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Second Edition, shelved
The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is an encyclopaedic dictionary of music and musicians. Along with the German-language Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, it is the largest single reference work on Western music. The Dictionary has gone through several editions since the 19th century and is widely used. In recent years it has been made available as an electronic resource.


Grove's Dictionary

It was first published as A Dictionary of Music and Musicians in four volumes (1878, 1880, 1883, 1899) edited by Sir George Grove with an Appendix edited by J. A. Fuller Maitland and an Index edited by Mrs. Edmund Wodehouse.

The 2nd edition, in five volumes, was edited by Fuller Maitland and published in 1900. The 3rd edition, also in five volumes, was an extensive revision of the 2nd edition; it was edited by H. C. Colles and published in 1927. The 4th edition, also edited by Colles, was published in 1940 in five volumes (a reprint of the 3rd edition, with some corrections) plus a Supplementary Volume (making six volumes in all).

The 5th edition, in nine volumes, was edited by Eric Blom and published in 1954. This was the most thoroughgoing revision of the work since its inception, with many articles rewritten in a more modern style and a large number of entirely new articles. Many of the articles were written by Blom personally, or translated by him. An additional Supplementary Volume, prepared for the most part by Eric Blom, followed in 1961. Blom died in 1959, and the Supplementary Volume was completed by Denis Stevens. The 5th edition was reprinted in 1966.

The New Grove, 1st ed.

When the next edition appeared in 1980, it was under the new name The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and was greatly expanded to twenty volumes with 22,500 articles and 16,500 biographies. It was edited by Stanley Sadie.

It was reprinted with minor corrections each subsequent year until 1995, except 1982 and 1983. In the mid-90s, the set version sold for about $2300. A paperback edition was reprinted in 1995 which sold for $500. At that point, editors likely decided to concentrate on the 2nd edition rather than continue to correct the mistakes of the original 1980 edition.

  • ISBN 0-333-23111-2 - hardback
  • ISBN 1-56159-174-2 - paperback
  • ISBN 0-333-73250-2 - British special edition
  • ISBN 1-56159-229-3 - American special edition


Some sections of The New Grove were also issued as individual books on particular topics.

The New Grove, 2nd ed.

The second edition under this title (the seventh overall) was published in 2001, in twenty-nine volumes. It was also made available by subscription on the Internet in a service called Grove Music Online. It was again edited by Stanley Sadie, and the executive editor was John Tyrrell. It was originally to be released on CD-ROM as well, but this plan was dropped. As Sadie writes in the preface, "The biggest single expansion in the present edition has been in the coverage of 20th-century composers".

This edition has been subject to some negative criticism (e.g. in Private Eyemarker) owing to the significant number of typographical and factual errors that it contains. Some of the errors were ascribed to the use of students for checking the dictionary, although in fact no students were ever employed as editorial staff. Two volumes were re-issued in corrected versions, however, after production errors originally caused the omission of sections of Igor Stravinsky's worklist and Richard Wagner's bibliography.

  • ISBN 0-333-60800-3 - British
  • ISBN 1-56159-239-0 - American (cloth: alk.paper)

Grove Music Online

Publication of the second edition of the New Grove was accompanied by a web-based version. It attracted some initial criticism, for example for the way in which images were not incorporated into the text but kept separate.

The online version was regularly updated, including a large number of revisions and additions of new articles. As well as the 29 volumes of the New Grove 2nd edition, Grove Music Online incorporated the 4-volume New Grove Dictionary of Opera (ed. Stanley Sadie, 1992) and the 3-volume New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd edition (ed. Barry Kernfeld, 2002), comprising a total of more than 50,000 articles.

As well as being available to individual and educational subscribers, it was available for use by members of many libraries worldwide.

In 2008, Grove Music Online was replaced by Oxford Music Online.

Oxford Music Online

In March 2008, Oxford University Press launched a new online service called Oxford Music Online, replacing Grove Music Online. The new service is designed to provide a "gateway that offers users the ability, for the first time ever, to access and cross-search the vast resources of Oxford's music reference in one location." In addition to providing a new interface, the new service brings the Grove encyclopedias together with the Oxford Companion to Music, the Oxford Dictionary of Music, and the Encyclopedia of Popular Music. OUP plans to continue adding other reference works to the service, including Richard Taruskin's Oxford History of Western Music.

The Grove Dictionary component of Oxford Music Online continues to be updated much as Grove Music Online was, still under the direction of Grove Dictionaries Editor in Chief Laura Macy.


The New Grove is often the first source that English-speaking musicologists use when beginning research or seeking information on most musical topics. Its scope and extensive bibliographies make it exceedingly valuable to any scholar with a grasp of the English language.

The dictionary was published by Macmillan Publishers but was sold in 2004 to Oxford University Press. Its principal competitor is the Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart ("MGG"), currently ten volumes on musical subjects and seventeen on biographies of musicians, written in German.

In accordance with its status, the New Grove is expensive; the print edition costs over $2000, while an annual subscription to Grove Music Online is $295.

The companion four-volume series, New Grove Dictionary of Opera, is the main reference work in English on the subject of opera.


The 2001 edition contains:

  • 29,499 articles in total
    • 5,623 entirely new articles
  • 20,374 biographies of composers, performers and writers on music
    • 96 articles on theatre directors
  • 1,465 articles on styles, terms and genres
    • 283 articles on concepts
  • 805 articles on regions, countries and cities
    • 580 articles on ancient music and church music
    • 1,327 articles on world musics
    • 1,221 articles on popular music, light music, and jazz
  • 2,261 articles on instruments and their makers, and performance practice
    • 89 articles on acoustics
  • 693 articles on printing and publishing
    • 174 articles on notation
    • 131 articles on sources


Two non-existent composers have appeared in the work:

Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup was the subject of a hoax entry in the 1980 New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Esrum-Hellerup's surname derives from a Danish village and a suburb of Copenhagen. The writer of the entry was Robert Layton.Though successfully introduced into the encyclopaedia, Esrum-Hellerup appeared in the first printing only: soon exposed as a hoax, the entry was removed and the space filled with an illustration.

Guglielmo Baldini was the name of a non-existent composer who was the subject of a hoax entry in the 1980 edition. Unlike Esrum-Hellerup, Baldini was not a modern creation: his name and biography were in fact created almost a century earlier by the renowned German musicologist Hugo Riemann. The 'New Grove' entry on Baldini was supported by a fictional reference in the form of an article supposedly in the 'Archiv fur Freiburger Diozesan geschichte'. Though successfully introduced into the encyclopaedia, Baldini appeared in the first printing only: soon exposed as a hoax, the entry was removed.

Seven parody entries, written by contributors to the 1980 edition, and full of musical puns and dictionary in-jokes, were published in the February 1981 issue of The Musical Times (which was also edited by Stanley Sadie at the time). These entries never appeared in the dictionary itself and are:
  • Brown, 'Mother' (Mary) (b 1550; d Wapping 3 Jan 1611)
  • Ear-flute
  • Hameln [Hamelin]
  • Khan't, Genghis (Tamburlaine) (b Ulan Bator, c1880; d New York, 22 Nov 1980)
  • Stainglit (Nevers), Sait d'Ail (fl Middle Ages) – i.e. 'Stanley Sadie', following the example of Luis van Rooten
  • Toblerone
  • Verdi, Lasagne ['Il Bolognese'] (b Bologna, 10 Oct 1813; d Naples, 15 March 1867)


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