While Hofmeister XIX is an indispensable resource for the bibliography of nineteenth-century printed music, it is essential to remember that it is a series of publisher's catalogues placed online, not a purpose-designed musicological database based on independent research. In order to use Hofmeister XIX effectively, it is necessary to be aware of the limitations that result from this, as well as the inherent complexity of the material.

Here is a sample Monatsbericht entry:

sample Monatsbericht entry

This may be divided into the following elements:

Roth (C.) Auswahl guter Orgelcompositionen der vorzüglichsten Componisten. Stettin, Heerbrandt und Thämel 1 Thlr. 7½ Ngr. n.

In this simple example, the elements are composer, title, place of publication, publisher, and price. (Other entries may include additional elements such as opus number and key.) Each of these fields, except price, is individually identified in the Hofmeister XIX database, and this is what makes it possible to access works by a particular composer, and/or published in a particular place, and/or by a particular publisher. Sometimes entries include text that does not fall into any of these categories, in which case it is not specifically identified in the database, but may still be acessed through a free text search. The first of the following two examples illustrates this:

sample2 Monatsbericht entry

  • Kodelski (C.M.) 2e Concertino p. Violon av. Acc. d’Orchestre. Oe. 2, in D. (Déd. à Mr. Ch. Möser.) Berlin, Trautwein 1 Thlr.
  • – Idem av. Acc. de Quatuor. Ebend. 12 Gr.

In the first example, 'Oe. 2' is the opus number ('Oeuvre') and 'in D' is the key, while '(Déd. à Mr. Ch. Möser.)' is free text. The second example is typical of the abbreviations used in the Monatsberichte. 'Idem' means that this item is also Kodelski's Second Concertino for Violin, but this time for quartet rather than orchestral accompaniment; 'Ebend.' (short for Ebenda) means that it is also Opus 2 in D, and published by Trautwein in Berlin. An important consequence follows from this: if you search for 'Kodelski' and 'Concertino', you will find the first entry but not the second. You need therefore to check as a matter of course whether the entry you find is followed by one or more which are also relevant to you, but use these abbreviations. It should also be understood that this is a significant limitation of Hofmeister XIX, in its current form, as a source of statistics.

Understanding the information in the Monatsberichte is the key to effective use of Hofmeister XIX, and it is strongly recommended that you look closely at some sample pages, using the Browse function in Hofmeister and/or the facsimile pages on the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek website (to which the Browse pages are linked). It is also important to remember that the information in the Monatsberichte is not invariably accurate. Adolph Hofmeister (Friedrich's son) remarked in 1845 that 'printing errors are almost unavoidable in a work of this size', while Carl Friedrich Whistling wrote in the preface of the second edition of his Handbuch der musikalischen Litteratur (the predecessor of Hofmeister's Monatsberichte, published in 1817) that

It is unfortunately well enough known that many music publishers’ catalogues, irrespective of printing errors, are rather incomplete and impractically arranged. Here, a first name is missing, there, an opus number; here, the accompanying instruments, there, the number of voices or other important points. Many of the names are wrong; the classification is frequently ludicrous and hinders use; some items are incomprehensibly missing; others, in contrast, which were never published, or have long been out-of-print, are included, etc. Would that this improves in the future.

It is also helpful to read the Foreword to Whistling's Handbuch, which clearly sets out the purpose of his catalogue, the criteria governing what was and what was not included in it, and the thinking underlying its classifications, as well as providing some tips for how to use it. The details had changed by the time Hofmeister's Monatsberichte appeared, but the basic issues remained unchanged. The Foreword may be found on pp. v-viii of the original publication (reprinted in facsimile by Garland Publishing, 1975); click here for an English translation by Elizabeth Robinson.