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The Royal Philharmonic Society - origins of the Society and its archive

Founded in 1813, the Royal Philharmonic Society is the oldest surviving public concert-giving body in the UK and the second oldest in Europe. It produced more concerts in London during the 19th century than any other organisation. In the first part of the 20th century it made a major contribution to the regeneration of British music through its innovative approach to commissioning music and first performances.

The Society has attracted many of the major composers of the time to write works and perform at its concerts, which have also featured most of the leading soloists during the nearly two centuries of its existence. In 1912, the year of its 100th season, the Society was granted permission to add the word 'Royal' to its title.

Ivory ticket used for members of the Philharmonic Society

Ivory ticket used for members of the Philharmonic Society


The Royal Philharmonic Society has built up a substantial archive since its foundation in 1813 including over 270 manuscript scores, some outstanding autographs among them, and an astonishing collection of correspondence files, working papers and minute books which detail many of the negotiations with composers performers and publishers in preparation for each season's concerts. The archive has been described as the single most important source for the history of music in England in the 19th century.

The Society has sold its archive to the British Library in order to create a permanent endowment that will enable it to initiate a programme to provide support for composers (through commissions) and young performing musicians (through the establishment of scholarships) together with supporting educational programmes, in partnership with performing organisations.

Label from the Philharmonic Society Foundation Book

Label from the Philharmonic Society Foundation Book


Music Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7772
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7751

E-mail: Ask the Music Reference Team