Handwritten music manuscripts by common Americans contain primary and direct evidence of their musical preferences during a particular time and in a particular place. To see, play from, or study one of these old manuscripts brings us as close to that person’s musical life as history allows. Laborious inscriptions of a tune, hymn, or song – made by musicians of the music they played, loved, or wanted to learn – are precious and unique windows into music-making, acknowledging that this music mattered to them and, thus, matters to us!


"American Vernacular Music Manuscripts, ca. 1730-1910: Digital Collections from the American Antiquarian Society and the Center for Popular Music" has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Web resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Additional support has been provided by the American Antiquarian Society, the Center for Popular Music, and Middle Tennessee State University.

Some of these resources may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes. Such materials should be seen in the context of the time period and as a reflection of contemporaneous attitudes. These items are presented here as part of the historical record and do not represent the views of the Center for Popular Music, the American Antiquarian Society, Middle Tennessee State University, or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Search the collection using simple keywords or the advanced search.

You may add selected records to a list, then email, save or print your selections.

Links connect you to scanned images of music manuscripts stored at the Internet Archive. From there you may flip through a manuscript forwards and backwards, download a page, or return to your search.

We welcome your feedback at popular.music@mtsu.edu !

Search Tips

  • Search terms are automatically joined by 'and'
    (e.g. quadrilles waltzes finds quadrilles and waltzes)
  • Truncation is automatic
    (e.g. waltz finds waltz, waltzes, waltzing, etc.)
  • Use / for OR
    (e.g. vocal / instrumental)
  • Use ! for NOT
    (e.g. vocal ! instrumental)
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    (e.g. "holographic notation")
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    (e.g. <= 1850 finds dates earlier than 1850 inclusive)
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More help is available.