Number of items: 9,000 items.
Music was not actively collected by Enriqueta Rylands (although John Rylands collected a prodigious number of hymns), and only in recent years has it begun to figure prominently among the Library's Special Collections.
Most of the printed music dates from after 1780. Unusually for an academic library, the printed music collection is strong in English popular songs from the 1880s through to the 1940s.
There are numerous musical manuscripts and music-related archives among the Special Collections. These fall into several groups:
- The mainly medieval Latin Manuscripts include liturgical texts containing musical notation, with a great deal of Gregorian chant.
- There are over 30 musical manuscripts among the formerly uncatalogued University MSS, largely comprising scores of 18th- and 19th-century British music.
- There are also some music manuscripts among the Coptic, Ethiopic and Turkish Manuscripts and various other oriental collections.
- The Methodist Archives contain a wealth of correspondence and other material relating to the Wesley family, among whom were three musicians, Samuel (1766-1837), his brother Charles (1757-1834), and Samuel's son Samuel Sebastian (1810-1876). Other items include an English harpsichord manuscript of c.1754 among the Bagshawe Muniments; and a lute book and song book, both of the 17th century, from Tabley House.
- The archive of Michael Kennedy (1926-2014), the Manchester music critic and author, is a major source for musicology and critical studies, and in particular for studies of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
- The archive of the Manchester composer Humphrey Procter-Gregg (1895–1980) largely comprises scores for his entire corpus.
- The Leonard Behrens Papers also contain material on the Hallé Orchestra, 1952-72.
- Published catalogue of music manuscripts, Barry Cooper, 'Catalogue of Pre-1900 Music Manuscripts in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 79.2 (1997), 27-101.
- All the Special Collections printed music (except for the Walker Collection) is recorded in the Printed Music card catalogue in the Main Library. All the main entries are duplicated in the Printed Music card catalogue in the Music Department.
- Catalogue of the Michael Kennedy Papers available online via ELGAR.
- Humphrey Procter-Gregg Archive is uncatalogued.
- Catalogue of the Leonard Behrens Papers available via Special Collections reading rooms.
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