Mining the Grove: Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Sir George Grove, editor of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians circa 1890A Brief History

Generations of musicians and librarians have relied upon the various editions of George Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians for answering music questions. At Central Library, the earliest edition is the 4-volume edition published by Macmillan in 1890. When the last print edition was published in 2001, the representatives from Oxford University Press told us at a conference that this would be the very last print edition.

Reading the preface to a book is often a good way to get a sense of the author's ideas.  A comparison of the preface in the 1st edition of 1890 to the 2001 print edition reveals the passage of time toward our global society. Not surprisingly, the first edition is intentionally eurocentric: "All investigations into the music of barbarous nations have been have been avoided, unless they have some direct bearing on European music." as Sir George wrote in the preface.

For the most recent print edition in 2001, editor Stanley Sadie wrote: "Our express intention is to spread the net more widely and to trawl more deeply. Thus more composers globally are entered, more countries are represented, and countries whose representation was in 1980 hampered by political factors are now considered on the same basis (at least as far as communications permit) as the main Western democracies."

The most recent edition of Grove's is not in print but online, available to you through the Multnomah County Library website with your MCL library card. Though based on the last print edition of 2001, the online version is different from the print, with new and revised articles, and features that have been added in the past 12 years. The current editor, Deane L. Root, describes the Grove as continually evolving, and more responsive to input from readers/researchers:

In online writing and publication, prior versions of articles are often not retained when an article is updated with new content.

However, "In 2008, the editiors of Oxford Music Online began retaining selections of previous versions of articles in Grove Music Online that have been significantly revised. When a previous version of an article is available, a link (dated according to when the version was created) appears in the left-hand panel of the page. The decision to create a previous version is based on the nature of the revision. As a general rule, if the editors believe that making a previous version available on the site will provide added value to the reader, the version is created. The most common cases involve articles with extensive changes, with content both added and removed, but sometimes the revision could affect as little as one sentence."

How to search by name, occupation, or nationality in Oxford Music Online:

  1. Link to Oxford Music Online with your library card from Multnomah County: Oxford Music Online
  2. Link to Advanced Search for the best results.
  3. Select 'Biography Search.'
  4. In the 'Search for' fields, type name, occupation, nationality, or place of birth.
  5. Check Grove Music Online for full entries.
  6. Press SEARCH

A few selections of features of Oxford Music Online:

Not finding what you are looking for?

Link to the search guide or Contact the Reference Staff of Multnomah County Library for assistance.


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