Music blog

30 posts categorized "Digitisation"

02 September 2020

Digitised Music Manuscripts

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During the last few months we have been actively publishing music manuscripts on Digitised Manuscripts. Approximately 60 digitised manuscripts are listed below grouped in rough chronological order. Highlights include: The ‚ÄėCosyn‚Äô and ‚ÄėForster‚Äô virginal books and autographs by Purcell; Henry Lawes; Haydn; Thomas Arne; Rossini; Mendelssohn; Verdi; Arthur Sullivan; Berlioz; Gounod; Liszt; Offenbach; Mahler; and Elgar.

16th-century music manuscripts

A collection of motets, masses, Te Deum, and Kyrie, in four volumes, by English composers (Add MS 17802; Add MS 17803; Add MS 17804; Add MS 17805); A collection of services, anthems, and a few part-songs, for five voices, by English composers (Add MS 30480; Add MS 30481; Add MS 30482; Add MS 30483; Add MS 30484); A collection of sacred compositions in parts (Add MS 32377); A collection of parts of masses, motets, and services (Add MS 34191); A miscellany of Middle English verse, including ballads by Chaucer and Lydgate; 'The Flyting of Montgomerie and Polwart' by Alexander Montgomerie; 'Nebuchadnezzar's Fierie Furnace'; the 'Annals of Oskell'; grammatical exercises in Latin and Greek; and Old songs of Durham (Harley MS 7578); Masses and motets, in parts, by Nicolas Ludford (Royal Appendix MS 45; Royal Appendix MS 46; Royal Appendix MS 47; Royal Appendix MS 48); A collection of largely sacred music of English origin, composed for instruments and voice (Royal Appendix MS 74; Royal Appendix MS 75; Royal Appendix MS 76); A collection of French and Italian compositions by anonymous authors (Royal Appendix MS 55); A collection of frottole, strambotti, and odes, with music for four voices, by Italian composers of the 15th and early 16th century (Egerton MS 3051).

Opening page from a Te deum from the Cantus part-book.
A Te deum from the Cantus part-book, Add MS 30480, f. 4r.

17th-century music manuscripts

A volume with miscellaneous writings, ornamented with initials, portraits of saints, royal arms, etc. including songs with lute accompaniment in tablature (Add MS 4900); A volume with keyboard and lyra viol music (Add MS 63852); The Cosyn Virginal Book (R.M.23.l.4); The Forster Virginal Book (R.M.24.d.3); The autograph of Henry Purcell’s The Yorkshire Feast Song (Egerton MS 2956); The Henry Lawes Music Manuscript (Add MS 53723); Canons for 4 voices to the first lines of the Psalms (Vulgate version), by Sydrach Rahel, with a dedication, in French , to James I (Royal Appendix MS 64).

Image from The Cosyn Virginal Book
The Cosyn Virginal Book. R.M.23.l.4, f. 2r
Opening page from Purcell's The Yorkshire Feast Song
Henry Purcell’s The Yorkshire Feast Song. Egerton MS 2956, f.1r

18th-century music manuscripts

Original letters of Joseph Haydn (Egerton MS 2380); Sonatas, suites and other works for keyboard instrument by G. F. Handel and other composers (MS Mus. 1587); A collection of anthems, in score, by G.F. Handel (Add MS 30309); The Chandos Music Manuscripts (Add MS 62099; Add MS 62100; Add MS 62101; Add MS 62102; Add MS 62103); A collection of songs, excerpts from operas, and an anthem, by Thomas Arne (Add MS 29370); Autograph cantatas by Antonio Caldara (Add MS 31549); Sonatas for the viola-da-gamba by Carl Friedrich Abel (Add MS 31697); 19th century letters and papers relating to the ownership of the Mozart string quartets in Add MS 37763-37765 (Add MS 37766).

Letter from Joseph Haydn to the music printer William Forster
Letter from Joseph Haydn to the music printer William Forster. Egerton MS 2380, f. 3r

19th-century music manuscripts

Selected autograph vocal pieces by Gioacchino Rossini (Add MS 30246); Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy‚Äôs autograph of his String Quartet in E flat (Add MS 30900); The Scherzo, Notturno, and Wedding March from Mendelssohn‚Äôs A Midsummer Night's Dream arranged by the composer for piano (Egerton MS 2955); Giuseppe Verdi‚Äôs autograph of his opera Attila (Add MS 35156); The autograph of Robert Schumann's piano sonata in F minor (Add MS 37056); Charles Fran√ßois Gounod‚Äôs Messe Solennelle (Add MS 37639); The autograph score of Arthur Sullivan‚Äôs operetta The Gondoliers (Add MS 53779); Letters from Hector Berlioz to members of his family (Add MS 56237); Songs by Thomas Moore arranged by Henry Bishop and others (Add MS 19569); Songs with piano accompaniment by Hortense Bonaparte, wife of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland (Add MS 30148); 19th-century copy of The ‚ÄėLamentabatur Jacob' by Cristobal Morales, and a setting of ‚ÄėIncipit Lamentatio Hieremi√¶‚Äô by Thomas Tallis (Add MS 34070); Autograph compositions by Franz Liszt (Add MS 34182); The musical autograph album of Eliza Wesley, containing short pieces, inscriptions and signatures of numerous composers, musicians, and singers (Add MS 35026); Miscellaneous autograph compositions by various composers (Add MS 38070); Music by Michael Haydn and Carl Maria von Weber (Add MS 41634); Airs from the cantatas and other works of J.S. Bach, arranged by Robert Franz for alto and tenor voices with pianoforte accompaniment (Add MS 41635); Jacques Offenbach‚Äôs autograph score of his comic opera Fantasio (Add MS 42064); Miscellaneous music, partly autograph, by various 18th- and 19th-century composers (Add MS 47860).

Opening page from Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat.
Autograph of Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat. Add MS 30900.


Musical quotation from ‚ÄėAmami Alfredo‚Äô from Verdi‚Äôs opera La traviata in the composer‚Äôs autograph
Musical quotation from ‚ÄėAmami Alfredo‚Äô from Verdi‚Äôs opera La traviata in the composer‚Äôs autograph. Add MS 35026, f. 69r

Early 20th-century music manuscripts

Cancelled folio from the draft orchestral full score of the third movement, ‚ÄėRondo-Burleske‚Äô, of Gustav Mahler's Symphony no.9 in D major (MS Mus. 97); Sketches and drafts by Edward Elgar (Add MS 49973 B).

Cancelled folio from Mahler’s draft orchestral full score of his Symphony no.9 in D major
Cancelled folio from Mahler‚Äôs draft orchestral full score of his Symphony no.9 in D major. Third movement, ‚ÄėRondo-Burleske‚Äô. MS Mus. 97.


02 October 2018

Welcome to Discovering Music

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    The British Library has the pleasure of bringing you an exciting free educational resource providing unparalleled access to our music collection: Discovering Music.

   Aimed at A level students, teachers, undergraduates and the general public, the site features manuscript and printed sources as well as recordings to support the study of particular music topics. The site also sheds light on the historical, political and cultural contexts in which key musical works were composed and musicians operated.

MS. Mus. 1810 - Debussy - f01r - Article 3Claude Debussy (1911) 'Brouillards', from Pr√©ludes, Book 2 British Library Shelfmark MS Mus. 1810

The first stage focuses on music from the early 20th century, while other periods will be explored in the future. This present web space highlights some of the Library‚Äôs most treasured collection items, in high-resolution digitised images, including manuscripts by Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius, Gustav Holst, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and others. In addition, the site features a rich range of contextual material, including letters, notebooks, illustrations, newspapers, photographs and other forms of ephemera. 

You can explore this exciting web space from different angles: Themes, Collection items, Works and People. These gravitate around the centrepiece of Discovering Music, an exciting series of articles:

BThe Second Viennese School: Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern
Mark Berry introduces the three composers labelled as key members of the ‚ÄėSecond Viennese School‚Äô, each influential in his own way on musical modernism throughout the remainder of the 20th century.

Music and the creative process: Elgar’s Third Symphony
The composer Anthony Payne, who completed Elgar’s unfinished Third Symphony, describes Elgar’s compositional methods as seen in the surviving sketches for this work at the British Library.

Delius in performance
Joanna Bullivant explores how Delius’s compositions were brought to life by various interpreters. Did he give his performers enough information? How important are the contributions made by the famous musicians with whom he worked: the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, the pianists Theodor Szántó and Evlyn Howard-Jones, and the violinist May Harrison?

Folksong revival in the early 20th century
Eric Saylor surveys the social contexts and musical impact of the folksong revival in the early 20th century.

Ballet in Paris in the early 20th century
Jane Pritchard discusses the ballet companies and their artists who were active in Paris in the early 20th century.

BBritish composers in the early 20th century
Jeremy Dibble gives an overview of British composers in the early 20th century and their context.

Delius, Paris, Grez
Lionel Carley explores Delius’s long association with France, and how the distinctive landscapes of Paris and Grez-sur-Loing inspired some of his most famous scores.

Exploring Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations
Julian Rushton discusses the early history of Elgar‚Äôs ‚ÄėEnigma‚Äô Variations.

The use of the instruments of the orchestra
Lucy Walker surveys three orchestral masterpieces of the early 20th century.

Music and the First World War
Kate Kennedy examines the impact of the First World War on British composers and the music composed both during the war and in its aftermath.

Music and the Holocaust
Stephen Muir examines the impact of the Holocaust on musicians and musical life in Germany and Austria in the Second World War.

SkMusic for film: Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten
Music formed an important component of the propaganda and educational films produced during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath. In this article, Nicholas Clark explores the film scores composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten between 1940 and 1948.

Music and the Russian Revolution
Pauline Fairclough discusses the impact of the Russian Revolution on Russian composers’ lives and careers.

Delius and America
Daniel M. Grimley explains the significance of America in Delius's life, music, and career.

Stravinsky and Neoclassicism
Stephen Walsh discusses Neoclassicism as a concept focussing on the music of Stravinsky who extensively used this compositional ‚Äėattitude‚Äô in his music.

The Society of Women Musicians
Sophie Fuller discusses the history of the Society of Women Musicians and some of its leading members.

Delius's workshop
Daniel M. Grimley examines Delius's compositional routine and looks at the processes involved in assembling a large-scale musical work.

Tonality in crisis? How harmony changed in the 20th century
Arnold Whittall explores changing approaches to harmony and the concept of tonality in early 20th-century music.

Vaughan Williams and The English Hymnal
Simon Wright explores the role of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in selecting and arranging the music for The English Hymnal.

Teaching resources

These 19 articles are accompanied by three teaching resources to support the study of 20th-century classical music at GCSE and A Level.

Composition: learning from Delius and Elgar
Use Delius's and Elgar's sketches to develop compositional skills and understand their music.

Music and place: sacred music and folksong
Learn how English composers were inspired by folksong and ideas of the sacred.

Overturning tonality: into the 20th century
Explore new ways of composing in the early 20th century


10 July 2018

Chopin First Editions available online

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Chopin par Delacroix Eug√®ne Delacroix (ca 1838)  Portrait de Fr√©d√©ric 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 Fr√©d√©ric Chopin, which are now available online.

As is the case with most composers, first editions of Chopin’s music are important to study the text of a given piece. Chopin would often add expression marks to the printing proofs, marks which weren't in the manuscripts provided to the publisher. Sometimes these additions were so numerous that a second proof had to be prepared for Chopin to approve for publication. In these cases they reveal a more advanced compositional state than the autograph manuscripts.

You may download a spreadsheet with the complete list by clicking here. The links on the right hand side will take you to the corresponding catalogue record. To view the score click on the "I want this" tab, and then on the red ‚ÄúGO‚ÄĚ button next to "Digital Content, Collection Item". This newly digitised set will no doubt be a welcomed complement to the Chopin Online Resources, which includes other first editions from our collections.

19 June 2018

More Digitised Music Manuscripts available online

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 We have the pleasure of bringing you some more highlights from our collection which we have digitised in high resolution and uploaded onto our website so anyone can enjoy them remotely.
 All the below are autograph, unless noted.

Egerton MS 2954Musical treatises (15th century)
Italian Musical Treatise by Johannes de Muris
    Digital Version: 

Add MS 36738 - Franz Schubert, Piano Sonata in G major D. 894, Op. 78 (1826)
Published as the Fantasy, Andante, Menuetto and Allegretto, is the eighteenth sonata of Franz Schubert composed in October 1826.
    Digital Version:
Lansdowne MS 763 - Musical treatises (15th century)
Treatises transcribed, and probably to a great extent compiled, by John Wylde, precentor of Waltham Holy Cross Abbey, about 1460.
    Digital Version: 

R.M.19.d.9 - George Frideric Handel,  Il Trionfo del Tempo HWV 46a (c 1710)
Manuscript copy, except for the Overture on ff. 69-78, and the corrections which are in the hand of Handel.
    Digital Version:

Add MS 47849 - Joseph Haydn, Symphony no. 40 in F major (1763)
    Digital Version: 

Egerton MS 2327 - Ludwig van Beethoven, Rough copies of twelve airs for pianoforte, with accompaniment for flute or violin (c. 1817)
These are connected with his arrangements of English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish airs. They were all published in Sechs variirte Themen (op. 105) and Zehn variirte Themen (op. 107), about the year 1817. From op. 107 are taken nos. 1-4 (nos. 9, 10, 2, 8, respectively), no. 9 (no. 4), and nos. 11, 12 (nos. 1, 5); and from op. 105, nos. 5-8 (nos. 1, 2, 4, 5), and no. 10 (no. 6).
    Digital Version:

Egerton MS 2746 - Miscellaneous, including:
Robert Schumann, March in G minor, op. 76/2 
Richard Wagner, Sketch of the people's chorus (melody and bass only) from Act ii of 'Rienzi' (1839)
Richard Wagner, Largo maestoso (introductory movement) and Allegro con brio (beginning only), in C, for 4 hands
Draft of a letter, apparently by Richard Wagner, but unsigned
    Digital Version:

30 March 2018

Latest Music Manuscripts available on our website

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 In addition to the previous batch announced here, we are pleased to share with you a few more Music Manuscripts freshly uploaded onto our website. 

One of the principal reasons that compel us to make these images available, is to preserve our collections for future generations. Every reading room request will involve at least eight pairs of hands that will handle the item from the shelf, to the reading desk and back. Naturally, this means that considerable stress is placed upon collection items which may be -as in the case of Music Collection materials- over 500 years old. Therefore, having high resolution images available on our website greatly minimizes threats to the longevity of our collection.

Please note that all of the below are Autograph Manuscripts, unless noted.

Add MS 31707 - Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony no.103 in E-flat major "The Drumroll(1795)
This manuscript was presented by Haydn to Luigi Cherubini, who is said to have provided the missing folios 23r, 23v, and 26r by his own hand. From the collection of Julian Marshall.
Digital Version:
Catalogue Record:

Add MS 32173 - Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Michael Haydn - A collection of songs, duets, choruses, cantatas, and a divertimento (18th-19th century)
Digital Version:
Catalogue Record: Add_ms_32173_f039r
Add MS 47851, Ludwig van Beethoven,  Concerto, op. 61, for violin or piano (1808) 
 Manuscript copy made for the first printed version of the concerto, with autograph corrections. This document is the main textual source for both the violin solo part and its piano arrangement. More information elsewhere on this blog.
Catalogue Records:
Digital Version:

Add MS 35272, 35273 - Franz Joseph Haydn, Collection of Scottish airs for one or two voices (c. 1803)
 Manuscript Copies, mainly in the hand in the hand of his amanuensis J. Radnitzky, with autograph additions.
Digital Versions:
Catalogue Record:

 Add MS 35274 - 35275 Franz Joseph Haydn, Collection of Welsh airs for one or two voices (c.1804)
Manuscript copy, with an autograph note by the composer at the beginning,
Digital Versions:
Catalogue Records:

16 March 2018

Latest Music Manuscripts available online

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 At the core of what we do at the British Library is our mission to make our collections available to the public. In line with these values there are over 300 Music Manuscripts from our collections available in high resolution on our Digitised Manuscripts Portal:
 In the past weeks we have uploaded some more, which we are proud to share here. All the manuscripts are Autograph.

Add MS 29801 - Ludwig van Beethoven, The Kafka Sketchbook (c1786-99)
 One of the most complete earlier repositories of Beethoven's Sketches, partly assembled by the composer himself. It takes its name from the Johanm Nepomuk Kafka, from whom the manuscript was purchased by the British Museum in 1875.
 Digital Version:
 Catalogue Record:

Add MS 29997 - Ludwig Van Beethoven, Sketches (early 19th century)
 Sketches of musical compositions, including C sharp minor quartet, Op. 131, 
 Digital Version: 
 Catalogue record:

Add MS 29802 -  Franz Schubert, Die Verschworenen (1823)
 Singspiel in one act with libretto by Ignaz Franz Castelli. The manuscript includes its printed pianoforte score at the end. The work was commissioned by Vienna's Hofoper in 1823, but it wouldn't be premiered until 1861 
 Digital Version: 
 Catalogue Record:

Add MS 28613 - Francis Joseph Haydn, Collection of songs  (18th-19th century).
Songs, with symphonies and accompaniments for violin, violoncello, and pianoforte, in score.
Digital Version: 
Catalogue Record:

Add MS 29803 - Cadenza by Beethoven & Canzonetta by Rossini (19th century)
Catalogue Record:
Digital Version: 


28 July 2017

Digitised Music Manuscripts Summer 2017

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Since our post last spring summarising digitised materials from our music manuscripts collection, we’ve been busy adding to this content.

From Byrd to Britten and Monteverdi to Mozart, a wealth of music manuscripts are available to browse, free-of-charge, on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website.

At the time of writing, you can view no fewer than 335 music manuscripts on the site. Additional content is added regularly.

Our last digitised manuscript, published just a few days ago, was Lansdowne MS 763. Dating from the fifteenth century and written on vellum, this is a collection of music treatises by various authors.

Lansdowne MS 763

For a full list of what is currently available, please see this file: Download PDF of BL digitised music manuscripts summer 2017.

This is also available in the form of a spreadsheet (although this format cannot be downloaded on all web browsers): Download spreadsheet of BL digitised music manuscripts summer 2017.


24 May 2017

Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017

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From Byrd to Britten and Monteverdi to Mozart, a wealth of British Library music manuscripts are available to browse, free-of-charge, on the Digitised Manuscripts website.

My Ladye Nevells Books MS Mus 1591

MS Mus. 1591, My Layde Nevells Booke (1591)

At the time of writing, you can view no fewer than 323 music manuscripts on the site. For a full list of what is currently available in PDF format, please see this file: Download BL Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017.

This is also available in the form of a spreadsheet (although this format cannot be downloaded on all web browsers): Download BL Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017.

Additional content is added regularly. Our last digitised manuscript, published just a few days ago, was Additional MS 29996. Dating from the seventeenth century, this is a collection of motets, madrigals and fancies, by Thomas Tomkins and others, interspersed with political verses, satires, recipes.

Add MS 29996

Additional MS 29996: a recently-digitised music manuscript, including works by Thomas Tomkins 

If you are looking for something more specific, why not consult our blog posts on the material we‚Äôve digitised relating to Handel, Mozart, Purcell and Wagner. For more general advice on using the site, we highly recommend this blog post.

We'll be posting updated versions of these lists quarterly, so be sure to check the blog again in a few months time for an updated edition. In the meantime, to get the latest news about our digitisation projects, acquisitions and events, please follow us on Twitter: @BL_Music_Colls