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Music: Scholarly and Critical Editions

A research guide for finding music in various formats in the Yale University Library, and for beginning research on music.

About Scholarly and Critical Editions of Music

These are the work of music scholars and comprise multi-volume monographic sets or series, often published over decades. They primarily fall into two categories:

  • Composer's Collected Works
  • Monuments of Music
    • Series of scores based on geography, time period, or repertory
      • Examples: Musica Britannica (music by British composers), Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth-Century
    • Most shelved in Reference Room, M2, by title of series
    • Some shelved in Basement, Stacks, or at the LSF (circulating volumes)
    • Many of the volumes are cataloged separately, so that you may search for works by specific composers


  • Editions based on the most important manuscript and printed sources
  • Each volume typically accompanied by a "critical report" (or apparatus criticus), sometimes in a separate volume
  • Critical report goes through the score measure-by-measure, noting variants in the sources

Locating Individual Works in Scholarly Editions

Other Resources for Identifying Scholarly Editions

Thematic catalogs:

  • These give the musical incipits of movements, but also usually list the complete works by title, volume and page number. Also list important printed and manuscript sources, and citations to books and articles about the work.
  • Many shelved in Reference, ML134, arranged by composer
  • Quicksearch Books+: Subject: Thematic Catalogs (click Modify search and add Subject: composer's name or browse list)

Works lists in Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online)

Searching for Composers Critical Editions

In Quicksearch Books+ Advanced Search, the following will help locate the set:

Author: (Composer's name) 

Title begins with: Works (the Uniform Title will be Works, sometimes followed by the date publication began).

Format: Notated music

Optional: Call number: "M3" (tip: enclose letter-number combinations in quotes). Do this if you have a very large set of results.

Example: Author: "bach johann sebastian" / Title begins with: Works / Call number: "M3" / Format: Notated music

image search for Bach works

Searching for Monuments

1. A title search for a monument, Das Erbe deutscher Musik, brings back a very brief record. Notice that there is no subject heading.

image of catalog record for Erbe deutscher Musik

2. The "Available from" box for Das Erbe deutscher Musik indicates it is in the Reference Room, but gives no call number. Notice the instruction: Search under individual Author/title

image of holdings record for Erbe deutscher Musik

3. Searching for the monument title, using the Title begins with field, leads to the series records, but also the individual volumes with their authors and titles. Browse through the list, or use the Author and Subject limiters on the left to narrow the results. 

image of results set title begins with Erbe deutscher Musik