About the collection


With regard to the quantity and quality of its historical holdings and due to the traditionally broad acquisition profile, the music collection constitutes one of the internationally leading music libraries. In its stacks, currently around 455,000 sheet-music prints, 72,000 music manuscripts, 330 sets of personal papers, 93,000 music sound recordings and 164,000 music books and music periodicals are kept.

Collection history

Music materials of the court library and of the Bavarian court music ensemble

The fundamental historical holdings of the Department of Music go back to the music materials of the court library and of the Bavarian court music ensemble, which was of Europe-wide renown in the 16th century. It is fairly unusual that the Bavarian dukes collected music sources for their court library in a targeted manner already then, independently of the materials required by the court music ensemble for performances. In this manner, the foundation was laid for the extremely rich collection of materials of the 16th century (more than 1,400 sheet-music prints, for example) held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek today.

In the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, the music materials of the court music ensemble in turn increased much more strongly than those of the court library. The core of these holdings of the music ensemble is formed by the choir book manuscripts in the folio format, of which 75 specimens have been preserved in total: a unique collection in Germany and abroad, which was started by Ludwig Senfl in 1523 and reached its apex with Orlando di Lasso. The precious manuscripts owned personally by the Bavarian dukes and electors need to be distinguished from these materials.

Foundation of a separate music department

Since the holdings had increased by the acquisition and incorporation of extensive music collections since the middle of the 18th century, a separate "Musikalische Abteilung" was founded in 1857 in the new library building in Ludwigstrasse that had been finished in 1843. Julius Joseph Maier, the conservator of the new music department, catalogued the handwritten and printed holdings in detail, thus compiling catalogues that were exemplary until well into the 20th century. Maier also initiated the continuous acquisition and completion of historical and contemporary music manuscripts and newly published sheet-music prints and books about music. During this time, the library acquired, for example, the choir book of the Master of Arts Nikolaus Leopold and the personal papers of Joseph Rheinberger and Franz Lachner. Central collections of historical performance materials of the Munich court music ensemble came to the library in the form of two large transfers: The orchestra and church music of the artistic directorate of the court music ensemble in 1860, the fundamental historical performance materials from the court and national theatre in Munich in 1922.

Special collection area musicology, personal papers and collections

Since the special collection area musicology had been established in 1949 within the scope of the funding programme of the German Research Foundation and the library thus was placed in charge of supra-regional literature provision in this area, the acquisition of sheet-music prints and literature about music was expanded to countries beyond Europe. At the same time, the library started collecting sound carriers in a targeted manner. Acquisitions to complement the collections of old sheet-music prints and personal papers and music manuscripts increased strongly. In this regard, the numerous music autographs by Max Reger, Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner and Gustav Mahler, individual works, for example by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann and the personal papers of Günter Bialas, Hugo Distler, Werner Egk, Wolfgang Fortner, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Felix Mottl, Carl Orff and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari should be mentioned by way of example.

In January 2014 the special collection area was replaced by the Specialised Information Service for Musicology (Fachinformationsdienst (FID) Musikwissenschaft) funded by the German Research Foundation. The cooperative Virtual Library of Musicology (ViFaMusik) established in 2004 is expanded to become the specialist portal for the Specialised Information Service for Musicology.


Current acquisitions are focused on the particular areas of collection emphasis of sheet-music prints and music manuscripts, music sound carriers, literature about music, music journals and electronic media.

Special collection area musicology

At the same time, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek was in charge of the special collection area of musicology supported by the German Research Foundation between 1949 and 2013. Within the scope of this programme, the library regularly received considerable funding for acquiring as comprehensively as possible literature about music, music journals and musical complete editions, monument series, other musicological-critical editions and a broad spectrum of other sheet-music prints from abroad. Since 1865 there has been a duty of depositing copies of all sheet-music prints published in Bavaria. However, this regulation does not encompass sound carriers up to the present day.

The library in turn invests considerable funds of its own in new and old printed works, music manuscripts and personal papers, in order to continue the historically grown areas of emphasis in targeted manner. In the field of musica practica, the library pursues the goal of continually further expanding its broad, internationally representative holdings. Scores are preferred over part material with regard to these endeavours. The acquisition profile encompasses professional art music worldwide. Jazz and popular music are collected exemplarily and selectively, provided that reliable, more comprehensive editions are available.

After the Second World War, the library was the first scholarly music library in Germany to set up with its own funds a music sound archive constituting a sonic documentation of the history of music and music ethnology. It is accessible for all scholarly specialised works.

Sammlung deutscher Drucke (Collection of German Printed Works)

Taking part in the cooperative acquisition programme "Sammlung Deutscher Drucke", the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has been in charge of sheet-music prints of the period from 1450 to 1800 since 1990. With respect to books about music, the collection spectrum encompasses publications of the 15th and the 16th century.

Specialised Information Service for Musicology

In January 2014, the special collection area musicology was replaced by the Specialised Information Service for Musicology (Fachinformationsdienst (FID) Musikwissenschaft) funded by the German Research Foundation. The FID programme prioritises the acquisition and provision of digital media relevant in the field of specialisation (databases, e-books, e-journals, primary online editions of sheet music). The collections of conventional media (e.g. sheet-music prints, books, journals) and of sound carriers will be further expanded continuously in the future as well.

Electronic media and digital collections

One comprehensive field of acquisition of the Specialised Information Service for Musicology is the licensing and provision of electronic media. The multitude of databases and full-text services (books, journals, sheet music, audio collections) has been made accessible together in the Virtual Library of Musicology (ViFaMusik) since 2004. The ViFaMusik was expanded up to 2016 to become the subject portal for the Specialised Information Service for Musicology by setting up new modules (e.g. document server, subject portals).

Moreover, the library's own digital library of the Munich Digitization Center offers a summary list of all music-related digital collections of holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in the section "Digitale Sammlungen: Notendrucke, Musikhandschriften, Libretti und Literatur über Musik“ (Digital collections: sheet-music prints, music manuscripts, libretti and literature about music).

Virtual Library of Musicology (ViFaMusik)
Digital Collections: Sheet-music prints, music manuscripts, libretti and literature about music


The microform collection of the Department of Music includes a considerable, so far relatively little known fund of commercial microfilm recordings of holdings of other libraries.

Among them, there are microfilm recordings of music manuscripts of numerous British libraries, predominantly the British Library, whose English music manuscripts up to around 1900 and continental-European music manuscripts up to around 1820 are available in the form of over 600 film rolls. Thousands of European music manuscripts of the former Portuguese court, now preserved by the Biblioteca da Ajuda in Lisbon, can likewise be studied on microfilm at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The same applies to recordings of music manuscripts of German libraries in Augsburg, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig.

In the field of sheet-music prints, the fairly internationally oriented collections of Dutch and Belgian libraries up to around 1820 form a focal area in addition to the works of British composers up to 1800 from the British Library.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek also offers over 200 music journals on microfilm. The American journals of the second half of the 19th century and the Russian journals of the early 20th century merit special mention in this regard. In addition, there are numerous smaller and larger collections of interest, such as technical drawings of musical instruments, the treasure collection of over 12,000 opera libretti from the Library of Congress in Washington DC, sheet music of Jewish music from the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg and from the Vernadsky Library in Kiev, or the collection of the music library of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with works of European and American female composers of the late 18th up to the early 20th century.

The "Verzeichnis der Mikroformen zur Musikwissenschaft in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek" (Register of microforms on musicology at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) offers an overview of these extensive holdings built up with the special support by the German Research Foundation. The register contains all required call numbers and, where applicable, further information about the cataloguing of individual collections. This means that researchers and educators, but also everybody else with an interest in these materials, has a regularly updated tool for finding and using also these treasures of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Register of microforms on musicology at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek