Bach Bibliography


About the Project

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is one of the most thoroughly researched composers of Western Art music. For a young scholar, the first task of finding out the state of the current research can be a daunting one. Due to the way the bibliographical studies have been carried out and published in the past (see the history of bibliographical research below), it is unlikely that Bach scholars will ever see a comprehensive, definitive single-volume book in this subject in the future. In fact, it is an extremely impractical to manage the information in a single printed source, for new articles and books appear very frequently, and the amount of information has become too large for browsing. This electronic publication project is precisely aimed at maintaining the most up-to-date information, with advanced search facilities not previously available.

First released on the internet on 5 May 1997, the Bach Bibliography project has the following aim: to make available to scholars free access to the most up-to-date and most comprehensive bibliography for Bach studies. The database and website are maintained by myself at Queen's University Belfast, but during these years, numerous contributions -- additions of new items or corrections of mistakes in the database -- were received from the colleagues and students of Bach, to whom I am deeply indebted. In December 2007 it was agreed with the Bach-Archiv Leipzig that the Bach Bibliography would become one of their online resources, and the transfer work has started in the autumn of 2010. It is anticipated that the new version of the Bach Bibliography will appear towards the end of 2012.

The database is interfaced with advanced search facilities, just like any other on-line library catalogues. Users can search by keyword in any specific or unspecific fields (such as 'author', 'title', 'year') in various combinations. There are also several 'active links' to sort records or carry out related searches.

Currently, the database output has limit of listing 300 records at a time. To reduce the number of hits, you can add more keywords in different fields to reduce the size of output. For example, you can type keywords in the field called "Music" or "Aspect" of music in discussion, which are extra information supplied when the records are created. These fields becomes especially powerful if users want to find out specific group of references, such as the discussions of "cantata" with "authenticity", of "St. Matthew Passion" with "theological" aspect, or even of "keyboard suites" with "analytical" contents.

Scope of Data

Currently the database contains ca. 52,000 reference items (the exact number and the date of the last upload are always displayed in the homepage). Since the aim of this database project is to provide scholarly information to the community of academics, the following guidelines are used for the selection of references:

The items not considered for inclusion are:

Reviews are normally included as a part of the "referred" reference item under "review" field. Exceptions may apply if the review is either unusually substantial or significant.

History of Bibliographical Research

The bibliographical study on J. S. Bach is well-founded. It began with the compilation of contemporary references sources in the second issue of the Bach-Jahrbuch (1905) compiled by Max Schneider. He then listed some 480 Bach references, mainly of German literature, which were published in the period of 1800 and 1904. Five years later he supplemented some 320 items as "New Material" in the seventh issue (1910). They consist of some older references escaped from his earlier listing, the most recently published works and reprints. Since then it became the tradition of the Bach-Jahrbuch that the compiled list of contemporary Bach references has been published every five years. The most recent list appeared in 2011, covering the publications from 2001 to 2005.

From about 1950 onwards, the other sources of reference are also compiled independently: The Bibliographie des Musikschrifttums and later RILM abstracts added new indices and abstracts that were not available previously. It was also around this time that the earliest Bach references of pre-1800 documents were comprehensively catalogued and extracted as Bach-Dokumente 3 vols, the supplementary publication to the Neue Bach-Ausgabe (1963 ff). Important references of time of Bach revival (1800-1850) are extracted in Bach-Dokumente 6.

Areas of Research Work in Progress

Compared with the number of references in more recent issues of the Bach-Jahrbuch, the number of references reported by Max Schneider, which covers more than a century, looks far too small. (Compare, for example, with the fortieth issue of the Bach-Jahrbuch (1953) lists 941 items for the references published between 1945-1952.) We are aware that there are still many journals published between 1800 and 1950 which are in need of systematic examination, the work of which is still ongoing.

Another area that is currently being looked into is the editions of music published before c.1950. Printed music often do not bear the date of publication, and there are often numerous imprints, sometimes with varying contents.

Last modified: 24 February 2012