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For more information or to ask a reference question, please fill out the Reference Questions form, or call 215-684-7650 or send an e-mail to .

Access to the Library is free. Visitors may request a Researcher’s Pass from the guard at the Perelman Building entrance.

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As one of the major art reference libraries in the United States, the Museum Library houses approximately 200,000 books, auction catalogues, and periodicals dating from the sixteenth century to the present. Reflecting the Museum's rich and distinctive collections, the Library's holdings focus on European, American, and Asian painting and sculpture; furniture and decorative arts; arms and armor; costume and textiles; prints, drawings, and photographs; and modern and contemporary art. The Library also subscribes to a growing collection of electronic resources, available on workstations in the Reading Room.

Library Installation

Knife inscribed with musical notation and prayers of Grace and Benediction, 16th century
Steel blade; engraved ivory handle
1 3/8 x 11 3/4 inches (3.5 x 29.8 cm)
Purchased with Museum funds from the Edmond Foulc Collection, 1930
[ More Details ]
Art of Notation, Music and Dance
February 10–spring/summer 2015
For roughly eight hundred years, Western musical notation, the system of notes placed on a staff of lines, has enjoyed a remarkably stable form. It functions as a graph, where the horizontal axis indicates time, and the vertical axis indicates pitch. Both prescriptively and as documentation, it communicates music.

Less than a century after Gutenberg’s Bible (1455), the first printed music was created. Much of the early “printed” scores required considerable work by a scribe due to the complexity of the notation system. To impress first the staff lines and then the notes, lyrics, and incidentals required two to three passes when using the printing press. Thus woodblock and copperplate engraving were still employed for music long after moveable type dominated the rest of publishing.

Despite the name “choreography,” a graph that can convey human movement has proven elusive. Many universal dance notation systems have been attempted—labanotation and the Feuillet system are shown here—but none have achieved widespread popularity. In the 1900s alone, more than sixty documented choreography systems were developed.

The objects on view present both common and uncommon forms of music and dance notation. Their commonality is the aspiration to fix the fleeting acts of sound and motion upon a page. To make the intangible tangible.

The Library Reading Room, second floor, Perelman Building

Digital Collections

Ronaele Manor
The collection of heraldic stained glass at Ronaele Manor, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania :the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Fitz Eugene Dixon /described by F. Sydney Eden. -- London : Arden Press, 1927.
The Library is creating distinctive digital collections that provide access to its rare materials to support research and education at the Museum, to enhance scholarship worldwide, to increase access to its holdings, and to promote lifelong learning. Digitizing also aids in preservation by reducing the need for handling the originals. Scrapbooks from the Archives; rare art auction catalogs; books and ephemera on European and American decorative arts and arms and armor; and the Museum’s own publications are just some examples of the items that staff are digitizing and making freely available to all on the Internet Archive.

Browse our contributions to the Internet Archive.

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