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Rare Books

Rare Book Division
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Curator of Rare Books

The M (or Music) class of the General Rare Book Collection is devoted mostly to scores and librettos, with some books on the theory and history of music. Over all, there are about 600 volumes in the collection in various forms (operas to solo music), mostly printed during the composers' lifetime. The collection is strongest in German music with significant holdings of Mozart, Bach and Haydn. Also represented are Philidor, Beethoven, Purcell, Verdi, and Wagner. Some American music is available, such as an extensive collection of Stephen Foster sheet music published about 1884.

Handel is the strongest area, consisting mainly of the (semi-catalogued) Hall Handel Collection (q.v.). Catalogued in Ex are over 25 librettos of his operas printed in the year of their completion, including Atalanta (1736), Berenice (1737), Ezio (1732), and Pharamond (1737). Collected works, songs, oratorios, and many other works by Handel can also be found in the collections.

The books on music theory and history cover from the sixteenth-century books of theory by Papius (1581) and Salinas (1577) to modern works.

Also interesting are two presentation copies: Aaron Copland's Our New Music: Leading Composers in Europe and America (l941) and Virgil Thomson's The State of Music (1939). Both were presented to Alfred Knopf.

For particulars refer to: Mina R. Bryan and Paula Morgan. "Music Exhibition. Check List of the Exhibition" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXVIII, 2 (Winter, 1967) pp. 106-124 [full text] .

The exhibit, which reflects Princeton's holdings in the field of music history, presented some of the following aspects of music history:

Ancient music; Medieval music theory; Medieval Christian chant; Early polyphony; Music printing; Renaissance and early Baroque musical theory; Composers--Palestrina to Stravinsky; Princeton composers; Princeton music studies.

A checklist of items displayed during the exhibition in each of the above categories appears in the article (120 items). A catalogue of the above-mentioned exhibition describes about 100 items: see Chapters from the History of Music: An Exhibition in the Princeton University Library. Princeton, 1956. [(ExB) 0639.739 no. 17]. [full text]

See also "Music from the Collection of William H. Scheide, March 1- April 2, 1967" published in the Gazette of the Grolier Club. New Series No. 4, June 1967. This article lists items on exhibit at the Grolier Club in 1967. An 11 page catalogue of the exhibition, including a list of the items shown as well as the descriptive notes of each item, is in the Library [call number (ExB) ML141 .N4S33).

Also note that there is a very early specimen of music printing at the end of Part III of the 1500 edition Vergil's Opera [(VRG) 2945.1500.2]. These two pages of music are specimen settings by the scholar Francesco Negro of five different genres of Latin verse: Heroica gravis, heroica bellica, elegiaca, Sapphica and lyrica.

In 1994, the Library received the legacy of Samuel Pogue, '41, consisting of over 100 sixteenth century French imprints relating chiefly to music. A copy of the list of these books is in the Collections File under the name: Pogue.