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The historical foundation of the music collection was laid in the 16th century by the sheet music of the court library and the Bavarian court orchestra, which was then renowned all over Europe. It was exceptional for these days that the Bavarian dukes took great interest in collecting music sources for their court library, independent of the actual performance materials needed by the court orchestra. For this reason the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds the most extensive collection of materials from this century.

However, in the 17th and 18th century, court orchestra's collection of sheet music grew considerably stronger than that of the court library. The core of this orchestra collection consists of 75 surviving folio choir books: a collection unparalleled in Germany and abroad, which was started in 1523 by Ludwig Senfl and which reached its apex with Orlando di Lasso. Additionally, the collection includes precious manuscripts privately collected by the Bavarian dukes and electoral princes.
In 1857 an extra music department was founded and the collections were catalogued in depth. In this year the library also began to systematically acquire and complete its holdings of printed music, music manuscripts and books about music. At that time, the library for instance acquired the choir book of Magister Nikolaus Leopold and the personal papers of Joseph Rheinberger and Franz Lachner. The library also received valuable historical performance materials of the Munich court orchestra: the orchestral and Church music so far held by the Hofmusikintendanz (directorate of the court orchestra) in 1860, and the core collection of the court opera in 1922.
Since 1945, printed music relating to non-European countries has been acquired as well. Special emphasis has been put on complementing the collection of early printed music, and developing collections of personal papers and music manuscripts. The collection contains numerous music autographs by Max Reger, Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner and Gustav Mahler, individual works e. g. by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann, as well as the personal papers of Günter Bialas, Werner Egk, Wolfgang Fortner, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Felix Mottl, Carl Orff and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.
The Department of Music furthermore holds a considerable, so far relatively unknown collection of commercial microfilms of collections of other libraries (see  Microforms on Musicology).