Austen Family Music Books

A few years ago, the University of Southampton Library Digitisation Unit digitized the Austen Family Music books, a collection comprising of 18 music books containing 600 pieces dating back as early as the 1750s with the majority of the collection centered around Jane Austen’s lifetime.

From the about page:

This collection consists of eighteen printed and manuscript music books owned by members of the Austen family, including the writer Jane Austen, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many are binder’s volumes, compiled from separate manuscript or printed sheet music items bound together for an individual user. Others are personal manuscript albums made wholly or principally by a single copyist. Although some volumes were compiled as early as the 1750s, the majority date from Jane Austen’s lifetime (1775-1817). Austen made or used several of the books, and she was probably familiar with music collected by other family members.

The collection brings together nearly 600 pieces, mainly songs and works for keyboard or harp, by both international figures and British composers. The books present a vivid picture of domestic musical culture in England in the years around 1800, furnishing valuable insights on music making in the homes of gentry families as well as essential contextualisation for musical episodes in Austen’s fiction.

The digital collection, housed at the Internet Archive, allows you to read and flip through the books in the way they are meant to be seen including the binding. Visit UoS for more information and history of the project.