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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings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

Chopin First Editions available online

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Eugène Delacroix (ca 1838) Portrait de Frédéric Chopin, compositeur. Louvre Museum R.F1717 As part to our commitment to bring our collections to everyone, we have digitised over sixty first editions of piano music by Frédéric Chopin, which are now available...

Recording of the week: Nar Sur - a little known music genre from east Baluchistan

Monday, July 2, 2018

This week's selection comes from AHRC Collaborative PhD candidate, Christian Poske. An unknown recordist captured this Baluchi folk song with a cylinder phonograph in Dera Bugti in Baluchistan in the winter of 1911. He noted down some information, including place...

Sophia Plowden, Khanum Jan, and Hindustani airs

Thursday, June 28, 2018

This guest post by Katherine Butler Schofield introduces her recent talk at the British Library on Sophia Plowden, Khanum Jan, and 'Hindustani airs', now available as a podcast “The Courtesan and the Memsahib: Khanum Jan meets Sophia Plowden at the...

Tracking down Tamás

Friday, June 22, 2018

By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Tamás Vásáry at the Hotel Gellert restaurant (photo by Jonathan Summers) Save our Sounds is the British Library’s programme to preserve the nation’s sound heritage. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, many collections...

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.