Music

Explore digitised music manuscripts, scores and songs, available online and onsite at the British Library, St Pancras. The varied collections range from medieval music manuscripts, 16th century music and ballads, Classical composers, Victorian sheet music and songbooks, to modern pop chart hits.

Music | Early English Printed Ballads (The Roxburghe Collection) | Early Music Online | Victorian Popular Music | Bach Digital | Chopin Variorum | Music Manuscripts | Silos Medieval Music Manuscripts

Early English Printed Ballads (The Roxburghe Collection)

A collection of over 1500 ballads published in English from 1567 - c. 1790. It was initially assembled for Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford, by John Bagford and Humphrey Wanley and was purchased in 1778 by John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe (1704-1804), after whom the collection is now named. The digital images of the ballads’ sheets together with citations, facsimiles, transcriptions, and in some cases recordings form part of a larger database (English Broadside Ballad Archive). Please feel free to browse the entire collection.

Collection level metadata for this collection is available upon request in XML format

Access Conditions

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This material is available under a CC-BY-NC license.

Early Music Online

This is a result of a pilot project in which 320 volumes (ca. 22,000 images) of 16th-century music from the British Library were digitised from microfilm. The project was funded by JISC and the digital images produced are coming from some of the world’s oldest surviving volumes of printed music. Please feel free to browse the entire collection.

Collection level metadata for this collection is available upon request in XML format

Access Conditions

This material is available under a JISC Collections Open Education User Licence.

Victorian Popular Music

Under successive acts of Parliament since the late 18th century, all music published in Britain has been deposited formerly at the British Museum and now, at the British Library. The Library’s Music Collections are enormous: some one-and-a-half million items of printed music, ranging from a beautifully printed songbook of 1530 to the latest pop chart hit. Victorian popular music is a particular strength of the collections. Much of the sheet music has illustrated covers, often of artistic merit or historical interest. From this rich resource, we've chosen songs and piano pieces that evoke a sense of location by virtue of their subject matter, lyrics, cover design, or all three. Please feel free to browse the entire collection.

Collection level metadata for this collection is available upon request in XML format

Access Conditions

Please email labs@bl.uk

Bach Digital

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. The British Library has taken up to digitising manuscripts and compositions of Bach's music, as well as music from other composers of his family.

The digital collection is available to browse online.

Access Conditions

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Unless otherwise stated, the collection is available under a CC-BY-NC license

Chopin Variorum

Hosted by the Cambridge University Library is the Variorum, a collection of all Chopin editions. The OCVE comprises a broad range of primary source materials for Chopin's Ballades (Opp. 23, 38, 47 and 52), Preludes (Opp. 28 and 45) and Scherzos (Opp. 20, 31, 39 and 54) as well as the Fantasy Op. 49 and Polonaise-Fantasy Op. 61.

The collection is available to browse online.

Access Conditions

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The collection is available under a CC-PD license.

Music Manuscripts

The music manuscripts collection consists of out-of-copyright musical scores, complete song books, single pages of manuscripts and handwritten samples of music. The collection holds digitised images of some of the world's oldest surviving volumes of printed music.

The collection has been made available to the public through Wikimedia Commons.

Access Conditions

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The collection is available under a CC-PD license.

Silos Medieval Music Manuscripts

This spectacular manuscript of Beatus of Liébana's commentary on the Apocalypse survives in near perfect condition from the first decade of the 12th century. It was copied and illuminated in the Spanish monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, near Burgos, at a time when the monastery's scriptorium was producing its finest work. Painted in brilliant colours and embellished with gold and silver leaf, its 106 striking miniatures illustrate the most extraordinary scenes in the Christian Bible - a triumph of artistic vision.

Information about Silos Apocalypse can be found here. The digitised manuscript can be accessed here.

Access Conditions

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The collection is available under a CC-PD license.

Big Data Music

A collection of catalogue data describing the British Library's printed music and manuscript music, please visit http://dml.city.ac.uk

Access Conditions

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The data is available under a CC0 license.