This is an introduction to the collection of liturgical books in reproduction at the Isham Memorial Library. The inventory of the collection, at left, is organized by the city where these books now reside.
About the Collection
The original books were created in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They are chiefly service books: pontificals, breviaries, graduals and tropers. The collection is particularly strong in copies of books from Western and Central Europe, however there are also reproductions of volumes which were produced in Guatemala, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Isham has been actively collecting these copies since the mid-twentieth century. Microfilm is the most common format in the collection. In the Grove Music Online article “Musicology,” Vincent Duckles and Barbara H. Haggh observe that “air travel and microfilm contributed to a postwar wave of comprehensive archival studies on composers and musical activities in city, court and church.” A hallmark of the musicological research conducted at Harvard over the past 75 years has been a strong foundation in primary source studies, and support of this work has been an important part of Isham's mission.
Using the Books
These materials are in Isham’s open stacks and available for use whenever Isham is open, generally Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Isham is located on the second floor of the Loeb Music Library.
Isham staff are happy to have patrons visit Isham and page materials for themselves to use on site. Isham staff are usually available to help locate and use these items if desired, however it is always wise to contact us ahead of your visit if you'd like to be sure that someone will be here to assist you. Isham's ST ViewScan II microform reader/scanner can be used to both read and capture images from the microfilms and microfiches, while the CD-ROMs will need to be inserted into a disc drive on a computer; the two public computers in Isham both have disc drives. If you would like to use a set of slides, please let us know so that we may make special arrangements for you.
Patrons wishing to make their own copies are advised to bring a USB flash drive. Flash drives are available for loan.
Reproduction is a service offered by Isham staff. For a small request (20 pages or fewer), Isham staff will often be able to furnish scans over the counter with minimal delay. For larger requests (a greater number of pages, entire items), it may be necessary to negotiate such factors as obtaining permission from the holding library, transfer to Harvard’s Imaging Services laboratory, and so forth. Regardless, please begin your reproduction request by contacting Isham staff.