Music manuscripts from the library of St. Michael's College, Tenbury, Worcestershire

Scope and Content

The collection includes:

  • English and Italian madrigal part-books
  • polyphonic manuscript part-books, from c. 1600, with sacred and secular works of English and Continental composers
  • the most important source for Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
  • Adrian Batten's organbook
  • autograph manuscripts of Blow, Boyce, Burney, Wesley and other English composers
  • Handel's annotated score of Messiah used at the 1742 Dublin premire (MSS Tenbury 346-7)
  • important sources of early Italian monody
  • a copy of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony with many corrections by the composer
  • autograph manuscripts of J.C. Bach, Cimarosa and Galuppi
  • manuscript Italian operas, especially of the 18th century
  • sacred works from the 17th-19th centuries
  • autograph manuscripts of Ouseley's own compositions
  • a few autograph letters of English musicians, [ca. 1800].

Administrative / Biographical History

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

Sir Frederick Ouseley built the church of St. Michael, Tenbury, 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.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

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.


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

Edmund H. Fellowes The catalogue of manuscripts in the library of St. Michael's College, Tenbury, (Paris: Lyre-Bird Press: 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. 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 acquisition, though he bought regularly at auction sales. A few manuscripts record acquisition by gift.

Related Material

The following material was not acquired by the Bodleian Library:

  • The Toulouse-Philidor collection (MSS. 1-295, 1387-441), acquired partly by Ouseley and partly in 1934, was sold at Sotheby's in 1978; MSS. 305-7 and 849-50, 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 Bibliothque Nationale, Paris, and the Bibliothque 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 la Bibliothque Nationale', Fontes artis musicae 30 (1983), pp. 184-207, gives a useful summary of the collection and its current whereabouts.
  • Other college manuscripts, such as service lists, College registers and other papers relating to the college and the Ouseley family have been deposited by the Ouseley Trust in Hereford Cathedral Library.


For further information relating to the custodial history of the collection see: Peter Ward Jones 'The Fate of the Music Collections of St Michael's College, Tenbury', Brio, xxvii/2 (1990), pp. 48-9; Watkins Shaw: 'Sir Frederick Ouseley and his Collection', ibid., pp. 45-7; and 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).