A short history - Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA

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A short history

Giovanni Ricordi, Lithography by Antonio Bignoli
Giulio Ricordi, photograph by Carlo de Marchi
Ricordi store in New York, 1911
Binding room at the Ricordi offices
The Ricordi emblem throughout time: the three linked but independent rings (“tre cerchi”; a pre-Renaissance design known as “Borromean Rings”), are a symbol of unity and power. The logo with the added slogan “Ars et Labor” was created around 1875.

The establishment of the Archivio Storico Ricordi is closely related to the core business of the company founder Giovanni Ricordi (1785-1853): the marketing of music rights, in this case key works in classical music. The Milan entrepreneur systematically bought up and collected music manuscripts, securing his publishing company the exclusive usage and exploitation rights to nearly all of Italy’s major opera composers. Eight years after it was founded, the Casa Ricordi catalog already contained 800 compositions. This inventory was significantly expanded over the course of the 19th century with the purchase of valuable collections of titles from other publishers (e.g. Lucca) and the acquisition of theater archives, and was further supplemented with high-quality artistic prints and sketches by important stage designers. As a result, the archive can be used for a near-complete documentation of the history of Italian opera in the 19th and early 20th century. Ricordi’s corporate history is also unique in the European context because of its important printing company – which among other things produced highly innovative advertising graphics until the 1920s – and because of the development of other fields of activity, such as music education.

Today the Archivio Storico Ricordi not only contains the original scores of numerous operas and other major compositions, but also all related correspondence with composers and librettists as well as drawings of costumes, illustrations of stage sets, and photos and documents relating to the company's history – all in all, more than 100 000 archival items.