Between 1800 and 1917 the music section at the Library of Congress grew from a few items in The Gentleman's Magazine to almost a million items. The history of this development provides a unique view of the infant discipline of musicology and the central role that libraries played in its growth in the United States. Between 1800 and 1870 only 500 items were acquired by the music section at the Library of Congress. In 1870 approximately 36,000 copyright deposits (which had been accumulating at several copyright depositories since 1789) enlarged the music section by more than seventy fold. After 1870 the copyright process brought an avalanche of music items into the Library of Congress. In 1901 Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress, hired American-born, German-educated Oscar Sonneck to be the second Chief of the Music Division. Together Putnam and Sonneck produced an ambitious acquisitions program, a far-sighted classification, cataloging, and shelving scheme, and an extensive series of publications. They were part of Putnam's strategy to transform the Library of Congress from a legislative into a national library. Sonneck wanted to make American students of music independent of European libraries and to establish the discipline of musicology in the United States. Through easy access to comprehensive and diverse collections Putnam and Sonneck succeeded in making the Library of Congress and its music section a symbol of the free society that it served.
- Copyright 1989 The American Musicological Society, Inc.