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Frequently Asked Questions


Which sources can be found in RISM?

The online catalogue contains 700,000 entries, mainly from Series A/II: Music Manuscripts after 1600. Most of these originated between 1600 and 1850.  The CD-ROM of series A/I: Individual Prints before 1800 has about 100,000 entries; on average, each library reported three issues of each title. RISM Series B forms a series arranged systematically which documents whole source groups, such as theoretical writings, manuscripts of the processional, Hebrew sources, etc. In B1 and B2 you can find music published in collections. 

How complete is RISM?

There are around 1.8 million manuscripts dating between 1600 and 1800 and at least 2 million between 1800 and 1950. Published music up to 1800 numbers upwards of 140,000. Because of new printing technology, these numbers increase rapidly during the 19th century and there are around 4 millions worldwide.

These figures were taken from a questionnaire sent out fifteen years ago to the RISM working groups. But nobody can count such a huge amount. It is just an estimation.

Entries in RISM and numbers of sources in libraries sometimes differ. For example, a collective manuscript containing six works has seven records in RISM, one for the collection as a whole and separate record for each work.

Where can I find information about sources not yet in RISM?

There are some useful sites listed under Suggested Links that you can access after you register. In addition, many libraries offer information on sources in their own online catalogues. 

Where can I get copies of the music?

Some libraries offer digitised collections on their websites. If you do not find a copy of the source there, you need to contact the holding library to order copies. On our online catalogue you can click on the RISM library sigla to get the address. In many cases you can also directly send an email.

How can I participate?

Please register first.

We heartily welcome anybody who want to take part in RISM's projects.

Individuals can support our work by:

  • reporting mistakes in our online catalogues.
  • sending descriptions of sources studied in the original.
  • making us aware of new research findings using sources.
  • informing us about performances of music found in RISM.

Libraries can sponser RISM by:

  • opening up their collections to RISM working groups.
  • supporting their work by offering work space, Internet access, etc.
  • offering trained staff to work on the project.

Anybody can:

  • contribute financially. All donations are welcome! (Receipt provided.)
What is the structure of RISM as an organisation?

Information about the structure of RISM can be found here.

How can I find a contact person near me?

To find RISM groups worldwide, see the International section of our website.

What is the Community?

The Community section is an additional information pool for musicians, musicologists and collaborators for discussing related matters and a meeting point for special questions concerning RISM.