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Music manuscripts from the Library of St Michael's College, Tenbury Wells


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The collection includes:

  1. English and Italian madrigal part-books
  2. Polyphonic manuscript part-books, from c 1600, with sacred and secular works of English and Continental composers
  3. The most important source for Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
  4. Adrian Batten's Organ Book
  5. Autograph manuscripts of Blow, Boyce, Burney, Wesley and other English composers
  6. Handel's annotated score of Messiah used at the 1742 Dublin première (MSS. Tenbury 346-347)
  7. Important sources of early Italian monody
  8. A copy of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony with many corrections by the composer
  9. Autograph manuscripts of J. C. Bach, Cimarosa and Galuppi
  10. Manuscript Italian operas, especially of the 18th century
  11. Sacred works from the 17th-19th centuries
  12. Autograph manuscripts of Ouseley's own compositions
  13. A few autograph letters of English musicians, [c 1800].


  • Creation: [c 1600]-1930


127.16 Linear metres (1136 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Latin

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Tenbury 296].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Tenbury 296-304, 308-848, 851-1386, 1442-1471, 1473-1493, 1495-1509, 1511-1513, 1515-1516

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13362


Music manuscripts from the Library of St Michael's College, Tenbury, Worcestershire, [c 1600]-1930.

Biographical / Historical

Rev. Sir Frederick Ouseley (1825-1889) was a musician, composer, scholar, vicar and Heather Professor of Music at Oxford, 1855-1889. See the Dictionary of National Biography for details.

Sir Frederick Ouseley built the church of St Michael, Tenbury Wells, at his own expense, and was vicar there from 1856 to his death. He also built and endowed St Michael's College, whose purpose was to 'promise a course of training, and to form a model, for the daily choral services of the Church in these realms, and, for the furtherance of this object, to receive, educate and train boys in religious, secular and musical knowledge.' It was to the College that he bequeathed his music library of about 5000 volumes, containing unique manuscript and printed material.


The original shelfmarks of all the Tenbury manuscripts have been retained, but see ‘Preferred citation’ below.

Other Finding Aids

With the kind permission of the Tenbury Trustees, the present catalogue is based on Edmund H. Fellowes, The catalogue of manuscripts in the library of St Michael's College, Tenbury, (Paris: Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre, 1934). A copy of this catalogue, annotated with additions and corrections by Watkins Shaw, was filmed as part of the Harvester's Press microfilm publication of the Tenbury manuscript collection in 1981. As many as possible of these revisions and subsequent amendments to the printed catalogue have been incorporated into this online catalogue. In other places, much of Fellowes’ and Watkins Shaw’s original wording is retained. An inventory is available for manuscripts acquired by the College subsequent to the publication of Fellowes' catalogue, and an index of copyists and owners has been prepared by the Bodleian.

Custodial History

Ouseley kept no record of provenance or dates of acquisitions, though he bought regularly at auction sales. A few manuscripts record acquisition by gift.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Tenbury manuscripts were held on deposit at the Bodleian from 1978 until the closure of St Michael's College in 1985. Following the closure of the College ownership of the music manuscripts passed outright by gift to the Bodleian, though a few manuscripts acquired after Ouseley's death remain the property of the Ouseley Trust, and are held on deposit. The Library also purchased printed music and music literature, not duplicated in its own collections, from the College.

MSS. Tenbury 1442-1488 were acquired between 1934 and 1948.

MSS. Tenbury 1489-1516 were acquired between 1949 and 1979.

Related Materials

The following material was not acquired by the Bodleian Library:

  1. The Toulouse-Philidor collection (MSS. Tenbury 1-295 and 1387-1441), acquired partly by Ouseley and partly in 1934, was sold at Sotheby’s in 1978; MSS. 305-307, 581 and 849-850, whilst not strictly part of the Toulouse-Philidor collection, also appeared in the sale. The collection, mainly of scores and parts for French Baroque operas, was bought by the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and the Bibliothèque Municipale, Versailles. A portion of the material was retained by these libraries; the remainder was auctioned in Paris, November 1978, and is now dispersed. Catherine Massip's article 'La collection musicale Toulouse-Philidor á la Bibliothèque Nationale', Fontes artis musicae 30 (1983), pp. 184-207, gives a useful summary of the collection and its current whereabouts.
  2. Fragments of letters of Gregory the Great (c 1200) were originally in the binding of MSS. Tenbury 807-811 (c 1600) and given the shelfmark MS. Tenbury 1472. These were then withdrawn and sold at Sotheby's on 3 April 1957.
  3. String Quartet no. 2 in C, op. 36 by Benjamin Britten (MS. Tenbury 1514) was deposited by the Trustees in the Britten-Pears Library, Aldeburgh.
  4. Other College manuscripts, such as service lists, College registers and other papers relating to the College and the Ouseley family were deposited by the Ouseley Trust in Hereford Cathedral Library in 1990. Among them are letters from Sir Frederick Ouseley to the Rev. F. C. Alderson and his son, M. F. Alderson, 1880-1888 (formerly MS. Tenbury 1494) and the Visitors' Book of George Robertson Sinclair, organist of Hereford Cathedral and fellow of St Michael's College (formerly MS. Tenbury 1510). This book subsequently belonging to Sir Percy Hull, contains numerous signatures and some short passages of music entered by well-known musicians including Sir Edward Elgar.


  • Peter Ward Jones, 'The fate of the music collections of St Michael’s College, Tenbury', Brio, xxvii/2 (1990), pp. 48-49.
  • Watkins Shaw: 'Sir Frederick Ouseley and his collection’, ibid., pp. 45-47.
  • Catalogue of the highly important Toulouse-Philidor collection of manuscript and printed music, and other valuable manuscripts and printed books, the property of St Michael's College, Tenbury Wells (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., 1978).


Music manuscripts from the Library of St Michael's College, Tenbury Wells
Edmund H. Fellowes
1934, EAD version 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom