What the Collection Contains:
Items in Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1820-1860 . . .
Finding What the Collection Does Not Contain:
For many reasons, including those noted above, the Music Division has much music published in the United States in the years 1819-58 that does not appear in this online collection. Much of it can be found in the Library's online catalog --try browsing the call number M1.A13 for a general sample. However, the Music Division also has much music from the 1819-58 period (including much that is in this online collection) that is not in the catalog. To inquire about specific pieces that appear neither in the online collection nor in the catalog, please contact the Music Division .
How the Collection Came into Existence:
Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1820-1860 consists of that material transferred from the various U.S. Federal District Courts to the Library of Congress in accordance with the 1870 Copyright Law which the Library received unbound and subsequently bound together for easier handling. The material was cataloged under the call number M1.A12 (under which some, but not all, still appears in the Library of Congress online catalog) and was microfilmed in 1976-thus presenting a ready-assembled and well-controlled body of material for digitization.
How the Music Copyright Deposit System Worked:
From 1831 to 1858, the various Federal District Courts were a depository for music copyrighted in the United States. Earlier, the courts had accepted some music for copyright that was treated as "books"; thus this online collection contains some material dating as far back as 1819 (and, for some unknown reason, very little material from the year 1858.) During some of the period there were other depositories for music as well, and much of that music also made its way to the Library of Congress. (For an extremely useful guide through the complexities of antebellum copyright law in the United States, see Gillian Anderson, "Putting the Experience of the World at the Nation's Command: Music at the Library of Congress, 1800-1917," Journal of the American Musicological Association, 42: 1 [Spring 1989].)
The Copyright Act of 1870 required the various District Courts to send the copyright deposits they had received to the Library of Congress. Some complied; some did not. At one point, probably in the early twentieth century, the Library took the unbound material in this mass of copyright deposits that was in standard sheet music format and bound it together in a series of volumes for easier handling. By that time certain materials considered especially valuable-particularly first editions of Stephen Foster-had probably been removed and separately cataloged.