The Rare Book Room contains about 2000 cataloged books and music scores, largely assembled by the late Rita Benton in the decade following the opening of the Voxman Music Building and the present music library in the fall of 1971. Its primary strengths are in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music theory treatises and texts (including instruction books), keyboard and chamber music of the late eighteenth to early nineteen centuries (Schobert, Hullmandel, Joseph Haydn, Clementi, for example), and 200 works by Ignaz Pleyel. Important earlier authors include Zarlino (1562), Kircher (1650), John Playford (1694), Bedos de Celles (1766-1778), Descartes (1656), and Henry Lawes (1637-38). Several Rameau treatises are present in first editions. Recent items include photocopies of autograph scores by Milhaud, Riegger, and Goeb of works composed on commissions from the University of Iowa.
Except for the more recently cataloged Pleyel scores, very little of this collection is accessible in the Libraries’ database. Two published guides and one master’s essay describe portions of the collection:
Gable, Frederick K. An Annotated Catalog of Rare Musical Items in the Llbraries of the University of Iowa. Iowa City, University Libraries, University of Iowa, 1963. (ML136.I57 G3). Describes the 275 titles then housed in locked cabinets in the Music Library or in the Department of Special Collections in the Main Library (these being transferred to the Music Library in 1972).
Rowley, Gordon S. An Annotated Catalog of Rare Musical Items in the Libraries of the University of Iowa; Additions 1963-1972. Iowa City, University of Iowa, 1973. (ML136.I57 R7 1973) Describes the 278 titles that had been added during the preceding decade.
Scherubel, Melody Noel. “An Annotated Bibliography of Rare Books in the Rita Benton Music Library of the University of Iowa Acquired Since 1973 and Relating Especially to the Theory of Music.” 1985. (T1985.S33) MA thesis (Music) Describes 186 titles “that are of particular interest to music theorists” including general and specialized histories of music, collections of essays, and reference works.
Copies of these are available through interlibrary loan. Inquires about specific holdings may also be addressed to the Rita Benton Music Library. The collection is housed in a room within the Library proper and is available whenever a full-time staff person is present. It is not available on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, or on the rare occasions when the room may have been reserved for other purposes. Prospective visitors from out-of-town are advised to contact the Library in advance to ensure that the collection will be accessible.