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Primary Sources for Music

About RISM

RISM (International Inventory of Musical Sources=Répertoire international des sources musicales)

The principal resource for identifying musical sources from the Middle Ages to about 1800, RISM is an inventory of primary sources of music and music literature located in libraries throughout the world. The official RISM website,,  provides news and information about this continuing international effort to document all the surviving sources.  The project is sponsored by the International Musicological Society and the International Association of Music Libraries.

Guidance on Use

Using RISM can be challenging for the beginner.  Try these resources and tips.

Jane Gottlieb's excellent discussion (pp. 176-182) in her book Music Library and Research Skills (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 2009) includes detailed information on each series.
MUSICMEDIA ML 3797 .G68 2009

Prefatory material in the printed volumes helps to clarify the scope of each series, which the series title may not convey adequately.

Sigla (short alphabetic codes) in individual RISM entries identify the libraries that hold that source.  If you can't find a list in the volume at hand, consult the supplementary RISM volume to see what each siglum stands for:  MUSICMEDIA REFERENCE ML113 .I6 Suppl. 1999

RISM Series - A Selection

A/I. Einzeldrucke vor 1800 (Printed Editions before 1800), 1971-2003.
MUSICMEDIA REFERENCE ML113 .I6 (PT.1-14; library lacks v.15)

Lists printed editions that contain works by a single composer.  Arranged alphabetically by composer name.

A/II. Music Manuscripts 1600-1800

  • Recommended search strategy:  Choose Advanced Search and click the flag for the English version.  Enter the composer's name in the appropriate box and search.  On the results screen, refine the search using options in the left-hand column.
  • Access is free from the RILM website.  No other RILM publications are available in electronic form.

    B/I.  Recueils imprimés XVIe–XVIIe siècles (Printed Collections XVI–XVII Centuries), 1960.

    A composer index to this volume, edited by Pietro Zappala, is available for download as a pdf at  (Click "Full Text: PDF"  and then "Scarica questo file PDF.")

    B/II. Recueils imprimés XVIIIe siècle (Printed Collections XVIIIth Century).

    B/III.  The Theory of Music:  Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts, 1961-2003.
    MUSICMEDIA REFERENCE ML113 .I6 V.B3 (PT.1-5; library lacks vol. 6)

    B/IV:  Handschriften mit mehrstimmiger Musik des 11.–16. Jahrhunderts (Manuscripts of Polyphonic Music, 11th–16th Centuries).
    MUSICMEDIA REFERENCE ML113 .I6 V.B4 (6 volumes)

    Each volume has its own title.  The different volumes cover various chronological periods and geographic areas (of libraries holding the MSS).

    B/VI.  Écrits imprimés concernant la musique

    B/VII.  Handscriftlich überlieferte Lauten- und Guitarrentabulaturen des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts.

    B/VIII.  Das deutsche Kirchenlied:  Verzeichnis der Drucke von den Anfängen bis 1800. (The German Hymn:  Catalog of Prints from the Beginnings to 1800)
    MUSICMEDIA REFERENCE ML113 .I6 V.B8 PT.1  (2 volumes)

    Additional series are listed on the RISM website:, and may be found in discoverE

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