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

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

    Printed music

    Material published in every European country, from the beginnings of music printing to the present day
  • pop record

    Music recordings

    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings
  • 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

Listen to and tag thousands of music tracks on Europeana's radio player

Monday, January 16, 2017

Europeana Sounds, a project that connects digital sound archives across Europe, has just launched an interactive radio player. Now you can enjoy listening to 200,000 music tracks, and while listening, add labels to help other listeners to find recordings. The...

Recording of the week: Ad man's dream

Monday, January 9, 2017

Our first Recording of the Week for 2017 comes from Tony Harris, Preservation Audio Engineer. There's a really lovely, lazy, summery feel to "Are nor want for be" by the Famous Scrubbs and his Band. The infectious little ditty really...

Lew Stone and his Thirties Sound

Friday, January 6, 2017

Trumpet part for Lew Stone’s arrangement of ‘Sam, you made the pants too long’. British Library MS Mus. 1746/3/4, f. 18 In London’s 1930s high life, only the smartest entertainment and only the freshest music would do – and these...

The Medieval Origins of the Christmas Carol

Friday, December 23, 2016

Most people today think of a carol as any song or hymn related to Christmas. In its origins, it is something both more and less specific than this. It is derived from the Old French word carole, referring to a...

More blog posts

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.