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Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense

The Ufficio Ricerca Fondi Musicali

The Ufficio Ricerca Fondi Musicali has been created in 1965 by the Ministry of Education as an office of the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Milan national library, with the aim to create the catalogue of music printed and manuscript to 1900, owned by public and private Italian libraries.

Nowadays its catalogues consist of:
around 147,000 titlecards of music scores printed before 1900;
around 162,000 titlecards of music manuscripts written before 1900;
over 26,000 titlecards of librettos printed before 1800;
around 1,500 titlecards of correspondence;
an index of opera and oratorio arias of around 22,000 titlecards.

Starting from 1986, the catalogue of printed music has been converted into a national database with the project SBL-musica, and is now the nucleus of the national online music catalogue base dati Musica di SBN.

Music materials are around 10% of the bibliographic records within the library system SBN, that is still the only national special database in the world, allowing description of and coded access to all spcefic data, like music incipit, medium of performance, musical form, presentation, place and date of performance, cast and characters.

Due to the existance of such an advanced database, the card catalogue growth has been stopped in 1998.

However, until now, the content the catalogue of manuscripts has been converted into web accessible databases only partially and indirectly: around 70,000 records of manuscripts contained in the catalogue are also in SBN, and around 30,000 may be accessed (by subscription) through the International catalogue of RISM (Répertoire International des Sources Musicales).

But due to the overlapping of the two databases and to the fact that not all the bibliographic records correspond to titlecards of the catalogue, around 60% of the titlecards of manuscripts of the Ufficio Ricerca Fondi Musicali are the only collective source of information. Such a percent raises dramatically for 19th century manuscripts, that only recently have started being systematically catalogued.

The digitisation of the catalogue of music manuscripts

The possibility of converting in SBN the catalogue of music manuscripts has been considered, but the different description level of the titlecards has constrained to discard this option. However, the importance of the content is such, that in 2003 the National library has decided to scan the titlecards and to index them according to the national standards for the convertion of historical catalogues.

Considering the pecularitity of music materials, six access points have been created: author, title, musical form, medium of performance, numbers (opus, progressive, thematic catalogue), key, in order to allow searches that were impossible in the original author-title catalogue. Browsing the digital catalogue is still possible, opening "drawers" of 200 cards.

The search interface, in Italian and English, allows combined searches on all six fields, with the possibility of left and right truncation, of boolean search, of search within a range of terms (e.g. writing from "caccini" to "campion" you will find all the authors included in that range, like Cafaro, Cagnoni, etc.).

The results are presented as a table that can be sorted on six ascending or descending levels. Clicking on a result row, one displays the image of the titlecard containing the description and the location of the manuscript.

You may find further details in the Help file.

Further improvements are planned, like saving the results, printing the cards, adding other access fields (first of all location), and more navigation features.


Indexers for Automazione Piemonte have been Peter Reister, Clara Rolandi and Emiko Yasuda; Attilio Rossi has collaborated to data verification and to the development of the search interface. Special thanks to Gabriele Gamba and Aldo Coletto for the technical assistance in the website development.