The heart of the archive, and certainly its most valuable part, is the extensive collection of manuscript scores — almost 8.000 of them. First and foremost, of course, are the “big five” (Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Puccini). 23 of Verdi’s 28 operas exist as autograph scores. Puccini’s career is inextricably linked to the house of Ricordi, as all of his operas, except La Rondine (Monte Carlo, 1917), were published by Ricordi. (La Rondine was published by Sonzogno of Milan, the publisher of Pietro Mascagni’s works. Conversely, only one opera by Mascagni, the popular success Iris, Rome 1898, was published by Ricordi.) Besides these two important representatives of 19th- and early 20th-century opera, Saverio Mercadante, Simone Mayr, Franco Faccio, Francesco Cilea, Ildebrando Pizzetti, Franco Alfano and Riccardo Zandonai also deserve mention. A significant portion of the autograph scores has been carefully restored. The restoration has revealed deleted passages and amendments that have never been seen before, for instance on pasted-over pages that were not previously visible. The study of the autographs is fundamental for the reconstruction of authoritative editions and for better understanding of the compositional genesis of an opera; it can also provide an insight into the personality of the composer: the quality and texture of the paper, the type of ink, musical notation, and the manner of correcting, non-musical additions and dedications. In the field of contemporary music, when forms of notation had become freer and more diverse, there are manuscripts by such great avant-garde artists as Luigi Nono, Franco Donatoni and Goffredo Petrassi. The younger generation is represented by Luca Lombardi, Salvatore Sciarrino, Luca Francesconi, Giorgio Battistelli, Fabio Nieder, Stefano Gervasoni and Fausto Romitelli.
The treasures of the autograph collection include the large archive of letters, which comprises, of course, the correspondence with Verdi and Puccini. Much of this has already been published, but the originals have a high commemorative and testimonial value. The approximately 15.000 letters contain extensive correspondence with composers, writers, librettists, singers, conductors, and other figures from the theater business. Indexing and studying these informative documents is one of the Archivio Storico Ricordi’s most important tasks.