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

    Sources for vocal and instrumental works from the Middle Ages to the present
  • Afton Water part 04

    Printed music

    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
  • Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah

    Royal Music Library

    Printed and manuscript music scores collected by several generations of the royal household
  • Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

    Royal Philharmonic Society Archive

    Over 270 manuscript scores and an astonishing collection of correspondence files, working papers and minute books
  • pop record

    Music recordings

    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings
Desks and Readers in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room at the British Library

Rare Books and Music

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

If you need help, please ask our Reference Specialists at the enquiry desk, or contact the Rare Books Reference Team or Music Reference Team.

We offer free Discovery and 1-2-1 Sessions to help you make the best use of the Library's collections.

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

Blog posts

Gerasim Lebedev, a Russian pioneer of Bengali Theatre

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Whilst browsing through a list of inhabitants of Calcutta in the 1790s one particular entry caught my attention. In June 1794 a Russian musician by the name of Gerasim Lebedev was listed as a resident of Calcutta. As it seemed...

The nightingale sings again - the life, career, and recordings of Beatrice Harrison

Friday, August 9, 2019

Beatrice Harrison with cello (BL Collections) Guest blog by Edison Fellow Chas Helge who is currently writing his dissertation on Beatrice Harrison Suddenly, the door opened and the King came in. He was quite alone. He came up to me…...

Talking about research collaboration: the first British Library Digital Musicology day

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

On Monday 1 July, the British Library held the study day Digital Musicology and Libraries: Challenges and Opportunities. The aim of the study day was to present different perspectives on Digital Musicology projects, developments and needs, and explore ways Librarians,...

‘My Other Piano’ – the classical side of Winifred Atwell

Friday, July 19, 2019

Winifred Atwell in the late 1950s (1LP0248992 BL collections) Guest blog by Edison Fellow Uchenna Ngwe who is studying Black classical musicians in Britain before 1960 Little is known about the early years of Winifred Atwell but she is thought...

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

More Case studies
…Book historical research has transformed the way we look at books and their role in society.…

Researching the social and political impact of printed music in the long eighteenth century.

…There is a wealth of primary source material…

Sasha is doing collaborative PhD research on the music of Scottish-American composer, Thea Musgrave.