Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Published in Notes, Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 63:4 (June 2007), pp. 761-797. Published by the Music Library Association.

The list of circulating libraries has been updated (as of December 2015) by the following document:


The year is 1867 in Paris during the Second Empire. A musician sets off one day from his flat in a building several centuries old situated on the north side of the city. He is mulling over finances, and he feels lucky to have the place. Though the building is six floors tall with a narrow spiral staircase, the ground floor apartment was available when he was looking, and the piano movers were just able to shoehorn in his forty-year- old Erard piano.

He has a package under his arm, and he is on a mission, but he pauses upon emerging from his narrow street onto the great boulevard. He glances up at the magnificent arch dividing the boulevard at Porte St. Denis and then heads west toward the Opéra where he is employed as an opera coach. As he walks, his mind turns to finances. Some calculation in his head divides his monthly salary. Almost three-quarters goes toward food and another quarter to his apartment, fuel, and clothes, leaving little for everything else. The scores that he deeply desires cost around fifteen francs, too much for him to spend in his quest to keep up with the latest operas.

A fellow musician is visiting tonight, as he does weekly, so they can play and sing some opera music. They are hoping to work through a piano-vocal score they had seen advertised in a recent edition of Le ménestrel, Mignon by Ambroise Thomas, which had been first performed last November. Some music, some gossip and good fellowship —that is his hope for the evening.

He continues down the boulevard, glances in the pâtisserie, passes the butcher, and turns in at his goal, the shop of Léon Grus. Grus has an especially lovely shop, and well-placed.3 He sells pianos and scores, a few other instruments, and sundries, such as candles and music paper. The musician bypasses the displays, though, and heads to the end of the counter. Here is the abonnement de musique, the music circulating library, where he has been a member since before the old man died and his son took over. Last month he paid his annual subscription of thirty francs, and this enables

Breckbill 2016 CircLib--list-updated2.pdf (595 kB)
Updated list of circulating libraries (2015)