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2009 articles 2009 articles

The Royal Music Library and its Handel Collection

Donald Burrows (notes)

Abstract

On 27 November 1957 Queen Elizabeth II presented the Royal Music Library to the Trustees of the British Museum, a gift commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of King George II's presentation of the Old Royal Library to the recently-established Museum. It was among the largest musical acquisitions ever made by a British library, and it remains today as a central component of the British Library's music collections at St Pancras. The Handel material in the Royal Music Library, both manuscript and printed, remains one of the essential resources for our knowledge of his music. Many aspects of the history of the Royal Music Library - including its arrangement and its location - are obscure, and nearly all of the descriptions of the royal music collection between 1780 and 1900 come from people who gained access in order to see the collection of Handel's autographs. From these descriptions, and from the British Museum's twentieth-century documentation, it is possible to trace individual items through the 200-year period, and to reconstruct something of the history of the royal music collection.

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