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Research Tools

Music Library Collections

bullet  Introduction
bullet  Rare Books, Scores, and Periodicals
bullet  Single Manuscripts
bullet  Archival Collections
bullet  Historical Sound Recordings
bullet  American Musical Theatre Collection
bullet  Other Music Collections at Yale



The Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University is one of the largest collections of music scores, sound recordings, and music research materials in the United States. As such, the Music Library reflects the centrality of musical performance and scholarship to the University throughout its history. This commitment to music manifested itself in the University Library before 1850, by which time the Library had already begun acquiring important European publications of music scores and periodicals. The bequest of Lowell Mason's private library in 1873 increased the University's holdings in music by an additional 10,000 items and added to the Library numerous manuscript scores and early printed writings about music.

In 1902 a small music collection was created in the Department of Music, where it was housed in a single room. In 1917, with the construction of Sprague Memorial Hall, the Department's music collection was moved to a well-appointed room in the new building. At the same time, music materials were collected from the University Library and combined with the Department's holdings to form one large music collection. The Music Library continued to grow, and when the Yale School of Music obtained new quarters in the early 1950s, the Music Library expanded to fill the first floor, basement, and portions of the upper floors of Sprague Hall. Once again too large for its surroundings, the Music Library moved in 1998 to a new facility constructed in a courtyard of Sterling Memorial Library and named for Irving S. Gilmore (Yale '23). At the same time the Historical Sound Recordings and American Musical Theatre collections moved into the Music Library.

Today the Music Library holds approximately 100,000 scores and parts for musical performance and study; 70,000 books about music; 35,000 LP recordings and compact discs; 11,600 microforms of manuscripts and scores; 45,000 pieces of sheet music; 95,000 photographs; 4,000 linear feet of archival materials; 560 individual music manuscripts not forming a portion of a larger collection; and 425 active subscriptions to music periodicals, and numerous electronic databases of books, scores, audio, and video.

Among the strengths of the Music Library collections are complete runs of nearly every available monumental set and composer's collected edition; an extensive collection of historical treatises on music theory; and early publications of opera scores and chamber music. Archival holdings include the complete papers and archives of Charles Ives, Virgil Thomson, Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, Carl Ruggles, Leo Ornstein, Paul Bekker, Karl Weigl, Deems Taylor, Henry Gilbert, E. Robert Schmitz, Lehman Engel, Goddard Lieberson, Horatio Parker, Kay Swift, Harold Rome, Vladimir Horowitz, and Benny Goodman. A special collection focuses on Paul Hindemith's American years, and thousands of photographs of classical and jazz musicians are contained in the archives of Fred and Rose Plaut and Stanley and Helen Oakley Dance. For brief descriptions of the archival collections please see the Archival Papers Checklist.  Individual manuscript holdings include autograph manuscripts of J. S. Bach, Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt.  Researchers should make appointments to study archival and manuscript material.


Rare books, scores, and periodicals
(classed M, ML, and in Yale classification) are housed in the Beinecke Library and are paged by Beinecke service staff.  Books in the MT classification are housed in the Gilmore Music Library and are paged by the Special Collections staff. To obtain reproductions click here.

Single Manuscripts
(classed Misc. Ms. or Ma21 Y11) are housed in the Gilmore Music Library and in the Beinecke Library--researchers should register with the Special Collections staff, who will page material and bring it to the appropriate reading room. To obtain reproductions click here

Archival collections (Archival Papers at the Music Library: A Checklist)
(classed MSS) are shelved in several locations; most are shelved off-campus and require one to two business days for retrieval.  Researchers should contact the Special Collections staff several days in advance for an appointment.  Researchers interested in Cole Porter, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, or The South Before the War Company Papers should contact the Historical Sound Recordings Curator. To obtain reproductions click here.


Historical Sound Recordings Collection

The purpose of the Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings (HSR) is to collect, preserve, and make available for study historical recordings of performers important in the fields of Western classical music, jazz, American musical theater, drama, literature, and history (including oratory).  The collection, found by Mr. and Mrs. Laurence C. Witten II with their collection of early vocal recordings devoted to styles and practices of nineteenth-century singing, considered among the finest of such collections, has been extended into other subjects areas mentioned.  The recordings in HSR now number over 160,000, in a variety of formats.   They document performance practice from the beginning of the recording era (ca. 1890) to the present day.  The Collection holds a large library of printed materials and microforms which provide information about composers, performers, and the recording industry and include discographical data useful for locating and dating recordings.  The books have been cataloged in Orbis.  Staff-accessible finding aids have been prepared for many of the recordings. Beginning in 2006 with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, HSR and sound archives at New York Public Library and Stanford University undertook to provide full-level cataloging of 78-rpm (pre-LP) recordings. For more information on the project, along with links labels cataloged and selected recordings, see Unlocking Historical Sound Recordings.  Researchers should arrange appointments with the curator for interviews concerning their needs for service.

American Musical Theatre Collection

The American Musical Theatre Collection contains scores, sheet music, manuscripts, books,  memorabilia, and recordings, available for scholarly purposes.  Registers for the Cole Porter Collection, the E.Y. "Yip" Harburg Collection, and The South Before the War Company Papers are available online.  Monographs have been cataloged in Orbis.  Staff-accessible finding aids have been prepared for scores, sheet music, and recordings.  Researchers should arrange appointments with the curator for interviews concerning their needs for service.


Other Music Collections at Yale

The holdings of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library are complemented by other collections in the Yale Library and museums. Collections in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, particularly the Frederick R. Koch Collection (including the William Walton Online Archive), the Speck Collection of Goethiana, the Yale Collection of American Literature, and the Osborn Collection, also hold valuable music materials.  The Oral History American Music project collects and preserves interviews with composers, performers, instrument makers, and their associates.  The Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments contains nearly 1,000 instruments of which the majority document the history of Western art music.