Tracking down Mary, and others

Unknown woman; unknown photographer, uploaded by marysatchowiak

Unknown woman; unknown photographer, uploaded by marysatchowiak

A musicologist friend of mine has asked me how to find printed music of an obscure composer; let’s call her Mary Lucas, because that’s the composer’s name. The following might be useful for you too, if you wonder how to find music by someone who has either a very brief entry in Grove, or isn’t mentioned anywhere obvious.

The first point of call – after you have tried your local library of choice, and its catalogue(s), is Worldcat, and I would always also try the good old, trusted KVK.

Second, if you haven’t found what you were looking for, go for any sources which focus specifically on the country where that composer was published; in this case I offer you Cecila (under administration of the helpful IAML people). You can search for the composer, or if you know that they have been published by a specific publisher, but you wonder whether a certain piece has been published, search for the publisher’s archive.

Third, if still no luck: try Access to Archives; sometimes a local authority, a public library or a small research institute might have acquired your composer’s archive.

Fourth, if the composer has published, contact the publisher direct and ask them; if you cannot find contact details through a web search, go to the Directory of Music Publisher Association [UK] members:; if the publisher has ceased to exist you can search ‘associated’ publishers at

Fifth, consider that – even though a composer might have been popular in their time – some music (even, or especially) in the last 100-150 years have been lost.

Have you found any other tools for, or paths to success? If so, please share them with a comment below.


About cg474

Since August 2010 I have been working as a librarian at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK). Since October 2015 I am the librarian at the Faculty of Divinity Library. Between August 2010 and November 2013 I was the Deputy Head of Music at Cambridge University Library and at the Pendlebury Library of Music. Between December 2013 and September 2015 I was the Librarian at the Marshall Library of Economics. Since October 2015 I have been the Librarian at the Divinity Library.
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