Edison Sheet Music Collection

The Edison Sheet Music Collection features pieces used by the Edison Phonograph Company in selecting music to record. The collection was gathered at the behest of Thomas Edison in the early 1900s, and consists of approximately 135,850 pieces that comprehensively document the published sheet music available in America before 1920. It is thought to be among the largest collections of 19th century American music in existence. 

Publishers from across the country are represented, as well as both vocal and instrumental music of all types. The topics covered in the vocal works mirror the popular topics of every decade of American life in the 19th century, from politics and war to home life and fashion trends. 

There is also a small archive associated with the collection, including some 900 letters from homespun composers offering their works for recording and about 2,100 answers to a musical preference survey conducted among people who owned Edison Phonograph players in 1921.

Nearly 40,000 pieces from the Edison Sheet Music Collection, including all American publications from 1800 through 1869, are cataloged and appear in Library Search. They have been digitized and can also be searched or browsed as a collection in HathiTrust

We are committed to making the remainder of the collection available for scholarship over the next decade.

Partial cover of the sheet music for an arrangement of The star spangled banner.


Jason Imbesi

Librarian for Music, Theatre and Dance



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