Loeb Music Library


Spalding Room
The Spalding Room was a gift from cellist Walter Naumburg, Class of 1889, in honor of his friend and colleague, Walter R. Spalding. The Isham family added the stained glass window, which came from a family home, in 1989.

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, named by benefactor Gerald Warburg in memory of his aunt, was established in 1956 as the library of the Harvard Music Department. Three days of festivities marked its opening, including concerts with the Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, the Bach Society Orchestra, the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, and a performance of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea by the American Opera Company. The speakers at the dedication ceremony on December 8, 1956, included Harvard President Nathan Pusey, Dean McGeorge Bundy, Director of the University Library Paul H. Buck, Gerald Warburg representing the Loeb family, Richard C. Aldrich, Jr., and Professor Nino Pirrotta, the first Librarian of the new Music Library, and formerly the Librarian at the Academia Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Housed in the newly constructed Music Library wing of the Music Building, the library brought together for the first time in one place 27,725 books and scores from Widener Library, which had initiated its music collection in 1870; more than 8,000 scores and books from the Music Department collection that was begun in 1898; and the books and scores from the estate of Richard C. Aldrich, Class of 1885, a well-known music critic and music editor of the New York Times and avid music collector who amassed a significant library of music books and scores, as well as autograph manuscripts now in the Houghton Library. In addition to consolidating collections, the new library also provided students and scholars with additional study space in two reading rooms, which were named respectively for Aldrich and Walter R. Spalding, the successor to John Knowles Paine in leadership of the Department of Music and a cornerstone of its development.

Loeb Music Library’s early decades witnessed a period of rapid growth. By 1968, the collection of books and scores had reached nearly 65,000, and more than 6,000 LP records had been acquired. Because of the aggressive collection development activity, the earlier estimates that the library facility would be able to accommodate 40 years of collection growth proved to be overly optimistic. A second addition to the Music Building was necessary to provide needed room, and in 1972 the library space was expanded with the construction of the adjacent Fanny Peabody Mason Music Building.

The Aldrich Room in 1956. Note that the stacks entryways have since been walled in, but the lyre-back chairs remain in use today.

In that same year the Isham Memorial Library, which had been housed in Memorial Church, was incorporated as a special collections adjunct of the Loeb Music Library with responsibility for rare book collections and research with primary source material. Established in 1939, it is named for Ralph Isham, Class of 1889, who donated an Aeolian Skinner organ to Harvard’s Memorial Church in 1932 and who also provided funds to purchase organ music. With the continuing growth and complexity of library collections and services, the Loeb Music Library became a unit of the Harvard College Library in 1978.

Another special collection was destined to become a part of Loeb Music two decades later. Established in 1976 as the private collection of Professor John Ward, the Archive of World Music was added to the Loeb Music Library in 1992, the same year Kay Kaufman Shelemay was appointed as Harvard’s first senior professor of ethnomusicology. The Archive is devoted to the acquisition of archival field recordings of musics worldwide, as well as to commercial sound recordings, videos, and DVDs of ethnomusicological interest. Collection development has focused primarily on the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, though the Archive is currently in the position to further develop the collection with recordings from Mexico, Central and South America, as well as from around the globe.

A first for Harvard as well as the country occurred in 1989 when Richard French, Class of 1937, endowed a music library chair, the Richard F. French Librarianship in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, currently occupied by Dr. Sarah Adams.

1998 marked the opening of the library’s state-of-the-art Audio Preservation Studio, launched with generous gifts from John M. Ward and Altan Ender Güzey. Its audio engineers, experienced with audio formats ranging from wax cylinder recordings to surround-sound electronic compositions, preserve, reformat, and reproduce audio materials from the collections. Now part of Harvard Library's Media Preservation Services, the studio accepts projects from Harvard units, as well as from outside the University.

Preparing for the library's opening festivities in 1956 (1-r): teaching fellow John C. Crawford, Professor Walter Piston, and Professor Randall Thompson, Chair of the Music Department.

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006 as one of the world’s preeminent libraries supporting music research. Its collections have broadened from Western music and historical musicology to reflect the expansion of the Music Department’s programs in music theory, popular music and jazz, and musics of the worlds’ cultures. Sophisticated multimedia computers now sit under the oil portrait of Richard C. Aldrich in the reading room. The library is currently engaged in major projects to digitize its rare and unique holdings ranging from the first printed editions of Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach to the manuscript autograph scores of Nadia Boulanger’s American students, to recordings from Iran and Iraq made by a Belgian Baroness in the 1920s. Amidst all the change, however, Loeb Music Library’s mission remains the same—to provide its users state-of-the-art resources along with fine historic holdings in a comfortable and inviting research environment.

Literature About the Library

(Chronological listing)

  • Adams, Sarah, Virginia Danielson, and Robert J. Dennis, eds. Golden Muse: the Loeb Music Library at 50. Harvard Library Bulletin 18 (2008).
  • Howard, John B. "The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library." The Library Quarterly 64 (1994): 163-176.
  • Forbes, Elliott. A Report of Music at Harvard from 1972 to 1990. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Music, Harvard University , 1993.
  • Wolff, Barbara Mahrenholz. Music Manuscripts at Harvard: A Catalogue of Music Manuscripts from the 14th to the 20th Centuries in the Houghton Library and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Cambridge , Mass.: Harvard University Library, 1992.
  • Forbes, Elliot. A History of Music at Harvard to 1972. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Music, Harvard University, 1988.
  • Ochs, Michael. "Musical Americana in Harvard Libraries: An Exhibition Honoring the Sonneck Society," Harvard Library Bulletin 31 (1984): 408-426.
  • Wood, David A. A Catalogue of Early Printed Music and Books on Music in the Houghton Library and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Music in Harvard Libraries. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library and Harvard University Department of Music, 1980.
  • Mary Lou Little. "Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library," in Report to the Friends of Music. Elliot Forbes, editor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Department of Music, 1974, p. 16-17.
  • Pirotta, Nino. "The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library." Harvard Library Bulletin 12 (1958): 410-17.
  • Davison, Archibald T. "The Isham Memorial Library." Harvard Library Bulletin 6 (1952): 376-80.
  • Merritt, A. Tillman. Fourth Report to the Friends of Art and Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Department of Music, 1947.
  • Apel, Willi. "The Collection of Photographic Reproductions at the Isham Memorial Library." Journal of Renaissance and Baroque Music 1 (1946): 68-73, 144-48, and 235-38.
  • Aldrich, Richard. A Catalogue of Books Relating to Music in the Library of Richard Aldrich. New York: Plimton Press, 1931.

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