Early Music Online

Digitised archive of the world’s oldest printed musical compositions

Early Music Online

The Early Music Online archive currently contains around 10,000 compositions from the 16th century. Featured compositions are mainly vocal, though some music for keyboard and plucked string instruments is also available. The collection is available to all and allows access to fragile printed music not previously open to view.

The archive’s compositions date from a time when the Renaissance and the development of the printing press spurred massive evolution in the style and philosophy of music, as well as a huge surge in its public popularity. Metadata and background information on individual compositions further enhance the collection’s viewing and search capabilities.

How can this collection be used in teaching, studying and research?

The collection can be used specifically for the study of music, 16th century history and the history of print and printed literature. It allows access to printed compositions not currently featured in modern collections of material from the 16th century.

Users can browse the collection’s digital repository, or search full catalogue information via the British Library catalogue, the RISM UK music database or the Copac search facility. Content may be freely used and reproduced for education, learning and research purposes, but permission must be sought for commercial usage.

Highlights from this collection

English church music from the partnership of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, as well as drinking songs from Nuremberg and lute music from Venice.


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