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Music before 1500

Last Updated: 30-Oct-2014

Resources for the study of music history and theory, ca. 800-1500.


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:

Ars Antiqua Ars Nova Cantus Firmus
Counterpoint Manuscript Sources Mass
Medieval Medieval Drama Mode
Motet Notation Plainchant
Theory and Theorists    



New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML160 .T18 2004 V.1
Taruskin's comprehensive history of Western music is quickly becoming a classic.  See volume I, "The earliest notations to the sixteenth century".

This title is online; also available in print in the Music Reference Room and stacks.
Rev. ed. Toronto ; Buffalo : University of Toronto Press, 1980.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML114 .H893 1980
This bibliography lists important books, articles, scores, and reference sources on topics including history, philosophy, notation, rhythm, music in everyday life, iconography, instruments, geographical areas, plainsong, chant, tropes, treatises, vernacular song, lauda, theory and practice of polyphony, and performance practices. The general index will help you navigate to specific works.  See also, "A brief survey" which highlights works that are particularly excellent and/or provide a broad introduction to topical areas (p. xi-xii).
Bottai [Firenze] : SISMEL, Edizioni del Galluzo, 1998-
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML128 .M3 M43 V.16
Provides an annual summary of publications about music in the Middle Ages (500-1400). Annotations are in Italian. The indexes will guide you to mansucripts, names and noteworthy items, geographical areas, scholars, discographies, ensembles, and performing groups.  
Turnhout, Belgium : Brepols Publishers, c1995-
Green Library » InfoCenter: CD-ROMS (non-circulating)
Offers more than 6000 entries on medieval music.
2. erw. Aufl. München : Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Kommission bei dem Verlag C.H. Beck, 2006-
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML108 .L487 2006 1.FASZIKEL
Provides concise definitions in German and English, and lists occurrances of terms in early sources.
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. : Oceana Publications, 1972-<1980>
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML161 .E36 1972 V.1
A chronological list of significant events involving music and musicians, along with events in the arts, politics, and society.
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2010.
Green Library » HASRC (Lane Room) (non-circulating) » D114 .O94 2010 V.1
"An essential new reference work covering all key aspects of European history, society, and culture from 500 to 1500 A.D., as well as the Byzantine Empire, Islamic dynasties, and Asiatic peoples of the era"--publisher's website.

A print copy is available in Green Library, Lane Room.


Search in SearchWorks to identify books, dissertations, and conference proceedings. Try, for example, these subject terms:

Medieval music

Music 500-1400 history and criticism

Music theory 500-1400


Broswe the shelves:

ML 169-172 General histories from earliest times to the 16th century
ML 174 History of theory
ML 410 Composer biographies
MT 5.5 Early theoretical works



A sampling of books available:

Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Music Library » Stacks » ML172 .C32 2011
Concise chapters preented on a vareity of topics.  Available in print and online.
Rev. ed. / New York : Norton, c1998.
Green Library » Bender Room (non-circulating) » ML160 .S89 1998 V.1
Anthologies of contemporary writings about music. See volume two: The Early Christian Period and the Latin Middle Ages. Print copies are available in the Music stacks and in Green Bender Room.
Aldershot, Hants, England ; Burlington, VT : Ashgate, c2004.
Music Library » Stacks » ML170 .M84 2004
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Music Library » Stacks » ML410 .B5885 B56 2000

Manuscript sources

[S.l.] : American Institute of Musicology ; Neuhausen-Stuttgart : Hänssler-Verlag, 1979-1988.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML135.A2 C396 V.1
This catalogue lists all known manuscript sources of polyphonic music in mensural notation, 1400-1550. Entries are arranged by city, and include a siglum and location, library call number, contents, list of composers, physical description, date, provenance, and bibliography. Check the indexes for composers, and general names of persons, places, RISM numbers and watermarks.

Search the library name and call number in SearchWorks to find print and microform copies at Stanford.
London : University of Oxford, 2003-
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » INTERNET RESOURC

DIAMM seeks to conserve and provide information about European polyphonic music manuscripts, ca. 800-1550. It includes detailed information about all known manuscript sources, and provides high-quality digital images of a growing number of items. DIAMM includes all entries in RISM B:IV
[Oxford, England] : Oxford University Press
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
 The Grove entry on manuscript sources describes in detail important sources for Western plainchant, secular monophony, organum and discant, the early motet, and English, French, and Italian polyphony. Also available in print in the Music Library.


Manuscript facsimiles

Listed below are a number of deluxe facsimile publications in the Music Library. Some are browseable in the main stacks and some are kept in the Locked Stacks (please ask for assistance to view these).

Browse all facsimiles in SearchWorks by searching the subject term: music manuscripts facsimiles, and limiting results by ERA (in the far left column)

Lucca, Italy : Libreria musicale italiana ; Castello : printed by Genesi Gruppo Editoriale, c2008.
Music Library » Locked Stacks: ask at circulation desk » ML96.4 .B64 2008
Acquired through the Allen B. Cagle Book Fund.
Valencia : Vicent García Editores, S.A., 2007.
Music Library » Locked Stacks: ask at circulation desk » ML96.4 .C53 2007
Acquired through the Susan and Ruth Sharp Fund.
Acquired through the Susan and Ruth Sharp Fund.
[Madrid?] : Kaydeda Ediciones, 1993.
Music Library » Locked Stacks: ask at circulation desk » Z105.5 .C62 1993
Firenze : Giunti Barbèra ; [Lucca] : Libreria musicale italiana, c1992.
Music Library » Locked Stacks: ask at circulation desk » ML96.4 .S773 FF
Oxford, England : DIAMM Publications, c2010.
Music Library » Folio » ML96.4 .E85 2010 F
Piacenza : Tip.Le.Co., 1997.
Music Library » Locked Stacks: ask at circulation desk » M2147 XII M5 COMMENTARY FF

Links of interest