The following is a guest post by Sharon McKinley, Senior Music Cataloger.
Old sheet music can be brittle. The pages are often dissected and bound into volumes by previous owners. Sometimes a piece is simply missing pages. With all that, do you ever wonder how Library of Congress catalogers can identify a piece? I did too.
Recently I had occasion to deal with a mystery score entitled Telemaque. Hmm, no composer. Looks like we’re missing the title page. There are a bunch of Telemaques and his relatives (such as Telemaco) in the Library of Congress catalog. Cool, I can run downstairs and look….oops, nope. Seems a lot of people wrote works about this character (he stars in the Odyssey), among them Gluck, Scarlatti, and Campra. Mine is not among them.
More research ensues. Hmm, here are two publications of a nice ballet in WorldCat.org with a title that looks hopeful: Ouverture et airs du ballet de Telemaque. My item starts with”Ouverture de Telemaque.” Could it be? How to identify it further…ah, there are two editions at Harvard. Can I get away with taking a research junket to Cambridge? Not likely. Next best thing: Music Library Association colleagues. I email a photograph (no flash!) of the first page to Beth Iseminger, Music and Media Catalog Librarian at the Loeb Music Library. She sends it on to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger at Harvard’s Houghton Library, who compares my publication to her two, and Eureka! An orphan has been identified. The work is “Télémaque dans l’ile de Calypso,” by a fellow named Krasinsky. We can’t be sure which edition it is, since only the missing title page differentiates the two. But now we know what it is, and it’s proudly cataloged under the correct composer. Professional contacts and the wonders of technology have solved a problem that would have been daunting not so very long ago. And…now you know how it’s done.