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Music of the 16th & 17th centuries

Last Updated: 30-Oct-2014

Resources for the study of music history, 1500-1700.

Subject Librarians

Ray Heigemeir, Music Library
Public Services Librarian for Music
(650) 384-9985

Reference works

[Oxford, England] : Oxford University Press
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
Includes Grove Music Online, the best place to begin research on any musical topic.

This title is also available in print in the Music Library Reference Room.

In addition to entries on individual composers, musical works, and geographical areas, see also these major articles:

Baroque Counterpoint Manuscript sources
Mass Mode Motet
Notation Renaissance Theory & theorists
Music printing & publishing    



New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML160 .T18 2004 V.1
See volumes 1 & 2 (chapters 14-23).
Rev. ed. / New York : Norton, c1998.
Green Library » Bender Room (non-circulating) » ML160 .S89 1998 V.1
Great writings on music from ancient Greece through the twentieth century. See volumes 3 & 4. Find this in both Music and Green libraries.
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2003.
Green Library » InfoCenter (non-circulating) » CB361 .C27 2003


Composer biographies are a major source for the study of music history:

  • Search in SearchWorks for a particular composer
  • Search in Grove Music Online (entries for most composers also include detailed lists of compositions)
  • Browse the stacks, at ML 410


Catalogs of composers works, and comprehensive summaries of research materials on some composers may be found in the Reference Room, at ML 134.

Composers represented include: Byrd, Charpentier, Frescobaldi, Gabrieli, Josquin, Lasso, Lully, Morello, Monteverdi, Pachelbel, Palestrina, Purcell, Rameau, Scarlatti (father and son), Schütz, Victoria, and Willaert.

Some examples:

Third edition. New York : Routledge, 2012, ©2012.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML134 .B96 T9 2012
Paris : CNRS éditions : Bibliothèque nationale de France, c2003-
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML134 .R14 B6 2003 V.1


Browse for books on historical periods at ML 170 - ML 194. In addition, you will find specific topics (e.g., opera, instrumental music) divided by time period.

See these histories:

Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Music Library » Stacks » ML172 .J83 2000
New York : W. W. Norton, c2013.
Music Library » Stacks » ML172 .F74 2013
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Music Library » Stacks » ML194 .C23 2005
1st ed. New York : W.W. Norton & Company, c2005.
Music Library » Stacks » ML193 .H54 2005

Printed music

Along with performing editions of printed music arranged by instrument or performing group, there are numerous significant sets of printed music, edited by scholars, that represent the works of an individual composer (a collected edition, or "Gesamtausgabe") or various historical series ("Denkmäler) arranged geographically, by form/genre, or by time period.

These carefully prepared sets often take many years to complete, and some remain ongong endeavors. New research into a composer's body of work has in some cases prompted the initiation of an entirely new series.

A good, concise overview of these resources may be found in Gottlieb's Music Library and Research Skills (p. 200-08).  For an extensive bibliographical listing of published sets, see the Grove Music Online article, "Editions, historical."

To locate works within these sets, you may:

See notations in Grove, in the works lists at the end of composer biographies;

Use the online Index to Printed Music (IPM);

Consult Heyer's Historical Sets, Collected Editions, and Monuments of Music (note that this covers only pre-1980 publications)

Some examples:

Rome : American Institute of Musicology, 1956-<1998 >
Music Library » Stacks (Limited loan) » M3 .G11 W9 V.1
Neue Reihe. Kassel ; New York : Bärenreiter, 1956-1996.
Music Library » Stacks (Limited loan) » M3 .L34 W9A BD.1
New York : Garland Publishing, 1987-2000 [i.e. 1999]
Music Library » Stacks (Limited loan) » M2 .S6258 1987
New York : Garland Pub., 1995-2003.
Music Library » Stacks (Limited loan) » M2 .S497 1995