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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings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

Digitised music manuscripts update

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Following our recent blog post about newly digitised material from the Royal Music Library, we thought it might be useful to provide an updated list of all the digitised music manuscripts now available online, which you can download via this...

Important information for email subscribers

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Unfortunately, the third-party platform that the British Library uses for email notifications for our blogs is making changes to its infrastructure. This means that from August 2021 we anticipate that email notifications will no longer be sent to subscribers (although...

Discovery of a rare Bettini cylinder recording

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Richard Copeman with his Bettini cylinder (photo © Jonathan Summers) By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music In February 2020, just before lockdown, collector Richard Copeman contacted me about a concert cylinder he had just purchased in Paris. He wondered...

Digitised Manuscripts from the Royal Music Library

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

In the last year we digitised nearly 40 manuscript volumes from the Royal Music Library, including autographs by Agostino Steffani, J.C. Bach, Alessandro Scarlatti, and other composers. Among the manuscripts digitised are 24 volumes with works by Agostino Steffani (1654-1728),...

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.