The earliest historical evidence of the University of Michigan's Music Library can be found in a School of Music bulletin from 1940 that states, "A special branch Music Library is maintained in Burton Tower." From the seemingly inauspicious origins implied in this single brief sentence has grown an academic research music library ranked among the top five in the United States, and recently referred to by the National Association of Schools of Music as "one of the world's major music collections." The change from a small departmental collection with the sole purpose of supporting School of Music curricula, to one of the world's premier music libraries known and used by scholars and performers internationally was brought about by a fortunate combination of support and talented people.

The University Librarian's Annual Report for 1941-1942 indicates that Sykes Hartin was appointed in the autumn of 1941 as the first librarian assigned to the music collection in Burton Tower. There is no indication of Hartin's background or qualifications, nor is the nature of his appointment explained. Hartin appears to have remained in this post until November of 1945 when Susan Watt, formerly a senior cataloger in the University Library, was named Librarian in Charge of Music. Miss Watt's annual reports indicate that the major concerns the Music Library had during this time were collecting materials to support teaching in the School of Music and adequate cataloging of these materials. The issue of cataloging remained a very serious one until 1967, when the first international standards for cataloging music materials appeared.

In January of 1962 Wallace Bjorke was appointed Librarian in Charge of Music. Bjorke was a graduate of both Michigan's School of Music and its School of Information and Library Science, having obtained Masters degrees in both fields. In this way, he was among the first generation of modern music librarians fully qualified in both disciplines.

By the time of Bjorke's appointment, the Music Library had outgrown its quarters in Burton Tower. While the Music Library could seat twenty-eight people, the School of Music then had a faculty of seventy-five and an enrollment of 610 students. The extreme crowding forced the Music Library to store portions of its collection in the Graduate and Chemistry libraries as well as filling every inch of space it could in Burton Tower. Additionally, the nature of the collection itself had begun to change. A shift in emphasis from merely supporting the curricula to establishing a true research music library had begun some years before. As a result many more materials of greater historical importance were being acquired, including purchase of the private collection of Jean Auguste Stellfeld.

Stellfeld was a prominent Belgian jurist and musicologist whose financial means allowed him to indulge his interests in collecting antiquarian scores and books on music. After his death in 1952 some effort was made by the Belgian government to acquire Stellfeld's library as a national treasure. Negotiations broke down however and following a chance visit by Professor Louise Cuyler in 1953, a concerted effort by Dean Earl Moore, Professors Cuyler, Gordon Sutherland, and Hans David, and University Librarian Frederick Wagman resulted in Michigan's purchase of Stellfeld's collection and its arrival in Ann Arbor during May of that year. Despite the success in acquiring this material, seven years later the Michigan Alumnus of March 12, 1960, could still report that the Stellfeld materials remained inaccessible to study due to shortages in staff and space.

The Music Library's situation was greatly improved with the construction of the Earl V. Moore School of Music Building on North Campus, and the transfer of the Music Library from its three locations to its permanent quarters in this building in 1964. Shortly after this move, the staff was increased with the appointment of Professor William Weichlein as part-time Head of the Music Library and part-time Professor of Musicology. Though Weichlein lacked formal education in librarianship, his expert knowledge of music bibliography and history combined with Bjorke's knowledge of music librarianship guided the Music Library on the path to becoming a national and international resource. Upon Weichlein's retirement in 1982, Peggy Daub was appointed Head of the Music Library and Assistant Professor of Musicology. Unlike her predecessor Daub held degrees both in music and librarianship, thus bringing to the Head's position the same dual expertise Bjorke had established earlier in his post. With Daub's transfer to Special Collections, Calvin Elliker was named Head of the Music Library and Assistant Professor of Musicology in 1990. In January of 1992, after thirty years of service to the Music Library, Wallace Bjorke retired. In May of 1993 Charles Reynolds accepted the post of Music Librarian.

A full description of the Music Library's holdings is impossible in a short article. Only a few of its treasures can be mentioned, and then only briefly. Thanks to the acquisition of Stellfeld's library, the collection contains significant holdings of C.P.E. Bach's music, allowing the Music Library to contribute to the recently published scholarly edition of this composer's complete works. Similarly, strong holdings in the music of Willem de Fesch have also allowed the Music Library to aid in the preparation of critical editions of these works. Consultations with a visiting scholar in the summer of 1991 revealed that the Music Library has the largest collection of secondary imprints of music by Archangelo Corelli in the United States. Assistance to another scholar has also shown that the Music Library's holdings of songs by Pauline Viardot is the largest in the country. Additionally, the Stellfeld purchase brought the Music Library unusual strength in scores of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century operas.

Other notable items include a first edition of Johann Gottfried Walther's Musikalisches Lexikon (1742), the first encyclopedia of music in western culture. Johann Nikolaus Forkel's Geschichte der Musik (1788), Thomas Janovka's Clavis ad Thesaurum Magne Artis Musicae (1701), Sir John Hawkins' General History of the Science and Practice of Music (1776), John Mainwaring's Memoirs of the Life of Handel (1760), Ernst Gottlieb Baron's treatise on lute playing (1727), and Ferdinand Carulli's Methode pour la Guitare (1810) are also owned in first editions, to cite just a few of the Music Library's holdings in these areas. Major writings by Johann Mattheson, a composer and critic of the eighteenth century, and Jean Philippe Rameau, one of the most influential theorists in western music, are also represented in first editions. The Music Library owns the autograph of Claude Debussy's Trio in G Major for piano, violin, and violoncello -- a work from the composer's youth. Thanks to the ethnomusicological expertise of Professor William Malm, the Music Library has significant holdings pertaining to Japanese music, while a long-standing international exchange agreement has brought the Music Library a wide range of materials concerned with the music and dance of India.

With the combined support of the School of Music and the University Library, the Music Library has also been able to acquire three separate collections of special materials over the past decade. A collection of works by women composers -- largely of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries -- was acquired from the English antiquarian Richard McNutt. A large collection of American sheet music from the days of ragtime and early jazz was purchased from Michigan alumnus Michael Montgomery. Most recently, the 90,000-piece collection of sheet music assembled by Thomas Edison to support his gramophone company was acquired through the generosity of a thoughtful donor. This collection includes sheet music from the late 1790s to about 1924, encompassing a major portion of the U. S. music press output of the nineteenth century.

The range and depth of these collections have drawn many famous scholars and performers to Ann Arbor to consult the Music Library's holdings. Visiting musicians from Italy, Australia, Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Finland, and all parts of the United States have recently spent their summers in the Music Library. In addition, letters and telephone calls reach the music library from all over the world every day asking for microfilms of works in the collection, advice or clarification in bibliographical matters, and answers to hundreds of questions ranging from "What are the pitches and rhythms in the twenty-third measure of the second violin part to Beethoven's third symphony?", to "How can I obtain a copy of The Victors?" Even commercial enterprises such as the BBC and many recording companies have called upon the Music Library to aid in supplying information or music for forthcoming productions. All questions and requests are answered as quickly as possible, and the Music Library's correspondence file contains many commendatory letters from individuals and organizations who have received help.

Calvin Elliker. Preface to Catalog of a Special Exhibition from the Holdings of the University of Michigan's Music Library in Honor of the Canadian Association of Music Libraries. Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 4, 1993.

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Last modified: 06/14/2018