The British Library has a world-famous collection of printed and manuscript music, music recordings, concert programmes and books and periodicals on music.

Collection guides

  • John Taverner, Mass 'The western wynde'Add. 17803, ff. 23v-24r

    Music manuscripts and archives overview

    We hold a world-class collection of music manuscripts dating from the middle ages to the present day
  • Afton Water part 04

    Printed music overview

    Material published in every European country, from the beginnings of music printing to the present day
  • Hirsch Music Library stamp

    Hirsch Collection

    Ca. 18,000 items of printed music and music literature and 76 manuscripts collected by Paul Hirsch and dating from the late-12th to the mid-20th centuries.
  • Metropolitan Opera House

    Classical music recordings

    Recordings in the western concert tradition, opera, liturgical music, and the pre-Baroque repertories of Western Europe
  • Nathan King

    Pop music recordings

    We hold one of the most wide-ranging collections of popular music in the world
  • Albert Steward (fiddle) and unidentified accordionist with other Stewart family members.

    World and traditional music collection

    We hold one of the world's largest collections of recordings variously described as traditional, folk or world music
Reading Room  Paul Grundy

Rare Books and Music

  • Find information on the shelves
  • Access online databases and electronic journals
  • Order collection items to the Reading Room via our catalogues

You’ll need a Reader Pass

Mon 10.00 – 20.00
Tue – Thu 09.30 – 20.00
Fri – Sat 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

We offer a series of workshops to help you make the best use of the Library's collections.

For enquiries, please contact the Reference Service

Blog posts

Recording of the week: Rock Island Line

Monday, May 29, 2017

This week's selection comes from Andy Linehan, Curator of Popular Music Recordings. ‘Rock Island Line’ was the hit single that sparked the Skiffle craze amongst British youth in the late 1950s. Skiffle was a pared-down mixture of jazz, blues and...

Musgrave at 89

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Today (27 May 2017) is the eighty-ninth birthday of the Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave, born in Barnton, Midlothian, but, since the mid-1970s, resident in the USA. Following a major purchase in 2009, with assistance from the Eccles Centre for American...

The first British ‘blues boom’ - and the reception of African American music and dance in 1920s Britain

Friday, May 26, 2017

British Library VOC/1923/GILBERT Guest blog by Lawrence Davies, current Edison Fellow and PhD student at King’s College London. Lawrence has contributed a chapter on British Blues to a forthcoming volume of the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World...

Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

From Byrd to Britten and Monteverdi to Mozart, a wealth of British Library music manuscripts are available to browse, free-of-charge, on the Digitised Manuscripts website. MS Mus. 1591, My Layde Nevells Booke (1591) At the time of writing, you can...

More blog posts

Projects

Delius, Modernism, and the Sound of Place

Using manuscripts and digital technologies to understand the composer Frederick Delius

All projects

Case studies

…The research I did as an Edison Fellow at the British Library was invaluable for my PhD…

Alexis Bennett researched 1930s British film music as an Edison Fellow at the British Library.

…My work as an Edison Fellow has profoundly changed my thoughts on music making…

Pianist Marisa Gupta uses historical sound recordings to inform her chamber music performances.