Opening pages of an early copyist's manuscript of Johann Sebastian Bach's
Italian Concerto, BWV 971, Allen A. Brown Collection of Music (ca. 1742)
Music collections at Boston Public Library contain over 150,000 volumes related to every facet of musical study, including scores and parts, biography, history and criticism, theory and composition, and music education; collected editions of all major composers (and less well-known composers); and important music indexes, encyclopedias, and bibliographies. The collections include current periodicals, American and foreign music journals--including those devoted to musical instruments--standard recording reviews, and popular music magazines.
Special music collections include autograph scores from a wide variety of composers, first editions, early printed music (both European and North American), and rare monographs and periodicals. To complement its rich collections of published materials, there are ca. 75 special and archival collections related to music, composers, and performers with a specific focus on local Boston music making.
***Materials in this collection include, but are not limited to:***
Autograph score of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Fugue for String Trio, K. 404b (K. 443),
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music (1782)
***Please note that the following collections are currently inaccessible due to a renovation of our facilities.***
The nucleus of the music holdings at Boston Public Library is the Allen A. Brown Musical Library, named for the donor who presented it to the Library in 1894. The collection contains many first editions, early American and European imprints, scrapbooks, and annotated scores. It continues to grow through purchases from trust funds--including the Allen A. Brown Fund--and presently contains more than 40,000 books, scores, and manuscripts relating to music and musical topics.
Boston Public Library published a comprehensive 4-part catalog of Brown's original donation titled Catalogue of the Allen A. Brown Collection of Music in the Public Library of the City of Boston between 1910 and 1916. These volumes contain all items added to the Brown Collection between 1894 and 1916. Digitized versions can be accessed via the following links:
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music Catalog: Volume 1
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music Catalog: Volume 2
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music Catalog: Volume 3
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music Catalog: Volume 4
Materials added to the Brown Collection after 1916 can be accessed via card catalogs and BPL's online catalog. (More information is available under the "Discovering and Searching" tab.)
Founded in 1815, Handel & Haydn Society is one of the oldest continually operating performing arts organizations in the United States. This archival collection includes scrapbooks, programs, business and legal records, musical anthologies, and journals. Printed items include books and scores (both manuscript and published) used by the Society, which include early imprints of Handel's music and autograph scores of commissioned musical compositions.
Additional Music Special Collections include:
***For more information about these collections, please inquire through firstname.lastname@example.org***
Excerpt of shape-note notation [p. 92] from Musical Primer, 3rd edition, by Andrew Law,
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music (1811)
Boston Public Library began collecting music shortly after its founding in 1848; although access tools (for instance, card and online catalogs) have significantly evolved since 1848, multiple legacy resources still exist as the primary methods to search the music collections. Card catalogs were the main access tools for over a century; in 2022, cards have been supplemented with online catalogs and finding aids. Given the age and magnitude of BPL's music collections, the vast majority of music holdings are not available to search online.
To help navigate searching our music holdings, please use the following step-by-step guidelines:
Step 1: Search Polaris, BPL's online catalog.
Step 4: Consult print research tools available in-person at the Central Library in Copley Square.
Step 5: E-mail email@example.com for further information.
Autograph score of Franz Schubert's Der Geistertanz [fragment],
Allen A. Brown Collection of Music (1814)
Although most music special collections have not been digitized, the following collections can be accessed online:
The Philip Hale Photograph Collection contains items owned and used by Boston music critic Philip Hale in his writings. The photographs, taken between 1953 and 1931, contain professional photos of composers, conductors, musicians, actors, dancers, vocalists, and other performers.
The Philip Hale scrapbooks contain letters and programs, along with clippings with reviews and criticisms written by Hale and others, all compiled by Hale, of Boston musical life between 1877 and 1933. This scrapbook collection contains 60 volumes organized by year and two separate index volumes.
This set of digital images includes lithographs of sheet music covers from 19th-century U.S. publishers from Boston Public Library's music special collections.
***To locate additional digitized music materials and collections, please search:***
New acquisitions of music materials will be featured on this page as they become available. Please check back for updates.