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Music Collections: Microfilms

A guide to the finding aids available for the music collections in the Bodleian Library.


Although microfilms are now considered to be old technology, they can still usefully fulfil a need to study sources which may otherwise be difficult to access, either because they belong to a remote institution or are too fragile to handle. Digital images are now surpassing microfilms for this purpose but digitizing manuscripts is a slow and expensive process and it will be a long time before all musical sources are available digitally.

The Bodleian has substantial holdings of music manuscripts on microfilm, including many of its own manuscripts and those of other libraries in the UK and further afield. We encourage the use of surrogates in place of the originals wherever possible and machines for reading and taking scans from microfilms can be found in the Weston Library reading rooms. Ask reading room staff for a demonstration.

If you need to study a manuscript in another institution which has not been digitized, it might be worth checking to find out if we have a film. See the information on these pages for more information and/or ask the Music Curator for help.

Music microfilm collections

Many of the Bodleian's microfilms of music manuscripts and printed music form parts of the commercial sets of films published mostly by Harvester Press in the 1970s and 1980s (now Gale Primary Sources, part of Gale Cengage Learning), including many of the British Library's music manuscripts, but please note that the Bodleian does not own all the microfilm sets in these series. Most of the sets which the library holds are available on open access in the Weston Library Gallery, off the Sir Charles Mackerras Reading Room.

The Gale Primary Sources - Media Guide webpage provides links to PDF versions of the printed guides to these commercial sets and these can be used to locate the reel number of the relevant film. Links to the individual guides can be found in the associated pages listed below. Simple text searches of these can be performed in the usual way (e.g. using Crtl-F) to find composers names, etc. If you are trying to find the reel number of the film of a particular manuscript, searching on a portion of the shelfmark should retrieve the relevant results, although it is recommended that spaces normally present in shelfmarks are closed up for searching purposes. Searching on shortened forms (e.g. e.423 rather than MS. Mus. Sch. E. 423) may give better results. 

See the links to the left for more detailed information on microfilm holdings. The information on these pages is not yet complete and will be added to in due course. If you are looking for a microfilm of a manuscript not covered by the sets of films described in these pages, or need further help in locating what you need, please contact the Music Curator.

Subject Guide

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Martin Holmes
Music Section,
Bodleian Special Collections,
Weston Library,
Broad Street,
01865-277064 / 276146