This isn’t the most spectacular headline for a post, and certain newspapers would probably have changed it to something like ‘True friends – the missing page!’. Let me quickly explain:
I received an email the other day from one of my former colleagues who had been passed a duplicate sheet of an eighteenth-century song. His library already has several copies of this song, and also various complete eighteenth-century collections to which this sheet belongs. So, following his institution’s procedures, he began to look for a new library home for this item, and – being a music librarian who knows his trade – looked at a useful source: RISM, Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (or International Inventory of Musical Sources).
According to the RISM volume B/II: Lesure, François: Recueils Imprimés XVIIIe Siècles (published in 1964), he knew that we had a copy of the collection of songs called The musical entertainer / engrav’d by George Bickham, but the entry in RISM B/II – acting as a union catalogue of holdings of this printed collection – was helpful in identifying incomplete holdings much more quickly than doing a search on, say, COPAC:
Of course, my former colleague didn’t know that we were missing this particular page, but a nice and helpful music librarian does not mind wasting a friendly email offering something to another library. I’m happy to report that this page helps in completing (albeit not completely) our volume! And how could I have said “no” to the offer of such a lovely page of 18th century printed music:
Of course, now I have to find out how we can integrate this sheet into our existing volume, but that’s something – maybe – for another blog post.