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A Brief Guide to Music & Music-Related Materials

Compiled by Katie Hartman and Caroline Szylowicz (szylowic@illinois.edu)

Created August 2021


The Rare Book & Manuscript Library houses an extensive body of music and music-related materials that are spread throughout the RBML’s distinctive and less well known collections. This material ranges from medieval manuscripts in our Pre-1650 manuscript collection to the Robert Zarbock collection of opera autographs and beyond. Since there are so many resources in the collection and no easy way to condense them all into one place, this guide is intended to help patrons navigate the RBML collections and find useful and interesting material. This guide does not necessarily represent the most recent information regarding the collections and is intended to simply be a jumping off point rather than an exhaustive resource. 

Navigating the Collections & Finding Material 

The easiest way to generate a general list of the music holdings at the RBML is to use the subject heading search with the terms “music” or “music theory” and then filter the results to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  To find more specific material through UIUC’s main catalog or through RBML’s Aeon portal, it is easiest to use the title or composer/author of the material that you are looking for.  Adding additional search terms to your query will help to narrow down your results, such as: 

  • Type of composition (motet, sonata, madrigal, etc.)
  • Date range   
  • Physical format (score, book, journal, etc.) 
  • Descriptors of the music type or genre (i.e. jazz, sacred, etc.) 
  • Instrument (recorder, viola, etc.) 

Some further suggested search terms, especially for ephemera, such as magazines and pamphlets, are:  

  • Song (add desired language) 
  • Folk Song 
  • Music Program
  • Concert
  • Concert Programs 

 The encyclopedias held by the RBML may also be useful for historical research.  Many are illustrated and may give clues to the construction of various instruments as well as containing entries on various topics relevant to the time period.   

Music can also be located by collection.  Collection information can be found either under the subject heading or author/creator fields of an item record and can be used to filter search results.  Some of the collections that contain music are: 

Alyene Westall Prehn Theatre Program Collection, 1871-1961 
Theatre Program Collection consisting of individual and season programs, advertising broadsides, playbills, news clippings, and souvenirs from dramatic, comedy, musical theater, vocal and instrumental music, and vaudeville performances in the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, and Canada.  The vast majority of the collection relates to venues in Chicago and New York. 

American Civil War Collection   
A collection of material documenting the American Civil War.  The majority of the material comes from the RBML’s collections of confederate imprints from the Harwell Collection.  Music ranges from popular music and war songs to opera. 

American Wit and Humor Collection 
A collection of works focusing on American humor writers.  This collection contains two scores of popular music. 

Carl Sandburg Collections 
This archival collection of Carl Sandburg’s personal papers, scrapbooks, photographs, letters, and books contains several copies of his “American Songbag,” sheet music, and audiovisual recordings.  The collection of letters also contains correspondence with some musicians of the time, such as Pete Seeger. 

Cavagna Collection 
Collected by Antonio Cavagna Sangiuliani, a public official, book collector, and authority on the history of the Lombardy and Piedmont regions in Italy.  The music held within this collection range from carnival songs to hymns and contains a large number of ballet scenarios and opera libretti. 

Ewing C. Baskette Collection 
The Ewing C. Baskette Collection on Freedom of Expression focuses on topics of freedom of the press, censorship, constitutional rights, religious freedom, labor union activity, well-known trials, socialism, communism, and anarchy.  There are a handful of music related materials held within this collection and are primarily related to folk traditions. 

Fraenkel Collection 
The Fraenkel Collection is an early printed music collection compiled by Gottfried Samuel Fraenkel (1901-1984).  Fraenkel was a world renowned entomologist and professor at UIUC.  The collection contains over 1300 works of first and early editions of works of standard Western European composers from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras.   

Robert Zarbock Collection of Opera Autographs, 1832-1919 
An archival collection of letters, photos, newspaper clippings, and lithographs that represent 47 mid- to late-19th century opera performers.  Robert Zarbock was a UIUC alumni. 

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts 
This collection contains western medieval and renaissance manuscript music both sacred and secular.  The RBML also holds several early modern books that are bound in fragments of music manuscripts and a palimpsest with music notation still visible (Pre-1650 MS0118). 

The S Collection 
The S Collection is a substantial collection of children’s literature.  It contains many books of nursery rhymes, children’s songs, and material on teaching children music both at home and in the classroom.  It is a more difficult collection to search, but the call number of any book contained in the collection begins with “S.”  After searching for call numbers containing “S” within the catalog, fill in additional search terms to filter down your search. 

Spanish Civil War Collections 
The Spanish Civil War Collections contain materials that focus primarily on the literary and military involvement of Americans during Spain’s struggle against fascism, particularly those who acted as war correspondents and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  This collection contains a only a few musical materials.     

Resources at UIUC 

The following website links connect to other repositories on campus that contain or specialize in music and music related materials: 

Music & Performing Arts Library 
Sousa Archives & Center for American Music 
History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library