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Anthologies of Musical Works from the 15th-17th Centuries in the Library of Congress Music Division

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The Music Division has custody of all material in the M class of the Library of Congress Classification system. This includes music or books acquired via copyright deposit, purchase, or gift, and special collections in music, theater, and dance. Class M holdings are organized according to three major subdivisions:

  • Class M – notated music (scores)
  • Class ML – literature about music, including some music manuscripts
  • Class MT – works on musical instruction and study

Most early music anthologies are scores cataloged in class M. A few examples, however, are located in MT classes, which contain books on music education and pedagogy, theory instruction, musical analyses, etc., but often include extensive musical examples within individual imprints; a small number of anthologies are among the Music Division's ML holdings.

Search or Browse the Library of Congress Online Catalog to locate these items. Below is a list of five classification numbers that account for over 80% of the Music Division's pre-1700 anthology records.

M1490 (estimated 42%)

The M1490 classification is home to the highest percentage of the Music Division's early anthologies: Defined as notated music printed or copied in manuscript before 1700, this categorization could have actually been assigned to almost all early anthologies. This was not the case, however. As cataloging practices over the past century have been revised and expanded repeatedly, the consequences of choosing from a wider variety of classification options have resulted in cataloging decisions that place these materials in over forty-five separate locations. All anthologies listed in the bibliography are linked to online catalog records, thus ensuring maximum ease of access.

Anthologies represent about one-third of the items within the M1490 classification, with the remaining materials comprising single composers’ works. In every respect, the contents of this classification are eclectic: the musical genres represented include partbooks and scores for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century masses, motets, Magnificats, psalms, hymns, madrigals, chansons, airs, villanelles, canzonets, etc., offering a significant cross-section of Europe’s sacred and secular musical repertory composed by both renowned and obscure composers of the Renaissance and early Baroque.


Examples of Outstanding Single Volume Works in the M1490s



Historically Significant Multi-Volume Anthology Series in the M1490 class

M1730 (estimated 22%)

The M1730 class comprises publications of folk, national and ethnic music. With the exception of a few stray volumes in the M1490 class, most 17th-century anthologies published in France were cataloged in the M1730 class. In large part, these imprints were acquired at the auction of the Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin’s estate in 1910; a sub-set of the Weckerlin acquisition comprises 66 anthologies, mostly belonging to multi-volume series published by either Pierre, Robert, or Christophe Ballard. One example from the popular series, Livre d'airs de differents autheurs (1658-1691) is cited below. For more examples and additional information see the section on Published Anthologies: 17th-century France.

M1619 (estimated 8%)

The M1619 class is comprised of secular songs for one voice accompanied or unaccompanied (largely English imprints). Compared with the predominance of French imprints in the M1730 class, the cataloging of the large number of English anthologies published in the mid-late 17th century are more equally distributed between the M1619 and M1490 classes. Noteworthy multi-volume English series located in the M1619 class include:

MT Class (estimated 6%)

Items in the MT Class are books about music containing multiple musical scores. A few of the rarest examples, for which the Music Division is the only U.S. holding library, are listed below.

M140s (estimated 5%)

The M140 class includes books of lute tablatures. In several of the Annual Reports and Quarterly Journals of the Librarian of Congress (e.g., 1928-1930, 1950), the name of music division chief Carl Engel is associated with the subject area of tablatures and notations. Early in his tenure, Engel openly acknowledged the paucity of examples in these areas, tagging them as “one of the weakest.” This deficiency became one of his top priorities for collection development, a focus that was carried on by subsequent music division staff. Today, outstanding examples of collections by Luis de Narváez, Dominico Bianchini, Francesco da Milano, Sixtus Kargel, Pietro Paolo Borrono, Giulio Cesare Barbetta et al., are among the M140 class.