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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings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 a range of free Reader sessions and 1-2-1 consultations 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

A ‘fittingly impressive work’: Prince Albert the composer

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

‘A holy blessed day, which we hail with gratitude & joy.’ Thus began Queen Victoria’s journal entry on Christmas Day, 1843. A few sentences later she continued, ‘Albert was occupied that whole evening in composing a Te Deum which is...

Recording of the week: Kagura - dancing for the Gods

Monday, December 2, 2019

This week's selection comes from Giulia Baldorilli, Reference Specialist. The origin of dance in Japan can be traced back to the age of the gods and the Japanese kagura can be considered a prototype of all Japanese rituals. Kagura combines...

A tribute to Stephen Cleobury by Jessica Duchen

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Jessica Duchen pays tribute to Sir Stephen Cleobury who she interviewed for National Life Stories at the British Library.

Recording of the week: the pampapiano of Rafael Achomccaray Quispe

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

This week's selection comes from Michele Banal, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. Although that was not their primary intention, it was the Europeans who first brought the pampapiano to Peru’s Andean region of Cusco. Music was seen...

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.