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Doing Historical Research in Music: RISM

What is RISM?

"RISM" stands for Repertoire International des Sources Musicales. It's an ongoing scholarly project to catalog all the primary source materials, in libraries worldwide, relating to music. It gives detailed descriptions of music manuscripts, early printed editions of music, and early treatises on music.

The RISM series

Series A/1

Printed music before 1800

Call no.: Ref ML113 I6 vol.A/1


Series A/2

Manuscripts after 1600

Available on our "Databases" page.


Series B

Manuscripts of polyphonic music, 11th-16th centuries

Printed collections of music, 16th-17th centuries

Early treatises on music

Call no.: Ref ML113 I6 vol.B


Series C

Directories of libraries that own primary source materials for music

Call no.: Ref ML113 I6 vol.C

Anatomy of a RISM entry: Manuscripts

For any given manuscript, you can expect to see the folowing data in RISM:

Description of the manuscript

Text incipit, music incipit (first line of text, first few bars of the music)

Brief bibliography (articles about this manuscript)

Library that owns the manuscript (abbreviations are used; see the library's full name in the list at the front of the volume)

Anatomy of a RISM entry: Printed Music

For any early printed edition of a musical work, you can expect to see the following data in RISM:

Bibliographic citation (including a full transcription of the original tite page)

Libraries that own a copy of the edition (abbreviations are used; see the libraries' full names in the list at the front of the volume)

RISM entry number (you may see this number included in other authors' citations of this edition)

Foreign-language terms in RISM

The individual volumes of RISM have been published variously in English, German, and French. Here are some common terms you will see in RISM, with their German and French equivalents:


Abbreviation: MS (singular), MSS (plural)

German: Handschrift (abbreviation.: Hs.)

French: manuscrit



German: Sammlung

French: recueil



Term used for the leaves/pages of a manuscript.

Abbreviation: f.



German: Ausgabe (abbreviation: Ausg.)

French: edition



German: Herausgegeber

French: redacteur


Publication, Printing

German: Druck

French: imprime



German: Verlag

French: editeur



German: Bibliothek. (Bibliotheksigel = library's symbol used in RISM)

French: bibliotheque



Subject Guide

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Leslie McCall
Office: 251 ZSR Library
Phone: 336-758-5474