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Research Guides

Finding Music Manuscripts

Print Sources:

Online Sources:

Music Manuscripts at UW

- The UW music manuscripts included in RISM A/II (1600-1850) can be found online, the RISM A/II online catalog, or in the print volume above
- Music Manuscripts after 1850 can be found at the UW Catalog


Sources for Digitized Manuscripts

Music Manuscripts by Country

Most of these links will allow access to music and other manuscripts.  Music Manuscripts link will be thus specified:

United Kingdom:

Cecilia Project -- Finding music collections (archives included) in the UK

British Library Manuscript Catalogue --


Italian National Manuscripts --

United States:

National Union Catalogue of Manuscripts (NUCMC) --


A few terms pertaining to manuscripts:

What is a manuscript?  A Hand-written  document (manu=hand; script=writing).

Autographed manuscript: A signed hand-written document; the signature is not necessarily the author's.  For example, it can be a copyist's signature.

Holograph manuscript: A manuscript in the author's or composer's hand

Archives (Archival Collection): A collection of manuscripts generated by one person or an institution.  It can include music scores, audio recordings, letters, diaries, or printed scores with performer's markings, etc.

Pagination: Manuscripts sometimes use the term "folio," meaning a leave, rather than a "page."  Thus, the numbering will be on every other page, beginning on the recto, the right hand side page of an open volume.  For example, the first right hand side will be 1r (1 recto), and the next page, on the back side of that leaf, is called 1v (1 verso), literally, the reverse side of the page.

Custos (direct or guida): A sign (that resembles a check mark or a mordent) that is placed at the end of a music manuscript staff line, indicating the first pitch of the next line. The first use of this dates back to the 11th century, and the practice continues into the 18th century.

Illuminated manuscript: It refers to manuscripts with gold-leaved letters or images.  The first letter of text in music manuscripts is often ornamented and sometimes burnished with gold leaf.