Keeping the score

Music in the Library

Sample exhibiton image

Keeping the Score: Music in the Library

King David as harpist

King David as harpist, frontispiece to The divine services and anthems usually sung in the cathedrals and collegiate choires in the Church of England ( London: W.G., 1663). Syn.8.66.5

From sixth century treatises to contemporary pop songs, the University Library holds over half a million volumes of printed and manuscript music scores and texts on music. This exhibition reveals the great variety of the collections, and displays just some of the Library’s musical treasures, including organ tablature from the library of J.S. Bach, bearing his signature; the famous Cambridge lute books; a composition submitted by Ralph Vaughan Williams for his Cambridge doctorate; and manuscripts of music by Benjamin Britten, William Walton and Igor Stravinsky.

The exhibition illustrates the changing influences and inspirations affecting composers and music theorists, including the origins and development of music printing and the musical response to historical events such as the Reformation. Other exhibits display a variety of special formats for performers and different types of notation for particular instruments. Music for the masses is also featured, with popular songs from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, and items of local interest composed for special events in Cambridge.