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Music Subject Strength

Special Collections has a significant amount of printed music, autograph scores, books and manuscripts by and about composers to aid anyone interested in researching music and musicology. We’ve drawn together some of the highlights to search below.

Special Collections printed music

Most of the works in our Music Collection date from the 19th century onwards. The vast majority of the works are musical scores, although we also have works of interpretative criticism of music or composers, such as Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Wagner.

Earlier works focus on theoretical aspects of the subject; we have the 17th century musical textbook Musick’s Monument, and two early works dedicated to the study of the violin: ‘A compendium of practical musick’ and ‘A brief introduction to the skill of musick’.

We also have a number of opera scores, songs, oratorio scores, folk music, choruses, cantatas and programmes.

The collection has a number of periodicals, including a run of The Musical Times.

Brotherton Collection printed music

The music section of the Brotherton Collection contains many items from the library of musician, author and collector WT Freemantle, from whom Lord Brotherton purchased numerous books.

Among the printed works there are numerous scores (mostly 19th century), representing a great many composers, and a large amount of song music.

The composers are too numerous to list, but among those particularly well represented are Handel, Beethoven, Rossini, Mendelssohn and Dibdin. There are also biographies of composers, books on musical theory, and runs of a number of periodicals, including Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, The Harmonicon, and Musical World.

One of the earliest book shelved with this collection is John Playford's three-volume Introduction to the Skill of Musick from 1697, but the Incunabula section of the Brotherton Collection also boasts copies of Boethius’s De institutione musica printed in 1492 and Franchino Gaffurio’s Practica Musicae from 1497.

Autograph scores

We have a large number of signed scores, manuscripts and printed items.

In particular, we have an extensive collection of autographed manuscripts and letters of the composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

The most important item in our Mendelssohn collection is the autograph manuscript of Mendelssohn's sonata for piano in B flat minor, 1823. This is the only source for this sonata, which is missing from published catalogues of his music.

We hold a further fifteen of Mendelssohn's autograph manuscripts, with several more pieces for piano including a copy of Gondellied.

Special Collections also has seventy of Mendelssohn's autograph letters, mostly written to Ignaz Moschelles, as well as transcriptions of further manuscripts, and numerous printed items, including a full score of St Paul evidently annotated by Mendelssohn himself for performance.

In addition, we have the autograph manuscripts and printed works of the prolific composer, song-writer and dramatist Charles Dibdin.

Other important 18th-century items include a copy of Arianna a Naxos, jointly published by Haydn and John Bland and signed by the composer, and a manuscript anthem by William Croft.

Schubert Collection

Our Schubert Collection chiefly consists of printed books and the musical scores of Franz Schubert, as well as a wide range of works about him from the mid-19th century to the present.

The collection is founded on the personal library of the Schubert scholar Maurice Brown, whose lengthy manuscript correspondence with Otto Erich Deutsch, containing detailed musicological discussion, is also present, together with other manuscripts.

The collection forms part of the holdings of a Schubert Institute Research Centre, and is owned by the UK Schubert Institute.

Novello-Cowden Clarke Collection

The Novello-Cowden Clarke collection includes books and manuscript materials, particularly of musical subject matter, relating to the family and business of the music publisher Vincent Novello. Of particular interest here is A Mozart pilgrimage : being the travel diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello in the year 1829 recounting the couple’s travel across Europe, and their meeting with members of the composers family, including his wife, Constanze.

The printed books are mainly from the library of Novello's daughter, Mary Cowden Clarke. They reflect her scholarly interest in Shakespeare and her friendship with Dickens, James Leigh Hunt, and many other contemporary English literary authors.

The associated manuscript collections have strong musical as well as literary interest.

Writings of Herbert Thompson

Herbert Thompson was the music and art critic of the Yorkshire Post from 1886 to 1936, as well as the Yorkshire correspondent of the Musical Times.

His other writings included a study of Wagner and contributions to Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Special Collections holds a large collection of Thompson's correspondence, mainly from composers and musicians, as well as his diaries, press-cuttings and collection of opera and concert programmes.

Thompson attended the great majority of these performances himself, privately at first but later in his capacity as a music critic, over more than fifty years. Some programmes are briefly annotated by him as an aid towards his subsequently writing a critical notice for the newspaper.