By their very nature, catalogues and inventories of manuscripts are factual and succinct, composed of dry lists of names, titles, textual and musical incipits, folio numbers, concordances, variant spellings and other similarly "inspiring" bits of information. Bits is indeed apt, for these dry bones, usually made even direr by a complex and barely decipherable mass of unfamiliar, "unfriendly" abbreviations, are merely the stuff from which the historical and musical story may be reconstructed. Yet, as every library mole knows, next to the incomparable thrill of actually holding and studying a centuries-old original manuscript, contrary to their uninviting appearance, such inventories may in fact provide many hours of exciting intellectual stimulation, of detective work fueled by numerous guesses, many of them of the category politely called "educated," but not a few also of the "wilder" variety.
What Israel Adler has provided us with in Hebrew Notated Manuscript Sources - RISM (Adler 1989) is a treasure house of opportunities for a lifetime of such excitements. With its 230 manuscripts containing 3798 items and 4251 melodic incipits there is no question that for the first time ever the grounds of Jewish musical manuscript sources have been surveyed, mapped and presented with a sophistication, precision and comprehensiveness destined to open a new era in the scholarly study of the field.