Explore our comprehensive collection showcasing the rich history and iconic artifacts belonging to the figures who have shaped the world of classical music

Priaulx Rainier archive

The papers of composer Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986) are dominated by family, professional and personal letters received. They include two extensive runs of letters from artist Barbara Hepworth and composer Michael Tippett, both of whom were close friends. In addition, there are smaller runs of letters from many other figures in the arts. Apart from a series of letters written by Priaulx Rainier to her sister, Nella, in South Africa, which were brought to England when her sister came to live in London, there are no letters or copies of letters written by Rainier herself (aside from an occasional draft written for professional purposes).

All Rainier’s musical scores are housed at the University of Cape Town, with the exception of Quanta and Due canti e finale (both of which were bequeathed to the British Library) and Triptych for Oboe Solo, MS 526, in the Academy Library.

The catalogue for this collection can be found in The National Archives.

Sir Arthur Sullivan Collection

Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) studied at the Royal Academy of Music, learning piano with William Sterndale Bennett and composition with John Goss. Felix Mendelssohn, a friend of Her Majesty Queen Victoria and His Royal Highness Prince Albert, offered support and encouragement to the Academy in its earliest days, and in 1856 Sullivan became the first winner of the Mendelssohn Scholarship, which was extended for two further years, the final of which was spent in Leipzig.

Sullivan became famous in particular for his partnership with WS Gilbert. Their Savoy Operas included The Mikado, HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. Sullivan bequeathed the original autograph full scores of The Mikado and The Martyr of Antioch to the Academy. The Library also houses the Sullivan Archive, prepared by the composer’s most recent biographer, the late Arthur Jacobs, who also taught at the Academy. It contains microfilm copies of the 20 volumes of the composer’s diaries (the original copies are held at Yale University), conference papers, a personalia database and other material.

Held within our collections are photographs, prints, postcards, Sullivan’s cottage piano and personal items such as medals, smoking and writing accessories. There are also some digitised pages from The Mikado.