Loeb Music Library

Isham Memorial Library Collections

Microforms and Facsimiles

Constituting well over 30,000 items, the Loeb Music Library's holdings of musical sources on microform, housed in the Isham Library, form one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the world. While printed and manuscript sources of music are the primary focus, music periodicals, doctoral dissertations, and other writings about music also fall within its purview. Acquisitions strategy has followed two basic principles: the support of individual research projects undertaken by the Music Department's faculty and graduate students, and general systematic collection development which has targeted broad repertories of musical sources for acquisitions.

Comprehensive areas for collection development have included pre-1800 materials, particularly printed and manuscript sources of music before ca. 1600; microfilmed holdings from the collections of great European music libraries; music periodicals, especially those of the 19th century; catalogs of other libraries; and opera sources, including libretti. Some of the specialized areas of strength that reflect individual research interests include liturgical books from the medieval period; manuscript sources of the music of the Bach family; Beethoven manuscripts and sketchbooks; and sources of Brahms, Handel, and Mozart. Collecting parameters have expanded in response to diversification of the Music Department's programs. For example, there is an ongoing effort to acquire materials in ethnomusicology, jazz studies, and American music.

The microform collection is a closed-stack, non-circulating collection for in-house use. All items are cataloged in HOLLIS.

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Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Loeb Music Library holds nearly 8,250 antiquarian music books and scores.. Over the years, the Library has acquired entire personal collections as well as individual items from the world market This effort has resulted in one of the world's great collections of antiquarian musical materials. Particular strengths are first and early editions of 18th and 19th century composers and historical theory texts. Antiquarian music books and scores may be found in two other Harvard repositories: the Houghton Library, Harvard's chief repository of rare and antiquarian materials, whose musical holdings include autograph manuscripts of most major composers of the 16th to 20th centuries, and the Harvard Theatre Collection, devoted to the history of theatre and live performing arts.

The library also houses the Packard Humanities Institute Music Collection, an outstanding group of nearly 700 first and early editions of musical scores. Other notable special collections are the Mozart Resources at Harvard University, which include the Biblioteca Mozartiana Eric Offenbacher (BMEO) and the Ruth Neils and John M. Ward Collection of Opera Scores, which contains piano-vocal scores of 18th to 20th century operas and operettas.

Antiquarian materials are housed in the library's rare book rooms and are curated by the staff of the Isham Memorial Library. All items are cataloged in HOLLIS. Scholars wishing access to antiquarian materials in the Loeb Music Library should apply to the Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library via e-mail. Finding aids to archival materials—composers' papers and correspondence—can be found in OASIS. Patrons wishing to use the materials housed in the Merritt Room must register for a Special Collections Request Account and place requests through the system. For more information see Access to Special Collections. Items housed in the Houghton Library and the Harvard Theatre Collection are only accessible through Houghton.

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Special Collections

The Isham Memorial Library houses a moderate number of archival and manuscript collections, with a few new collections acquired each year. They range from the papers of former Harvard Music Department faculty members A. Tillman Merritt, Otto Gombosi, and Luise Vosgerchian, to the manuscripts and papers of American composers Alexander Lang Steinert, Joyce Mekeel, and Peggy Stuart Coolidge, to a collection of Eubie Blake's correspondence in which he discusses his music and his career. The Nadia Boulanger collection of Americana from her personal library contains nearly 900 items dating from 1922 to 1977 and includes photostatic and manuscript copies of pieces composed under Mlle. Boulanger's tutelage, many signed by the composer and frequently accompanied by notes or letters of gratitude or of dedication. Among Boulanger's distinguished American students represented therein are Marc Blitzstein, Ross Lee Finney, Douglas Moore, Walter Piston, Joe Raposo, and Roger Sessions. Finding aids to most of these collections are available through OASIS.

The Sir Georg Solti Archive, donated to the library in 2011, includes hundreds of musical scores heavily annotated by Solti, one of the 20th century’s most renowned conductors of opera and symphony. Heavily marked for performances and recordings, these scores show how Solti’s thinking progressed, how he solved musical problems, and how he adapted performances to suit a particular context. The scores join the library's rich Solti resources, including audio and video recordings documenting his collaboration with virtually every prominent instrumentalist, singer and orchestra for the last half century. To view a list of scores in the collection, search the HOLLIS catalog for Sir Georg Solti Archive.

The Biblioteca Mozartiana Eric Offenbacher (BMEO) was established at Harvard University in 1987 to serve as the nucleus of a Mozart Archive and as an incentive for the development of Harvard as a center for Mozart research. The collection has been assembled by Dr. Eric Offenbacher over a period of nearly 40 years. It includes two Mozart autograph manuscripts and an autographed letter of his son Karl (held at Houghton Library), close to 100 first editions of Mozart's instrumental music and operas, almost all of them printed before 1800. The library also contains rare early biographical works and over 400 out-of-print publications about Mozart and his family. Valuable facsimile issues, photocopies, and microfilms of Mozart autographs in international depositories afford access to original sources not otherwise easily available. New acquisitions of archival materials at auctions and from music antiquarian dealers continuously augment the BMEO. Items from the BMEO are cataloged in HOLLIS. A finding aid to the collection is available online under Guides to Special Collections.

Patrons wishing to use the materials housed in the Merritt Room must register for a Special Collections Request Account and place requests through the system.  For more information see Access to Special Collections

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Harvard Dissertations in Music

The Isham Memorial Library holds copies of all Harvard dissertations prepared under the auspices of the Department of Music; originals are deposited at the Harvard University Archives. All Harvard dissertations in music completed in 1985 and later are available through University Microforms International. Requests for copies of earlier dissertations should be directed to the Harvard University Archives.

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