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Victorian popular music

Leaf through illustrated sheet music for 188 songs and piano pieces from the heyday of Victorian Music Hall to discover an entertaining sidelight on Victorian society.

Image of Steve Cork

Steve Cork

Curator, Music Collections

Under successive acts of Parliament since the late 18th century, all music published in Britain has been deposited formerly at the British Museum and now, at the British Library. The Library’s Music Collections are enormous: some one-and-a-half million items of printed music, ranging from a beautifully printed songbook of 1530 to the latest pop chart hit.

Victorian popular music is a particular strength of the collections. Much of the sheet music has illustrated covers, often of artistic merit or historical interest. From this rich resource, we've chosen songs and piano pieces that evoke a sense of location by virtue of their subject matter, lyrics, cover design, or all three.

Read the full curator's introduction

Curator's choice

Steve Cork highlights personal favourite items from the collection

See all of the items in this exhibition

The Lights O' London part 01

This beautiful illustration depicts the noisy and crowded streets of London. This would probably ...

The Manchester Ship Canal part 01

The Manchester Ship Canal was one of the greatest engineering projects of the Victorian period, w...

A Trip To Margate Tract(15)

J. L. Toole was one of the most infamous of the Music Hall performers. He had worked the halls hi...

The Envy Of The World Down At Westminster part 00

G. H. MacDermott (1845-1901) was known as 'The Statesman of the Halls', he was renowned for his r...

Going To The Derby In A Four-In-Hand part 01

Derby week was both a race week and a public. It was an opportunity for enjoyment with fairs and ...

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