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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings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

Upcoming Elgar events at the British Library

Thursday, October 17, 2019

We are holding two events in November to celebrate Elgar’s music and the rich collections of his works at the Library. On Friday 8 November there will be an evening concert with pianist Iain Farrington, featuring works by Elgar that...

Recording of the week: Dr John interviewed by Charlie Gillett

Monday, October 14, 2019

This week's selection comes from Andy Linehan, Curator of Popular Music. Charlie Gillett, in his later years best-known as a World Music broadcaster, spent many years investigating the roots of rock music. He hosted Honky-Tonk on BBC Radio London in...

Additional Discovering Music content published!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

We recently published additional content on our Discovering Music: early 20th century space: Articles Three additional articles are now featured on the space: Shadow and light in war and peace: Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time written by Oliver...

BL Labs Symposium (2019): Book your place for Mon 11-Nov-2019

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Image taken from page 203 of '[Griffith's new historical description of Cheltenham and its vicinity ... with ... engravings. L.P.]' Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs The BL Labs team are pleased to announce that the seventh annual...

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.