A University of Chicago professor and scholar of Renaissance music, Howard Mayer Brown (1930-1993) was also a great collector of librettos, musical instruments, and books on music who directed considerable resources to the microfilming of music from the 13th through the 19th centuries. Brown donated his library and his papers to the Newberry.
The Howard Mayer Brown Collection spans the early 16th through the late 20th century, and reflects Brown’s capacious interest in the ways that theater and music intersected. While the bulk of the collection consists of librettos published in Italy and France from the mid-17th to late 18th century, there are also librettos and texts of oratorios, cantatas, festival books, and ballets, some of which are published in other European countries, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The collection includes plays, playbills, collections of poetry, and other literary material of the early modern era that in some way inhabited the realm of musical performance.
A bibliography of Brown’s librettos was created in 1992 by John Winemiller. This guide is available in the checklist area on the third floor, or online in two PDF files: Part 1 and Part 2. The Newberry does not own all of the librettos listed in Winemiller’s bibliography. The Newberry received the collection as it existed at the time of Brown’s death in 1993, with some gaps due to the late professor’s generosity in loaning books from his personal library to other scholars.
Some of Brown’s librettos have been digitized and are available on the Internet Archive.
A 2010 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources enabled the Newberry to create individual catalog records for Brown’s librettos. See the cataloging project blog for images and anecdotes related to the collection.
To locate Brown librettos in the online catalog, select the search by Author option and type or paste in “Howard Mayer Brown Collection.”
Brown’s microfilms have not been individually cataloged. See the Howard Mayer Brown Microfilm guide for more information.
Call our reference desk at (312) 255-3506 with questions on our holdings, or contact a librarian with research questions.