William L. Clements Library

Sheet Music


The Clements is an excellent resource for the study of early American music, which can be located in the Book, Manuscript, and Graphic divisions of the Clements Library. Included is sacred and secular music in tune books, hymnals, instructional books, slip ballads, songsters, sheet music, and original scores. The largest groupings of musical material are the printed tune books in the Book Division and the sheet music collection under the Graphics Division. The library has numerous reference works dealing with various aspects of musical performance, publishing, education, philosophy and aesthetics, history and criticism, the music of African-Americans, Native Americans, and music bibliography.

History of the Collection

In the late 1970s, the Clements acquired approximately 30,000 pieces of 19th-century sheet music from the Edison Phonograph Company Archive through the gift of Bly Corning. Approximately 16,500 individual pieces and 50 bound volumes of music published between 1826 and 1945 make up the core of the collection. The balance of the Edison archive was transferred to the collections of the University of Michigan School of Music.

Using the Collection

Cataloging the Clements sheet music collection began in 2010 with a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. These records can be located in the online catalog. Tune books, rare sheet music, and music in popular magazines located in the Book Division can also be found in the catalog. Sheet music and song sheets can be located in the Graphics Division by examining the reading room finding aids for music and ephemera.

Arrangement of the Music Collections

Illustrated music has been sorted by date and then alphabetically by composer or title. Much of the non-illustrated music was transferred to the University of Michigan School of Music, with the exception of music by important American composers, famous songs, music related to American historical and social movements, particularly songs relating to the Mexican War, Civil War, or Spanish-American War, minstrel, comic, patriotic, romantic, and holiday songs, dancing instructions, music associated with specific performers, and covers embellished with notable graphic design. Sheet music published prior to 1826 is organized to match Richard Wolfe's bibliography Secular Music in America 1800-1825.