The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, established in 1983 and open to the public in 1985, is a study center and museum devoted to the life and works of Ludwig van Beethoven. The Beethoven Center is both an Organized Research Unit of the College of Humanities and the Arts and a special collection of the University Library. Although most of the Center’s support comes from the College, the University Library provides facilities and some funds for acquisitions.
As a research and study center that focuses on the life and works of Ludwig van Beethoven, the Center collects many materials out of the scope of the University Library, including manuscripts, first and early editions of Beethoven’s music, museum objects and graphic materials, ephemera, and a wide range of writings about Beethoven in all languages. Much of the Center’s book and score collections are included in the SJSU Library Catalog. The Center also maintains a separate database that indexes its book and journal article collections (The Beethoven Bibliography Database). Digital collections include music scores, graphic materials, and ephemera.
In its objective to build and maintain a comprehensive, non-circulating collection of Beethoven materials, the Center does not coordinate its collection development with any other department or institution within or outside of the University. The University Library also collects Beethoven books, scores, and sound recordings on a limited basis to support the curriculum of the School of Music and Dance. In some instances, the music selector may choose not to acquire Beethoven materials for the University Library if they are readily available at the Beethoven Center.
A. Materials included. All standard inclusions are collected. The core of the Center’s collection includes books and other literature on Beethoven and closely related subjects and first and early editions of printed music by Beethoven. For a more detailed outline of materials included, see section I below.
B. Materials excluded. Sets of performance parts for large ensembles are generally not collected unless they are first or rare nineteenth-century editions. Materials of little or no relevance to Beethoven studies are generally not collected unless they are needed to support the research of the Center’s staff.
C. Special materials. Manuscripts, archives, museum objects, graphics, and ephemera are all collected.
D. Languages. Materials in all languages are collected.
E. Geographical areas. Coverage includes all geographic areas.
F. Chronological periods. The focus of the collection is on the period of Beethoven’s lifetime (1770-1827) and his subsequent influence into the 21st century. However, materials from all periods of history are collected if they relate in some way to Beethoven studies.
G. Current/retrospective materials. Both current and retrospective materials are collected with equal emphasis with the exception of sound recordings.
H. Other factors. The sound recording collection provides a representative sample of all of Beethoven’s works but is not intended to be comprehensive.
I. Outline of materials collected, coverage and levels of collection
Literature of any subject area is collected if it relates to Beethoven studies. All levels of materials are collected, ranging from children’s books to scholarly dissertations.
The primary focus is on first and early nineteenth-century editions of Beethoven’s music. Modern editions of printed music by Beethoven are collected on a limited basis, with focus on critical editions. Printed music by other composers who quoted or dedicated works to Beethoven is collected; other works by Beethoven’s contemporaries are collected very selectively.
All periodicals devoted to Beethoven are collected, including The Beethoven Journal, which is published by the Center. A few other music journals are collected, mostly through exchange subscriptions to The Beethoven Journal. The Center also maintains a collection of photocopies of journal articles that are indexed in the Beethoven Bibliography Database.
Sound recordings (compact discs, tapes, and other current media) and multi-media materials (videos and CD-ROMs) are collected. Older media (piano rolls, 78s, LPs) are collected primarily as gifts or if the recordings are in some way special or rare. Reissues of older sound recordings in new media are acquired. Sound recordings of music by other composers are collected only in exceptional cases. Archival tapes of performances sponsored by the American Beethoven Society are collected.
VHS tapes of biographical programs, performances, and lectures on Beethoven’s music are all collected. Motion pictures that use Beethoven’s music in the soundtrack in a significant way are also collected. Archival tapes of television programs that feature the Beethoven Center are collected. DVDs are collected as they become available.
Multi-media and electronic resources
CD-ROM programs for study of Beethoven’s life and music have been collected but most are not obsolete. The Beethoven Center defers to the library for access to electronic resources.
Museum objects and graphic materials
Objects and pictorial materials that represent Beethoven, his contemporaries, and his milieu, are collected for exhibit, publication, and research purposes. These include but are not limited to: Beethoven realia; statues and busts; plates and wall plaques; medallions and coins; engravings and lithographs; postcards; stamps; photographs; and commercial merchandise.
As space allows, the Beethoven Center acquires instruments to demonstrate the development of the keyboard and historical performance of Beethoven’s music. The collection currently includes a replica of a Louis Dulcken fortepiano from 1795, an original Broadwood fortepiano from 1823, an original Jakesch fortepiano from 1827, a clavichord reproduction, and a Steinway L grand piano. A harpsichord is on long-term loan from David Wendel.
Posters, advertisements, concert and conference announcements and programs, newspapers, scrapbooks, calendars, and other ephemeral materials are collected on a selective basis.
Original manuscripts are collected when feasible. These include music manuscripts in Beethoven’s hand as well as copies of his music in other hands; letters and other documents with Beethoven’s signature; letters and other manuscripts with Beethoven content in the hand of other prominent musicians. The Beethoven Center is also developing a comprehensive collection of Beethoven manuscript sources in facsimile editions.
The Center is also building archives of Beethoven-related organizations, including the American Beethoven Society, and accepts archives and papers of Beethoven performers and researchers on a case-by-case basis. Current archives include the papers of Beethoven scholar William S. Newman; the family collection of Beethoven biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer; and some smaller archives.
In 2002 the Beethoven Center began creating digital archives of its graphic materials. Many of these materials are now available through the SJSU Library's Digital Library platform (undergoing migration in 2019).
The Beethoven Center’s collection provides a strong resource not only for the Beethoven courses taught in the School of Music and Dance, but for instruction in music history, music appreciation, theory, and performance as well. Because interest in Beethoven crosses many disciplines, students in the art, history, language and literature, education, psychology, and other programs in humanities and social sciences will also find resources applicable to their studies.
Because the collection is unique in its focus, there are no comparable collections for assessment. The primary evaluative process is to survey recent publication on Beethoven and fill in gaps when needed. We use OCLC and other national union catalogs (particularly those in Europe) to monitor Beethoven research and publication activity.
A. Academic Senate Policy
According to Academic Senate Library Policy S15-10, periodic evaluations of the print collection are required to maintain the high quality of the academic collection, with the primary goals of improving the effectiveness of browsing and providing space for new acquisitions. The objectives include relocating materials and weeding duplicate materials and materials that support discontinued programs or are not longer relevant for current programs. These objectives do not apply to the Beethoven Center, whose mission as an archive is to build, maintain, and preserve a comprehensive collection of Beethoven materials. Evaluation of the Beethoven Center’s collection instead focuses on identifying lacunae and missing materials and determining preservation and space needs.
B. Evaluation in progress and future objectives
Projects are currently underway to identify lacuna in the Center’s collections in the following categories: 1) first editions of the music; 2) portrait engravings/lithographs of Beethoven’s contemporaries; 3) materials to enhance upcoming exhibits and events for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth in 2020. We will continue to acquire all current books, either through purchases or requests for gratis book review copies from publishers.