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    Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings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

Monday, May 13, 2019

This week's selection comes from Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Recordings. The early recordings of German conductor Karl Bohm often have a sprightly character and when he accompanied pianist Walter Gieseking, the resulting Piano Concerto No. 4 by Beethoven...

Recording of the week: Peter Kennedy recording of Sheila Gallagher, Donegal 1953

Monday, May 6, 2019

This week's selection comes from Dr Janet Topp Fargion, Lead Curator of World and Traditional Music. Peter Kennedy made this recording of Sheila Gallagher in Middle Dere, Donegal in 1953 - she was 90 years old at the time. She...

Recording of the week: George Ewart Evans and The Barley Mow

Monday, April 29, 2019

This week's selection comes from Charlie Morgan, Oral History Archivist. The Barley Mow is a classic end of the night folk song; funny enough to leave you in a good mood, adaptable enough to please the crowd, and it’s about...

Staying Late at the Library ... to Algorave

Friday, March 29, 2019

Blog article by Algorave audio-visual artist Coral Manton. Coral is curating this British Library Lates Algorave in collaboration with British Library Events, BL Labs, Digital Scholarship and The Alan Turing Institute. On the 5th April British Library Lates will host...

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
…There is a wealth of primary source material…

Sasha is doing collaborative PhD research on the music of Scottish-American composer, Thea Musgrave.

…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.