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Guide to Music Dealers' Catalogs: What are music dealers' catalogs

Overview of music dealers' catalogs and how to access them at The New York Public Library Library for the Performing Arts. Guide by Bob Kosovsky.

What are music dealers' catalogs?

Music dealer catalogs (which include auction catalogs) contain lists of books and/or scores (or other material) that has come into a dealer's possession for sale or auction.  

Dealers' catalogs shed light on the popularity and dissemination of music.  They can also reveal what significant individuals owned.  In this manner they allow for the study of provenance—the history of ownership.  Provenance studies can reveal significant historical information about ownership, private libraries, the creation and production of scores and of their significance within society.

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Some of the many music dealer catalogs in the Music Division

Some of the many music dealer catalogs in the Music Division

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A page from Catalogue of the valuable library of the late Edward Francis Rimbault... (Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 1877).  Items nos. 1112, 1113, and 1118 are now part of the Music Division's Drexel Collection.

An example of an auction catalog from 1877

A page from Catalogue of the valuable library of the late Edward Francis Rimbault... (Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 1877).  Item nos. 1112, 1113, and 1118 are now part of the Music Division's Drexel Collection.

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A page from a Sotheby's auction catalog from 2014

A page from a Sotheby's auction catalog from 2014

Recent catalogs tend to provide detailed information concerning physical and intellectual attributes as well as the provenance of each item.

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