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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings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

Recording of the week: the young Leonard Bernstein

Monday, August 27, 2018

This week's selection comes from Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Recordings. Leonard Bernstein was born 100 years ago on 25th August 1918. In 1953 the young Bernstein made a series of LPs for the American Decca label. Already with...

The Bernstein Centenary

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Leonard Bernstein in the 1950s (Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Leonard Bernstein was born 100 years ago this month. During the second half of the twentieth century he was the one...

Recording of the week: Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

Monday, August 13, 2018

This week's collection comes from Jowan Collier, Acquisitions Support Officer. To me, sea shanty singing is as nostalgic and drippingly lovely as a freshly pulled pint of real ale. As a teenager, I used to huddle into the back room...

The elusive Pathé cylinders of Mary Garden

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Page from 1904 Pathé catalogue with Garden as Mélisande (BL collections) By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Soprano Mary Garden was born in Aberdeen in 1874. Her mother was only fourteen years of age when Mary, one of four...

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
…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.