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I'm sitting here looking at three separate books of sheet music for piano published as Kalmus Piano Series by Belwin-Mills. You know the ones; they have a cover in a solid color (often red or orange) with a handwritten score of Bach's Sinfonia #15 superimposed in white ink, and the actual title of the score in black on top of all that.

A typical cover

All of them have disintegrated into little pamphlets of music. Most of my equally old scores by different publishers are still intact.

I'm wondering whether I should replace them with new copies or seek alternative editions. Will newer ones fall apart too?

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  • I have a hard time imagining anyone here knowing, but have you tried asking them directly? Jun 8, 2023 at 17:31
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    (Also, sometimes I've taken a big unwieldy volume, sliced off its binding, and taken it to Kinkos to be spiral-bound so now it lies flat. I started the habit when a big glue-bound paperback volume disintegrated, but now sometimes do it preventatively.) Jun 8, 2023 at 17:33
  • I do not know the ones, but I’m seriously confused why they would put Bach on the cover for a Beethoven score ...
    – Lazy
    Jun 8, 2023 at 21:40
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    @Lazy so all the covers look the same.
    – phoog
    Jun 9, 2023 at 6:34
  • "You know the ones"? Are you sure they're a thing the world over? Many of us have never been to your continent (regardless which one it is).
    – Divizna
    Jun 11, 2023 at 19:38

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Belwin-Mills no longer exists as such. Their catalog is now owned by Alfred Music, which

continues to publish music with the Kalmus name under the Kalmus Classic Series imprint, the vast majority consisting of inexpensive reprints of old editions now in the public domain. (Wikipedia)

Even with better binding, these are cheap and potentially unreliable (i.e., error prone). If possible, the investment in higher quality scores would be worthwhile. Bärenreiter and Henle being top choices.

However, the latter are expensive. I have had good experiences with Alfred scores generally, but can't speak specifically to their Kalmus publications. These scores are also available from publishers like Peters, which similarly produces reprints of other editions, and Dover.

The same source editions can also be printed for free from websites like IMSLP and put in a three ring-binder (I recommend using plastic sheet protectors) or a dedicated music folder like the one produced by Cranbury.

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    "potentially unreliable (i.e., error prone)": for the most part this arises because the business model is to publish reproductions of older editions whose copyright protection has expired. These older editions are more likely to have errors because they are less likely to benefit from the latest musicological research. A problem with plastic sheet protectors is that they make it difficult to use a pencil. If one is printing music for use in rehearsal it may be better to invest in heavier paper.
    – phoog
    Jun 17, 2023 at 6:28
  • @phoog Follow the link to the Cranbury folder. It's designed specifically for music, and the plastic area comprises two strips covering the top and bottom of the page, allowing for note taking.
    – Aaron
    Jun 17, 2023 at 6:35
  • Nice. I had followed the link, but hadn't noticed that detail.
    – phoog
    Jun 17, 2023 at 7:40

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