Project Description

Hundreds of works by Haydn, Gluck, and other Viennese composers are known solely from contemporary copies. These sources, written by professional copyists, normally remained undated; determining the chronological position of the works and the significance of the source is difficult. As professional copyists changed papers relatively often, a survey of datable paper allows for dating manuscripts written by Viennese copyists. Facing this challenge, the projects “Cultural Transfer of Music in Vienna, 1755–80” and “Paper and Copyists in Viennese Opera Scores, 1760–70” explore 130 datable opera scores from the Habsburg collections, identifying the professional copyists (by handwriting and, if possible, by name) as well as the paper they used. Rather than single elements, the combination of elements is the most valuable clue to dating. The project will exhibit various types of combinations: those of copyists working together; of paper types used simultaneously; and copyists using specific types of paper.

Three main innovative aspects stick out:

(1) Accuracy: Digital photographs of watermarks and the features of copyists promise a greater precision of reproduction than can be achieved with traditional drawings by hand. For the first time in musicology this project uses transmitted light photographs and image subtraction on a grand scale––an accurate, simple and inexpensive method of recording watermarks.

(2) Accessibility: Digital processing allows a systematic search for watermarks/paper, for manuscripts and their structure, and for copyist handwriting. The present database makes the data available to a broad number of scholars in the fields of musicology and paper studies and connects it to the well-known databases of RISM and “The Memory of Paper” (Bernstein Project). The Copyist Identifier allows locating a copyist by choosing from a set of musical symbols (like keys, note-heads, rests, time signatures, etc.).

(3) Completeness: Due to the close temporal sequence of the sources, the catalogs of paper and musical handwriting presumably cover large parts of all Viennese music manuscripts written in a decade of rich manuscript production. The period from 1760 to 1774 is characterized by multiple performances, mostly of Italian opera, in Vienna and by the fact that the Viennese court collected scores of these works. Therefore, this period is a perfect field for such an examination.

Paper and copyists in Viennese opera scores, period 1: 1771–1774

In the first stage of the research project, between 2014 and 2019, about 30 opera scores supposed to be written in Vienna by professional copyists between 1771 and 1774 and housed in the music collection of the Austrian National Library were examined systematically. (For detailed information, click here:)

Paper and copyists in Viennese opera scores, period 2: 1760–1770

In the current stage of the research project (2021–2023), we want to cover the period from 1760 to 1770, studying and analyzing about another 100 opera scores in order to gain further information about music copyists in Vienna, their mode of operation and the distribution of their products. The results of our research will be added to the database continuously. Therefore, we ask the users to conceive it as a work in progress. Please expect additions, corrections, and refinements of what is published now in the upcoming months and years. Please send your feedback, including comments and suggestions, to