Music Articles

Facsimiles—from Latin, fac simile (make similar)—is the name given to a genre of publishing based on photomechanical printing techniques used to recreate (sometimes in exact detail) an original hand-written manuscript or printed edition. Over the last century, music facsimiles have become an invaluable resource for music historians and performers alike, allowing easy access to "original" documents, permitting modern readers a glimpse into the past. The production of these facsimiles is considered an art in itself and worthy of study in its own right.

OMI is pleased to provide a number of articles about music facsimiles. Discussed here is the nature of facsimiles and their relevance to scholars and performers, and the history and aesthetics of facsimiles (originally published in the new Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition, 2002). In addition Arizona State University and the University of Miami have made available material used in conjunction with exhibits of facsimiles from their collections.

[Review] "Beethoven Facsimiles" by Richard Kramer

"In Defense of Facsimiles" by Alexander Silbiger

"Select Music Facsimiles from Italy" by Ardal Powell

"Facsimile Edition" by Steven Immel

"Just the Facs, Ma'am" - Eckart Sellheim, Christopher Mehrens & Anali Perry (Video)

"Facsimiles Introduction" by Frank Cooper"


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scribe and helper from Libro de Horas de Juana I de Castilla

Detail, Libro de Horas de Juana I de Castilla, Gerard Horenbout, c.1500. British Library, Add. Ms. 35313 (Moleiro Editor)

"...the concept of the critical edition does not transfer well from literature to music...  The communication of a musical text depends on a much more complex two-dimensional graphic representation, and while a musician's response might not be affected by, say, substituting round for diamond-shaped noteheads, it is likely to be affected by beaming, direction of stems, transformation of note values, horizontal and vertical spacing and other aspects of layout...  Some of that information may be contained in calligraphic gestures, to which a performer may respond with analogous musical gestures, for example a forward surge or sudden holding back. To put it in hi-tech terms: literary texts are encoded purely in digital format, but in musical texts there is both a digital and an analog component. The latter component tends to be distorted if not suppressed in modern editions."

(Alexander Silbiger, "In Defense of Facsimiles")