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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings
Rare Books and Music Reading Room in 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

Classical Podcast No. 1 - The first orchestral record made in Britain and the extraordinary story of Norfolk Megone, Nelson and Bonaparte

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Berliner E500 Cecil March recorded 18th August 1898 Welcome to the first of an occasional series of podcasts showcasing treasures from the classical collection of the British Library Sound Archive. Part one of...

Was this the first rock picture disc?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Just one month remains in which to visit our free Entrance Hall exhibition Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound. The exhibition invites visitors to engage with a wide selection of sounds from the archive, from the (very) late nineteenth century...

The 2018 BL Labs Awards: enter before midnight Thursday 11th October!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

With six months to go before the submission deadline, we would like to announce the 2018 British Library Labs Awards! The BL Labs Awards are a way of formally recognising outstanding and innovative work that has been created using the...

Recording of the week: Steve Reich at the ICA

Monday, April 9, 2018

This week's selection comes from Stephen Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary & Creative Recordings. Anyone who enjoyed BBC Four's recent two-part documentary on American minimalism Tones, Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism might also like this recording of composer...

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.