being in 1960 and as of 1966 held some 280,000 items. There is a fine collection of musical autographs in the manuscript department.13 Since it was once the Imperial Public Library, mention should also be made of the Gosudarstvennaia Ordena trudovogo krasnogo znameni publichnaia biblioteka imeni M.E. Saltykova-Shchedrina in Leningrad, from whose "International Exchange Section" (Sadovaia ul. 18, Leningrad D-69) inquiries are readily answered. The library has a very rich older collection and has been a dépôt légal since 1810.14

The Polish Biblioteka Narodowa (ul. Hankiewicza 1, with special collections at Krasiński sq. 3/5, Warsaw) is sponsoring a program of microfilming Polish musical sources.15 This, together with several important special catalogues and union catalogues for Poland within the library, makes this an important center for scholarly research. A reorganization of several libraries has formed the Czech Státní knihovna ČSSR-Universitní knihovna (190, Klementinum, Prague 1), with the result that the fine manuscript collection of the State Library has been supplemented by the very considerable collection of early prints in the University Library. Many private libraries, including that of Prince Lobkowitz, are now found in the Národní muzeum-Historické muzeum (Velkopřevorské nám. 4, Malá Strana, Prague 1). The resources of the National Museum include over 80,000 compositions, for the most part in manuscripts and early prints, and a fine instrument collection. Before leaving Czechoslovakia, mention should be made of the Matica slovenská in Martin (Mudroňova ul. č. 35). This Slovakian National Library possesses a large collection of Slovakian folk songs and documents of Slovakian musical culture, a part of which are 224 phonograph cylinders of folk songs recorded by Béla Bartók.

The Hungarian National Library, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár (Pollack Mihály-tér 10, Budapest VIII) was named after its founder, Count Ferenc Széchényi.16 The library specializes in Hungarica, of course, but is also rich in the Vienna Classics (Joseph and Michael Haydn, Albrechtsberger, Werner, Dittersdorf, and Süssmayr). Although the Rumanian Biblioteca Centrala de Stat (str. Ion Ghica, 4, Bucharest) has a collection of books, scores, records, and tapes, this is designed more for popular use than for research purposes. The research collection of the city is housed in the Biblioteca Academiei (Calea Victoriei, 125). Collections such as those of George Enescu and Dinu Lipatti go to make up the more than 31,000 musicalia of the Library.

Again in Yugoslavia, because of the limited resources of the Narodna Biblioteka (Knez Mihailova, 56, Belgrade), one must turn to a professional institute, in this case the Muzikoloski Institut of the Srpska Akademija Nauka (Knez Mihailova, 35), which has a good working collection, albeit slanted toward national music. Because of the complex ethnic make-up of this country, one should not overlook the Narodna in univerzitetna knjinica in Ljubljana (Turjaka 1) and the Nacionalna i sveučilina biblioteka in Zagreb (Marulićev trg 21, p.p. 98), both being national and university libraries. The institution in Zagreb possesses an outstanding collection of musical Croatica.

The national library of Bulgaria, the Darzavna biblioteka Vassil Kolarov (or Narodna biblioteka, Bul. Tobuchin, 11, Sofia), and that of Greece, the Ethnikē bibliothēkē in Athens, are of relatively recent founding (1878 and 1842, respectively). The music collection of the latter library is very small.

Finally, we come to one of the great music collections of Europe—the Musiksammlung of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Augustinerstrasse 1, 1014 Vienna).17 Although mere statistics do not convey the overwhelming importance of this collection for musical research, the 80,000 volumes of music prints and 33,000 volumes of manuscripts are formed from the former Hofmusikarchiv, the archives of the Hofkapelle, the Theater an der Wien, the Hofoper, the Karltheater, the Josefstädtertheater, the Suppémuseum, and the collections of Kiesewetter and the Estenses. It is difficult to delineate such a comprehensive collection, but the Musiksammlung offers music of the 16th to the 20th centuries in manuscripts and prints and, of course, reflects the decisive position of Vienna in the musical culture of Europe in this period.

It may be seen from the above that national libraries fall into three categories: those with only a small nucleus of music and music literature, intended to serve as a public library; those which collect national music and serve as a repository of folk art; and, finally, those with imposing historical collections. We find the second and third classifications often represented in a single library.

The musician who is seriously interested in investigating his musical heritage should not hesitate to apply at any of these institutions. Chances are he will find the officials sympathetic and eager to display their treasures.

1For the functions and descriptions of national libraries, see Arundell Esdaille, National Libraries of the World (2nd ed.; London, 1957).

2Much of the information which follows was collected by the author under a grant from the Ohio State University for the project "Guide to European Music Libraries." The generous support of the University is gratefully acknowledged.

3Although the catalogues of the British Museum reflecting music are legion, the user is best served by Edith B. Schnapper, The British Union-Catalogue of Early Music Printed Before the Year 1801; A Record of the Holdings of Over One Hundred Libraries Throughout the British Isles (2 vols.; London, 1957), and Augustus Hughes-Hughes, A Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum (3 vols.; London, 1906-09). See also A. Hyatt King, "The History and Growth of the Catalogues in the Music Room of the British Museum," Festschrift Otto Erich Deutsch zum 80. Geburtstag (Kassel, 1963), 303-08.

4Again, the catalogues of the Bibliothèque nationale are too numerous to delineate here, but mention should be made of Jules Ecorcheville, Catalogue du fonds de musique ancienne de la Bibliothèque nationale (8 vols.; Paris, 1910-14).

5The latest catalogue referring to the music holdings of the library is Bernard Huys, Catalogue des imprimés musicaux des XVe, XVIe et XVIIe siècles; Fonds général (Bruxelles, 1965). For this library, as well as others in this account, exhibit catalogues also provide an important clue to holdings.

6A catalogue of the music holdings is H. Anglés and J. Subirá, Catálogo músical de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid (3 vols.; Barcelona, 1946-51).

7A general catalogue for Italy is that published as the Bolletino of the Associazione dei musicologi italiani (18 vols.; Parma, 1909-40). In many instances individual libraries have produced printed catalogues over and above this series.

8The latest of a series of catalogues is the one by J.M. Llorens entitled Capellae Sixtinae Codices musicis notis instructi sive manu scripti sive praelo excussi (Città del Vaticano, 1960).

9For a survey of music collections in Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia, see Dragan Plamenac, "Music Libraries in Eastern Europe; A Visit in the Summer of 1961," Music Library Association Notes, XIX (1961-62), 217-34, 411-20, and 584-98.

10See Harald Heckmann, Deutsches Musikgeschichtliches Archiv, Katalog der Filmsammlung (Kassel, 1955-).

11See Muziekhistorisch Museum van Dr. D.F. Scheurleer, Catalogus van de Muziek-werken en de Boeken over Muziek (3 vols.; 's-Gravenhage, 1923-25). A new music catalogue of the Gemeentemuseum is in process of publication.

12The Phonothèque nationale in Paris (19, rue des Bernardins), for example, contains more than 100,000 discs.

13A brief survey of selected Soviet libraries is provided in Minnie Elmer's "Notes on Catalogs and Cataloging in Some Major Music Libraries of Moscow and Leningrad," Music Library Association Notes, XVIII (1960-61), 545-57.

14See L.N. Pavlova-Sil'Vanskaja and A.A. Račkova, "Le Département de la Musique de la Bibliothèque Publique de Léningrad," Fontes artis musicae, VII (1960), 1-7.

15See Biblioteka Narodowa, Stacja mikrofilmowa i Zaktad muzyczny; Katalog mikrofilmów muzycznych (2 vols.; Warszawa, 1956-62).

16For a survey of libraries in Belgrade, Bucharest, and Budapest, see Keith E. Mixter, "A Visit to Some Music Libraries in Eastern Europe," College & Research Libraries, XXVIII (1967), 442-44.

17See Leopold Nowak, "Die Musiksammlung," in Die Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Wien, 1948), 119-38.

2353 Last modified on November 14, 2018