Research resources

Finding recordings is not always easy! We assembled this directory in order to help with your research. If you, by any chance, know of a research source or a private collector who would be happy to share their collection – please let us know.

In the list below, click on the name of each resource to access a description (what it contains, what its strengths are, what are the access conditions) and the link. Or scroll down to find the descriptions of these resources one after the other.

We are grateful to Tigerlily Bloggs for her help in compliling these resources.

A. Freely available digitizations

  1. Biblioteca Digital Hispánica
  2. British Library Sounds
  3. CHARM Record Catalogues
  4. Colección de cilindros fonográficos Imprenta Pérez
  5. Colección de lousas (Consello da Cultura Galega)
  6. Cyberbee Edison Cylinders
  7. Discografia brasileira
  8. Discography of American Historical Recordings
  9. Edison Museum
  10. Europeana Sounds
  11. Fons de Cilindres Sonors (Biblioteca de Catalunya)
  12. Gallica
  13. The Internet Archive
  14. Irving S. Gilmore Music Library (Yale University)
  15. Istituto Centrale per i Beni Sonori e Audiovisivi (ICBSA)
  16. Library of Congress
  17. Memoria de Madrid
  18. National Diet Library Historical Recordings Collection
  19. Phonobase
  20. SLUB Mediathek
  21. Stanford Piano Roll Archive (SUPRA)
  22. The Pianola Institute
  23. Teatro Musical Español (Fundación Juan March)
  24. UCSB Cylinder and Audio Archive

B. Digitizations available for a fee

  1. NFSA, National Film & Sound Archive (Australia)

C. Discographies, databases and other resources (not featuring digitizations)

  1. Andrew Hallifax’s Pianists database
  2. Julian Dyer’s Piano Rolls
  3. Kelly Online Database
  4. London Symphony Orchestra’s Discography

D. PhD theses/dissertations

While books and journal articles are relatively easy to track down, the same isn’t always true of PhD theses and dissertations. If you’ve written a theses or dissertation on historical recordings, please let us know and we’ll be happy to include it.

N.B. British theses are availablle through the British Library’s service Ethos, which requires registration but is free for all users. If you request a thesis which has been digitized previously, you will be able to download it instantly. If the thesis has not been digitized, you will need to wait for the BL to do so, which can take up to several weeks.

  1. Cihat Askin, Early recorded violinists (City University of London, 1996) (link)
  2. Yuanpu Chiao, The changing style of playing Rachmaninoff’s piano music (King’s College London, 2012) (link)
  3. Jung Yoon Cho, Re-interpreting Brahms’ violin sonatas : understanding the composer’s expectations (University of Leeds, 2017) (link)
  4. Edward William Cross, Musical timing in the Adagio from Brahms’ Violin Concerto, Op. 77 : an empirical study of rubato in recorded performances dating from 1927-1973 (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 2014) (link)
  5. Inja Davidovic (Stanovic), Chopin in Great Britain, 1830 to 1930 : reception, performance, recordings (University of Sheffield, 2016) (link)
  6. Barbara Gentili, The invention of the ‘modern’ voice: changing aesthetics of vocal registration in Italian opera singing 1870-1925 (Royal College of Music, London, 2019) (link)
  7. George Kennaway, Cello techniques and performing practices in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (University of Leeds, 2009) (link)
  8. Neal Peres da Costa, Performing practices in late-nineteenth-century piano playing (University of Leeds, 2001) (link)
  9. Rebecca Plack, The substance of style: how singing creates sound in Lieder recordings, 1902-1939 (Cornell University, 2008) (link)
  10. Sarah Potter, Changing vocal style and technique in Britain during the long nineteenth century (University of Leeds, 2014) (link)
  11. Miaoyin Qu, Piano playing in the German tradition, 1840-1900 : rediscovering the un-notated conventions of performance (University of Leeds, 2015) (link)
  12. Vasileios Rakitzis, Alfred Cortot’s response to the music for solo piano of Franz Schubert : a study in performance practice (City University London, 2015) (link)
  13. Anna Scott, Romanticizing Brahms: Early Recordings and the [De]Construction of Brahmsian Identity (Leiden University, 2014) (link)
  14. Kate Bennett Wadsworth, ‘Precisely marked in the tradition of the composer’ : the performing editions of Friedrich Grützmacher (University of Leeds, 2017) (link)
  15. Tom Western, National phonography : field recording and sound archiving in Postwar Britain (University of Edinburgh, 2016) (link)
  16. Emily Worthington, The modernisation of wind playing in London orchestras, 1909-1939 : a study of playing style in early orchestral recordings (University of York, 2013) (link)

Biblioteca Digital Hispánica (link)

Created in 2008, the Hispanic Digital Library is the digital library of the Biblioteca Nacional de España and provides free of charge access to thousands of digitized documents, offering a big variety of mediums from across the ages (some recordings might only be accessible at the Biblioteca’s site in Madrid).

The collection holds an expansive range of material from engravings, architecture drawings to gastronomy and information about wars of independence. This includes sound playlists, wax cylinders, perforated discs, and pianola rolls.The recording states: Title, author, date, edition, no. publication, type, subject, physical descriptions, call number, PID, description as well as option to select, URL link, twitter, facebook, comment and rate out of 5 stars. The song page automatically streaming the recording playback, downloaded is not always allowed. Some dates are estimations made clear by use of question mark.

Highlights include more than 400 wax cylinders made in Spain around the year 1900, perforated discs incl. pianola rolls, and more than 20,000 shellac discs (often made in Spain or featuring Spanish repertoire/performers, but not only). It also features spoken word recordings made by the Centro de Estudios Históricos in the first half of the 20th century.

British Library Sounds (link)

Classical music holdings include a variety of recordings by canonic composers (Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven) made before 1957, with rarities including five cylinders recorded privately by violinist August Wilhelmj. A variety of spoken word and oral history recordings are featured too. Some recordings might be available only in certain countries.

CHARM Record Catalogues (link)

AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) holds a substantial collection of historic and modern record catalogues from UK and international labels. These are listed in label order, and are available for consultation at King’s College London. For further contact details of record companies and distributors, see the listings by clicking here. The lists include the following information (where known): title, date, pagination and binding.

Colección de cilindros fonográficos Imprenta Pérez (link)

Hosted by the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Huesca (Aragón, Spain). Ca. 200 Pathé cylinders acquired by Leandro Pérez in the early 20th century. Italian and French opera, some zarzuela and wind band music.

Colección de lousas (Consello da Cultura Galega) (link)

More than 100 shellac discs from the early decades of the 20th century, containing a range of Galician and related music (traditional music, Galician choirs, zarzuela numbers sung by Galician singers, etc.)

Cyberbee Edison Cylinders (link)

This website is mainly a teaching aid, providing an historical overview of Edison cylinders, a free iBook and a listening guide. Various samples of Edison’s cylinders can be heard free of charge, including children’s stories, Christmas music, comic songs, and instrumental music, among others.

Discografia brasileira (link)

Over 60,000 recordings compiled and digitized by the Instituto Moreira Salles, containing recordings from as early as 1902. The primary focus is on Brazilian folk/popular music, but not only.

Discography of American Historical Recordings (link)

A database of over 280,000 master recordings made by American record companies during the 78rpm era. It includes audio streaming of more than 30,000 recordings available free-of-charge. The DAHR is part of the American Discography Project (ADP) – an initiative of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Packard Humanities Institute, edited by a team of researchers based at the UC Santa Barbara Library.

Edison Museum (link)

A selection of Edison recordings from the Thomas Edison National Historical Park archive are available in MP3 format, arranged by genre. The content of the recordings is mostly music, covering many different genres popular in the United States during Edison’s era. Spoken word recordings include vaudeville comedy sketches, documentary speeches, educational lessons, and motion picture soundtracks. Experimental recordings document research carried out at the Edison Laboratory to develop recorded sound technology.

Europeana Sounds (link)

Europeana aggregates a number of digital collections from around Europe – some of these are listed separately on this page (CHARM, Gallica), but the advantage of Europeana is that it allows searching across collections. Please note that the link above includes all of Europeana’s sound files, without discriminating between early and more modern recordings; searching by date doesn’t seem to be an option.

Fons de Cilindres Sonors (Biblioteca de Catalunya) (link)

A collection of more than 300 home recordings, made on wax cylinder by Barcelona industrialist Ruperto Regordosa in the late 19th and early 20th century. Mostly opera, zarzuela and some flamenco; limited instrumental music, but some rarities like an improvisation by Isaac Albéniz.

Gallica (link)

Gallica was created by Bibliothéque National de France and partner institutions 1997. It offers books, manuscripts, images, sheet, music, videos and an expansive list of sound recordings. 

Each item’s record indicates the title, the author, the publisher, publication date, subject, type, language, format, description, rights, identify, source, set notice, relationship (where it is placed in the bnf catalogue), artwork notice, provenance and the date of online availability. Some are more detailed than others. A helpful bar on the right of the page gives you an option to discover related subjects, digital sections and authors. 

Many of Gallica’s sound recording holdings are organized in playlists (often by composer). Highlights include: Musique et Parole du Japon (recorded by Léon Azoulay during the Universal Echibition in Paris in 1900), Fonotipia (some 500 recordings), several Archives of the Word (incl. phonographic missions in Rumania and other Eastern European territories), Russian and Caucasian recordings by Pathé, Arabic, Oriental and Indian music, testimonies and music from the First World War, Christmas songs and music, recordings of La Marsellaise, etc.

The Internet Archive (link)

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organisation building a freely accessible digital library of Internet sites. They provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars and the general public. Anyone with a free account can upload media to the Internet Archive – including digitizations of early recordings!

By allowing anyone to upload, the Archive has accumulated over 13,000,000 results when ‘audio’ is clicked on. This website requires a lot of navigating, but the boxes on the left-hand side of the page allow the user to filter: media type, year, topics & subjects, collection, creator and language. Through ITEMS one can gage the timeline of when the recordings were made available online. Some of the items are included in collections (i.e. a set of items uploaded by the same institution or user, usually with a common theme).

The collections listed below all contain early recordings; click on the title to access the main page of the collection within the Internet Archive directly. playlists. The number stated is the number of recordings from the collection that fit into the time frame of early recordings

  1. 78 RPMS AND CYLINDER RECORDINGS [m.a.o. 2005]

Total early recordings: 119, 418. Most of the recordings are in English. Popular music, fox-trot a, jazz, dance and more.

90,418. Through the Great 78 Project, the Internet Archive has begun to digitize the 18rpm discs for preservation, research, and discovery with the help of George Blood, L.P.

17,349.  Recordings by wax cylinders and 78 rpms. Spans many genres, including classical, pop jazz and operas.

12, 249. Great Jazz and Swig Dance Orchestras.

8,157. Digitised by Goerge Blood, LP, donated from Daniel McNeil to the Archive of Contemporary Music.

7,009. Donated from the Batavia Public Library Thorpe Collection to the Archive of Contemporary Music and digitized by George Blood, LP.

6,538. Not much information given save a link to donation item from Joe Terino.

6,136. 78rpm collection made by Joseph Almeida. Mostly popular music (band dance and vocal), with a focus on early electrical recordings 1925 – 1935, as well as recordings dating back to 1901.

5,016. Link to donation item.

  1. SPARK MUSEUM OF ELECTRICAL INVENTION 78RPM COLLECTION [m.a.o. 2020]

4,798. Link to donation item. 

  1. ARCHIVE OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC [m.a.o. 2009]

4,730. Link to The ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) website.

  1. UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 78RPM COLLECTION [m.a.o. 2019]

4,576. Broad selection of music: classical recordings, jazz, dance, popular music, chamber music, movie soundtracks, recordings issues in Czechoslovakia and other eastern European countries prior to World War II.

  1. 78RPM OPERA COLLECTION [m.a.o. 2019]

4,507. Great performances form the early 20th century in the Golden Age of Opera recorded on 78rpm records.

  1. SAUL NOWITZ [m.a.o. 2019]

4,032. Donations of 78 rpm records from Saul Nowitz via arcmusic and The Sidney E. Frank Foundation. Backstory of Saul Nowitz and his love music.

  1. KURT NAUCK 78RPM COLLECTION [m.a.o. 2019]

3,583. Link to donation item. 

  1. LEIF DRUEDAHL COLLECTION [m.a.o. 2019]

3,262. Collected primarily in Denmark and throughout Scandinavia. Danish, German, and English popular and classical music.

  1. JEFFERY BARENT DONATION OF 78S [m.a.o. 2018]

3,076. Link to donation item.

  1. STIRES 78 RPM RECORD COLLECTION [m.a.o. 2019]

2,893. Link to donation item.

  1. COMMUNITY AUDIO [m.a.o. 2005]

2,301. A collection that members of the website are invited to view or upload audio to. All recordings here were contributed by Archive users and community members. Links to browse by style blues, country, electronic, experimental, hiphop, indie, jazz, rock and spoken word.

2,298. Collections that the general public may upload into (with an Internet Archive account). It also includes a variety of materials such texts, movies, images and software.

2,056. CHARM’s aim was to promote the musicological study of recordings. Partnership of Royal Holloway, University of London with King/s College, London. Mostly classical pieces.

1,991. Collection of a private German record collector, with interests mainly in Opera and Lied from 1900 to 1945.

1,483. KUSF is the University of San Francisco’s radio station in San Franciscso. This was a non-commercial student-run station.

1,419. Link to donation item.

1,395. 

1,358. A collection of digitized records from the 78’er Klubbe, an informal group of people, in Denmark. Purely nostalgia and a little music cultural history.

1,334. Documentary sound recordings of rural Kentucky music, lore and folk music made for the Library of Congress by John and Alan Lomax. This online effort seeks to realise Lomax’s vision of meaning and accessibility for the present day.

1,327. Predominantly popular music recorded on 78rpm.

1,164. Link to donation item. Mostly popular music and dance music.

1,129. Collection of sounds, music and speech derived from the efforts of volunteers to make information as widely available as possible.

1,066. Classical, jazz and popular music. Clark’s goal was to find the best performances and to preserve them for future listeners.

1,049. Archive of uploaded AUDOCITE.NET material. Almost all in French.

725. Link to donation item. Popular music.

566. Jazz and Blues.

558. Vast majority pressed in Latin America or the Caribbean. Many hand decorated covers.

551. Mostly popular music.

540. Collection of popular music and operettas.

520. Popular music, dance and instrumental in a range of languages.

513. Link to image of Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven. Stagno translates from Italian to ‘tin’.

421. Collection includes material contributed from across the United States. It names all the individual contributors.

393. Slovenian music. Detailed historical backstory from Charles F. Debevec himself. 

362. State Library initiative to help California’s public libraries. They also offer free access and preservation services for existing digital collections. Americana.

355. Link to donation item. English, Russian and Hawaiian. Predominantly popular music.

337. History museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. Mostly in Spanish.

330. Link to donation item. Popular Music and Fox-Trot as well as Jazz and Film.

318. Link to donation item. Popular music, instrumental, jazz, swing and blues. 

297. Link to donation item. Popular music, instrumental, acoustic and sacred.

291. Link to donation item. Popular music, fox-trot, comedy and theatre.

262. Broad range of early jazz, classical and popular music. Donated by The Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University. 

230. Link to donation item. Popular music, instrumental, jazz, folk and dance.

178. By Norman Bruderhofer, a phonograph collector and audio preservationist from Germany. 1920s-1930s.

167. First person narrative of David’s love for jazz and how he came about collecting it all. Put collection into a kind of compendium form that would attract his children to the music that had been of such significance in his life.

145. Collection originally belonged to Ann’s grandparents, Lee and Helen Peterson of Coquille Oregon. Collection contains several records of cowboy songs, hobo songs and early Hawai’ian music, as well as Vaudeville and Foxtrot music.

126. Experimental collection of music that is not yet available for public release.

123. Comprised mostly of Square Dance calling and music and also couples dancing music.

118. Discs collected in Argentina beginning in the mid-1930s. Tango music, boleros, sambas, mambo and other dance music. Donated by D’Anna Alexander, Michael and Daniel Alexander, and Débora Simcovich.

103. Opera. Created by an archivist of the website.

99. Link to donation item. Popular music, dance, ‘ethnic’, instrumental, folk and more.

93. Songs about steamboats, the great rivers, and towns and states along the rivers by Hoyle Osborne. This collection complements his songbook “Steamboats and Rivers”.

91. Link to donation item. Popular music, dance, folk instrumental and jazz.

90. Country, cowboy, western swing, and hillbilly 78s.

79. Collection of books and text derived from the efforts of volunteers to make information as widely available as possible. This collection attempts to add a layer of classification for easier navigation. Predominantly in English.

75. Contributions to this collection have been made by archivists of the website. Many in Italian, as well as Polish, English and German.

74. Link to donation item. Mostly in English with a few in Spanish.

68. Podcast collections all created from user contributions to the Open Source Audio collection. Mostly in English but also many in Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Japanese and more.

 67. Great archival collection of New England folksong, folklore, and balladry, the Flanders Ballad Collection was the lifework of Helen Hartness Flanders. From Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives.

66. Popular music, folk, instrumental, choral, gypsy, comedy and more.

59. Collections are broad in scope and cover a variety of media and realia. Special Collections at the library serve as a research laboratory for both the Middlebury community and independent scholars. Ballads, folksongs, field recordings, ethnography.

58. Link to donation item. Popular music, instrumental, orchestral, jazz and a couple of film music.

51. 78rpm recordings of Robert Godridge.

49. Popular music, fox-trot, opera.

44. Popular music, fox-trot, theatre.

41. Classical and vocal 78rpm records.

38. Blues and Jazz recordings from Stephen Klein of Larry A. Klein’s collection

32. Link to donation item and website archive.org Recycled Records collection. Popular Music, Instrumental, children, jazz and latin.

29. Old Time Radio, comedy, drama, crime recordings.

20. Donation of classical and dance music, accompanied by pictures of Mr Ulrich. Music from the classical, baroque, romantic eras as well as modern and contemporary.

The rest of the collections available are simply ‘favourites’ of members of the website and are not included in the listings here. 

Irving S. Gilmore Music Library (Yale University) (link)

One of the biggest music collections in the United States, it supports musical performance and scholarship at Yale University, and beyond. Some of the recordings require viewers to request access in order to listen to it. They must first login or join Aviary (for free) to then submit their request.

HIghlights of the collection (organized in playlists) include the Charles Ives Rare and Non-Commercial Sound Recordings, and the Berliner Gramophone Collection. Also included are recordings of interviews in the mid-late 20th century about Oral History of American Music, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Goddard Lierbson, Paul Hindemith, and Steinway & Sons.

Many of these collections are recordings of interviews in the mid-late 20th century about Oral History of American Music, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Goddard Lierbson, Paul Hindemith, and Steinway & Sons.

Istituto Centrale per i Beni Sonori e Audiovisivi (ICSBA) (link)

Aggregator of several Italian research libraries. The OPAC catalogue is available in both Italian and English. The advanced search allows to select “Availability in digital format”, to listen to tracks follow the link to the “Digital copy” (in “Details”). 

Library of Congress (link)

29,440 sound recordings (not all historical) are available online. The historical recordings are part of 59 collections, including the Recorded Sound Research Centre, National Jukebox, American Folklife Centre, Emile Berliner collection, amongst others. Extremely rich and varied holdings include more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925, classical music, folklore and spoken word. 

Memoria de Madrid (link)

A collection of about 600 78rpms from the collections of the local authority of Madrid. Strong in Spanish and Latin American repertoires, but also a range of opera, orchestral music, etc.

National Diet Library Historical Recordings Collection (link)

The National Diet Library holds about 50,000 recordings on 78rpm produced and released in Japan. Some of the recordings are available from listening from anywhere, while the majority is only accessible on site at the NDL/Rekon partner libraries.

Phonobase (link

A project by collector, engineer and historian Henri Chamoux, it contains some 12,000 digitized cylinders and discs, mostly from the French Belle Époque. Simple but functional interface.

SLUB Mediathek (link)

A project by the Sächsischen Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB), featuring a wide range of audio and audio-visual recordings (not all of them music and not all of them beloging to the earlier years of recording technologies). In the realm of historical sound recordings, collections include “Archiv der Stimmen” (more than 18,000 classical vocal recordings), the Marcella Sembrich, Günther Ramin and Anton Günther collections, historical recordings of the Dresdner Philharmonia and more than 300 early recordings of Richard Strauss’s music.

Stanford Roll Piano Archive SUPRA (link)

A collection of ca. 500 pianola rolls from the Stanford University archives. The files and metadata can be downloaded in several formats.

The Pianola Institute (link)

Besides an extensive historical overview and technical explanations, this website holds a small number of reproducing piano roll transfers. The Institute runs their own Journal, and has published three CDs of pianola music with (hopefully) more to follow. 

Teatro Musical Español (Fundación Juan March) (link)

A project dedicated to Spanish musical theatre (from Italian opera and Spanish zarzuela in the late 18th century, to contemporary opera). Next to a number of other primary sources, the collection includes a few historical recordings (mostly gramophone discs) of zarzuela.

UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive (link)

Assisted by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Grammy Foundation and donors, the UCSB Library has created a digital collection of over 10,000 cylinder recordings. The website includes more than 650 Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings that were selected to be part of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2015. The library has several major collections of cylinders, which were transferred using a French-made Archeophone. The home page of UCSB offers links to News, Playlists, Cylinder History and a ‘Did You Know’ fact about cylinder recordings which updates every time you refresh the page. The centre piece is a ‘Cylinder of the day’ which tells you the name of the song and the performer, giving you the option to download and share on twitter or facebook. The download button does not always work.

This website has an expansive range of playlists that are added on a regular basis, often curated by collectors or experts of early recordings. Highlights include: Mexican Cylinders, ‘Early Hillbilly & Old Time Music’, Tahitian Field Recordings, accordion music, songs of World War I, American Vaudeville, German comic cylinders, early African-American performers

NFSA, National Film & Sound Archive – Australia (link)

This Archive, established in 1984, is Australia’s ‘living’ archive, holding more than 3 million items in their collection. The NFSA collects, preserves and shares Australia’s audio-visual heritage. In terms of audio, the collection inclues compact discs, records, audio tapes, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings as well as vintage equipment.Initially very modern, after searching through the search bar, the style of the website becomes a lot more old fashioned.

While a majority of it comes from Australia and U.S.A, there are also recordings from UK, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada and France. It encompasses a huge range of genres notably Indigenous recordings which is unlike most websites. Popular music, classical, jazz and country music are the most prevalent genres.

Most of the items in the National Collection are protected by copyright. In order to listen to the recordings, members must go through the process of requesting access and pay a fee.

Andrew Hallifax’s Pianists database (link)

A comprehensive database focusing on pianists who recorded the same pieces both acoustically and electrically.

Julian Dyer’s piano rolls (link)

Julian Dyer sells newly manufactured piano rolls and is a collector himself. He has also been kind enough to share with us his lists of Duo-Art, Welte and Hupfeld rolls.

Kelly Online Database (link)

A searchable database containing details of well over 433,000 recordings made in the period beginning in 1898 and ending in the mid-1950’s, by the Gramophone Company as well as its successors. The information was initially compiled by Dr Alan Kelly.

London Symphony Orchestra’s discography (link)

A discography of the LSO, compiled by discographer Philip Stuart. The discography lists the recordings physically held in LSO’s archives, and indeed those the orchestra have not been able to locate.