Ludwig van Beethoven. Sonata für Hammerklavier ...
[Sonata in E-major, Op. 109]. Autograph keyboard score. (Gertrude
Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection)
Detail. To view the entire leaf, click on the image.
About the Collections
Music, Theater, Dance: An Illustrated Guide features
specialists and curators
in the Music Division describing notable items of interest to researchers
and important to the intellectual heritage preserved within the
The General Collections of the Music Division
The general collections
of the Music Division consist, broadly speaking, of published musical
scores, and books and periodicals
on music-related subjects. The Library-assigned call numbers of
this material carry the prefixes "M," "ML," or "MT," which
provide an idea of their subject matter.
- The "M"classification numbers designate any
musical score, from solo instrumental sonatas to symphonies,
and from songs with piano accompaniment to grand operas. Individual
works as well as collections of different works are represented
by the "M" classification prefix.
- The "ML"prefix indicates works of music literature,
that is, published writings about music, in both book and periodical
formats. Biographies of composers, histories of jazz, bibliographies
of works on American musical theater, and scholarly journals,
for example, would all carry an "ML" prefix.
- Material bearing the "MT"classification prefix
includes works which focus on music instruction and analysis.
Works represented in this category are, for example, analyses
of Mozart's operas, guitar instruction methods, writings about
a composer's harmonic language and compositional techniques,
and notes about performing Latin-American art songs or Beethoven's
Adhering to the vision of the Music Division's second Chief, Oscar
Sonneck (1902-1917), to create a music collection worthy of America's "national
library," the Division's general and special collections are, as
a result, particularly rich in material related to American music,
including manuscripts, correspondence, and papers of every notable
American composer, conductor, and musician. Just as much effort,
however, has been invested in the development of a collection reflecting
a worldwide musical culture. Among its many notable strengths,
the Division's general collections include large holdings of opera
full scores; the 1909 purchase by the Library of over 12,500 opera
libretti from collector Albert Schatz is reputed to be the largest
such collection in the world.
Predictably, another of the Division's strengths is in the realm
of American imprints, dating as far back as the late eighteenth
century. These consist in large part of first editions of the sheet
music of "popular" songs, including both original compositions
(primarily for voice and piano, or for piano solo), and arrangements
of what are now considered "classical" works, used primarily by
The Division's collections also include virtually every item
registered for copyright in the United States since the inception
of federal copyright legislation in 1790. The establishment of
a series of copyright laws throughout the nineteenth century (which
required that copies of each work published in the United States
be deposited with the Library of Congress) has resulted in the
unprecedented growth of the collections of the Library as a whole.
While important material from all over the world continues to
be added to the Library's collections, the material acquired through
copyright registration in this country provides a unique perspective
on the full spectrum of American scholarship and culture. The Music
Division's general collections are no exception in this regard.
Under the auspices of the Library's American Memory Project and
National Digital Library, full digital images of the earliest copyright
deposits held by the Division, dating from between 1870 and 1885,
have been created and made available online through the American
Memory project homepage. Copyrighted music-related material
not selected for addition to the Division's collections may be
searched through the COHM database,
maintained by the United
States Copyright Office, located in the Library of Congress.
From its earliest years, the holdings of the Library have included
music-related material (the personal library of Thomas Jefferson,
purchased by the federal government in 1814 to form the basis of
the Congressional Library, included thirteen books about music
literature, pedagogy and theory). While the establishment of the
Music Division dates only from 1897, it has already witnessed the
creation of two Library sections -- the Recorded
Sound Section of the Motion
Picture, Broadcast, and Recorded Sound Division, and the American
Folklife Center -- from subject areas which had originally
been developed under the auspices of the Music Division.
On the other hand, the Division has acquired reference material
to support research in the areas of both theater and dance, as
well as some of the primary periodical literature of these two
disciplines. As a reflection of a culture's creative impulse, artistic
expression continues to evolve as does the society in which it
was created. The Music Division is dedicated to exploring new methods
and technologies to facilitate the dissemination of information
and ideas, both contemporary and historical, from the rich resources
contained within its collections.