Papers of Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875-1940)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-411
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      55 boxes, circa 100 files, assorted albums, pictures, recordings, and small library of books (22 linear metres).
  • Location
      E2001.37; Gen. 715/4, no. 38; Gen. 1971/5; Gen. 1732 Tovey

Scope and Content

The papers include a wide range of material ranging from notes and drafts of lectures to accounts and administrative material, drafts of broadcasts to photographs and diaries, and cuttings and reviews. There is also correspondence between Tovey and Weisse, Tovey and Joachim, and Tovey and Speyer. There are also other miscellaneous papers and material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Donald Francis Tovey was born at Eton on 17 July 1875. His father was an Assistant Master at Eton College. He was educated privately by the music and general teacher Miss Sophie Weisse (1851-1945) and later on studied under Sir Walter Parratt (1841-1924) and Sir C. H. Parry (1848-1918). Tovey then won a music scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, graduating with a BA, Classical honours, in 1898. As a pianist, a series of chamber music concerts followed in London, Berlin and Vienna where he played with Halle, Joachim, Hausmann, Casals, and other artists. He also composed. In 1914 he was appointed to the Reid Chair of Music at Edinburgh University in succession to Professor Niecks (1845-1924). As Professor he broadened the music curriculum by instituting classes in musical interpretation, orchestration, history and analysis, thorough-bass, score reading, and advanced counter-point and composition. Tovey also established and conducted the Reid Orchestra and organised an annual series of concerts. His musical compositions were in many forms including chamber music, symphony, grand opera and concerto, and probably the most famous was his opera The bride of Dionysus produced in Edinburgh in 1929. His literary publications include the six volumes of Essays in musical analysis (1935-1939), and A musician talks (1941). Tovey was knighted in 1935. Sir Donald Francis Tovey died on 10 July 1940.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

The Tovey Collection was transferred from the Reid Music Library in 2001, Accession no. E2001.37.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Rice, D. Talbot (comp.). The university portraits. pp.206-208. Edinburgh: The University Press, 1957. (2) Who was who 1929-1940. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1941. (3) The dictionary of national biography. The concise dictionary. Part 2. 1901-1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: some MS scores, at Indiana University, Lilly Library, NRA 16244 Busch; and, letters to Sir Granville Bantock, Worcestershire Record Office, County Hall Branch, Ref. Continuation page 1 NRA 10623 Bantock


Corporate Names