Scores and musicology

This collection is made up of all types of documents related to music: manuscript and printed music scores, books and pamphlets on music and musicology, specialised magazines, audio recordings and video recordings, word archive and music archive of composers, singers, librettists, etc. The collection continues to grow with acquisitions, both modern and ancient assets,  with a view to increasing Spain\s musical heritage.

History of the collection

The Music Score Service is part of the Department of Music and Audio-Visuals at the Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE). It preserves valuable collections of music books and printed or hand-written music scores, as well as magazines and lesser publications (pamphlets with concert programmes, publishers' catalogues, etc.). Together, the written music assets at the Biblioteca Nacional de España constitute one of the largest Spanish collections in this field, and the Department of Music and Audio-Visuals is responsible for its continuous growth, preservation, cataloguing and publication.

The collection kept at the Music Score Service is consulted in the Barbieri Room (4th floor in the south wing) and shows origins linked to the royal family: part of the historical collection comes from the royal collections or was acquired expressly for the Royal Public Library. That initial core was subsequently enlarged by assets from ecclesiastic disentailment, purchases, donations (such as the extraordinary bequest by composer and musicologist Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, for whom the Department's reading room is named) and copies incorporated in compliance with the printing decrees, intellectual property laws and copyright library act. Under these legislative initiatives, copies of books and music scores by authors, publishers and printers must be delivered to the BNE, and this, for over two centuries, had led to a massive influx of tens of thousands of musical documents.

Most of the collection of music scores and music books at the BNE from the 16th century to the present day are processed and consulted in the Department of Music. They include thousands of prints and manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries, with the best known collection of tonos humanos (woks by Juan Hidalgo, Cristóbal Galán, Carlos Patiño, Juan del Vado, etc.), musical treatises, such as those of Gaspar Sanz, Pablo Minguet or José Herrando, abundant chamber music from the 18th century, etc. There is also an excellent representation of Spanish operas and zarzuelas (autographs from Barbieri, Bretón, Chapí, Gaztambide, Arrieta, etc.), 19th century ballroom music for piano and singing, nearly all of the modern Spanish production of music scores, as well as an extensive collection of critical publications and facsimiles of historical music, of great interest for practical musicians and researchers, etc.
However, due to historical circumstances, as well as the specific characteristics of the documents, not all BNE music assets are kept in the Department of Manuscripts, Incunabula and Rare Items. There are also many music books and music scores in other Library departments and also in the services of the Department of Bibliographic Heritage, with collections that are consulted in the Cervantes Room. That is where most of the medieval codices with music are kept, such as the Códice de Azagra (9th -10th centuries), the libro de Conductus y motetes, a jewel of primitive polyphony, or the Toledo Codex of Cantigas de Santa María by Alfonso X The Wise. There is also an extensive collection of musical incunabula, the liturgical books ordered by Cardinal Cisneros from printer Guillén de Brocar in the early 16th century, some significant Spanish treatises on music theory (Juan Bermudo, Francisco Salinas, Tomás de Santa María, etc.) and the complete collection of Spanish instrumental music publications from the 16th -17th centuries (nearly all known books for vihuela and guitar, the organ books of Venegas de Henestrosa, Cabezón, Correa de Araujo, etc.).

History, origin and evolution of the music collection at the Biblioteca Nacional de España

The music collection at the Royal Public Library (1711), the embryo of today's Biblioteca Nacional de España, was made up of works belonging to Charles II and queen mother Mariana de Austria, with the addition of musical prints and manuscripts brought by Philip V from France (including some medieval codices) and other works from noble libraries seized during the War of Spanish Succession. This initial core includes some very well-known works from the Library's music collection, such as the tuning devices of José de Zaragoza, works by Lully, a book of enigmatic canons by Juan de Vado, etc. The music assets continued to grow with significant acquisitions in the second half of the 18th century, particularly orchestra scores and chamber music from Paris and London (Haydn, Pleyel, Cambini, Stamitz, Boccherini, etc.).

During the 19th century, the collection grew at a spectacular rate, particularly following the enactment of the disentailment decrees, which brought many music books to the Library from convents and monasteries that had been eliminated. The first Intellectual Property laws (1847 and 1879) were also momentous for the institution, as well as the ecclesiastical asset seizure decree of 1869, which made it possible to add value manuscripts to the BNE from the Capitular Library of Toledo. There are also significant private music collections from the 19th century that are consulted today in the Music Score Service, such as the library of the Infante Francisco de Paula Antonio de Borbón, younger brother of Ferdinand VII, as well as the Barbieri collection mentioned above.

The holdings

Music score collection.

The Spanish production of music scores in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century is very well represented at the BNE, thanks to Intellectual Property laws. Although registration of works in the Intellectual Property Registry was never compulsory, most Spanish music score publishers did so regularly to protect their music from plagiarism, so between 1847 and 1915 there were already over 14,000 new publications registered.

The music of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century deposited in the BNE Music Scores Service is a good reflection of social demand during a period in which large sectors of the Spanish public had access to music education for the first time. The most popular instrument was the piano, and there are a large number of short pieces for the social gatherings of the bourgeoisie. The Biblioteca also has an extensive collection of ballroom music for voice with accompaniment, arrangements and transcriptions for solo instruments or for small musical groups, military marches and anthems, which reflected the social and political events of the day, and importantly, abundant educational literature. Solfeggio methods and exercises, as well as those for singing and instruments, were very popular among the large public that attended the first Spanish conservatories created in imitation of that founded in 1830 by Queen María Cristina de Borbón, which is currently the Higher Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid.

The collection for that period is completed with a type of music that was very popular at that time: lyric theatre. Zarzuelas, operas and all of the different varieties of the Spanish operettas known as “género chico” are also represented at the Library, both in print and in the collections of manuscripts written by leading composers of the genre.

Today, Spanish music scores continue to be contributed to the Library through the Copyright Library Act at a rate of approximately 3,000 publications a year. This means of acquisition was established in the law of 1957, through which the BNE Music Score Service receives and keeps practically all the music publications produced in Spain, in all forms: methods and educational works, contemporary academic music, the international “classical” repertoire, national pop music, historical music, flamenco, Spanish copla, traditional music from all regions of Spain, ecclesiastical music, radio, film and television music, etc. As regards other means of incorporation, it is worth noting that the BNE currently continues to receive some private musical libraries, and also makes significant investments in the acquisition of music published abroad. The purchase of both modern and ancient collections seeks to increase Spain's musical assets, complete current collections, and recover works by Spanish musicians or related to Spanish music that were produced outside of Spain.

In recent years, the Department of Music has made an enormous effort to catalogue all musical documents in the BNE's automated catalogue, which may be consulted on the Library's website. It has also promoted an important collective catalogue of music in Spanish and Latin American collections called Instrumenta Musicae, which has over 30,000 records. From 2010, the BNE's mass digitisation projects have also included: Digital Periodical and Newspaper Library (where a large part of the 19th and early 20th centuries assets have already been digitised) and Hispanic Digital Library, in which over 1000 musical monographs from the 18th -19th centuries have already been incorporated and more than 50,000 music scores and audio recordings (May 2020.

Reference Works

Collection of books, CD-ROMS, pamphlets and magazines specialising in music, musicology and film, which are part of the free-access reference library in the Barbieri Room.

The rest of the assets, music monographs, pamphlets and specialised magazines are kept in the Service depositories and are consulted in the same Room by request. General consultation of magazines on music is in the Periodical Publications Room.

Music Score Reference Library.

The music score reference library is a collection of free-access practical music documents sorted systematically. Its purpose is to provide researchers with a series of basic works that facilitate the research done in the Department of Music and Audio-Visual reading room (Barbieri Room), with the added benefits of quick consultation and the possibility of combining a variety of searches in a wide range of possibilities, considering that a specific type of music publication can be classified as a reference work. It is a complement to the reference library for musical monographs, also accessible directly in the same room, and the most common in the music collections.

This documentary collection is divided into series and authors:

  • The series are the large collections of critiques devoted to genre, instruments or specific periods, and the Musical Monuments, which include essential musical works from each country.
  • The music scores by author include the Opera Omina of composers considered essential in the history of music.

These documents are received in two ways and at two different locations:

1.  Non-Spanish publications are acquired through purchases and are located, with free access, on the upper floor of the Barbieri Room: the left upper floor for series (Major Collections and Musical Monuments), sorted alphabetically; and the right for the composers' Opera Omnia, also sorted alphabetically. They are grouped by:

  • Publishers' series, in which the scientific or critical value of the publication is combined with the extent of the repertoire available, as is the case with the Garland collections, the Hortus musicus of Bärenreiter, the Archivum Musicum of S.P.E.S. or the classical Corpus mensurabilis musicae or Corpus scriptorum of music from the American Institute of Musicology. This group includes what are traditionally known as “Musical Monuments”: series that contain musical works that are considered to be essential to creation and publication in each country.
  • With regard to the authors, this reference library contains complete works (opera omnia), in editions that may be considered to be definitive. For example: Bärenreiter publishes the operas omnia of Telemann, Schubert, Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach; G. Henle Verlag publishes those of Beethoven or Haydn; B. Schott’s Söhne provides those of Wagner or Schönberg; the Italian Antonio Vivaldi Institute, with Ricordi, publishes Antonio Vivaldi, and the Fondazione Rossini, publishes Pesaro, to Gioachino Rossini.

In the above groups, there are abundant facsimile editions that complete our assets and facilitate their use.

2. Spanish publications are included through the Copyright Library act and are located in the Music Score Service depositories and in the corridor leading to the Barbieri Room. The bibliographic description of these documents is included in the Spanish Bibliography of Printed Music.

The Spanish publications include basic works for musicological research. These publications include those of the Spanish Musicology Society, headquartered in Madrid; the Ferdinand the Catholic Institution, in Zaragoza; the Complutense Institute of Musical Sciences, in Madrid; etc. The same consideration must be given to the publications of other institution or those of some commercial publishers that on occasions are committed to the dissemination of Spain's musical heritage.

The presentation of this reference library – still undergoing expansion and maintenance and will soon be accessible on this website – increases dissemination and enables us to unify Spanish and foreign publications, both belonging to the same library and yet located physically in different places.


Juego filarmónico
Treaties and musical methods

A tour through the theoretical foundation musical

Intonarium toletanum
Religious music

Bibliographic and documentary collection of ecclesiastical origin

Libro de Música para vihuela intitulado Orphenica lyra
Scores and compilations

Medieval sources, cancioneros premium spanish instrumental music, etc.

La Gran Vía
Lyrical theatre and 'chico' genre