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In chronological terms the Ajuda Library’s Music Collection covers a period of seven centuries. The wealth and rarity of its contents make it one of the most valuable in Portugal, with thousands of items – 2,950 codices and 10,200 sundry documents – including manuscripts and printed items.

The musical holdings include not only personal collections and sundry items belonging to private individuals that have been donated to or purchased by the Library, but also items from the musical archive of the Royal ‘Serenins’, which constitute the world’s most complete collection of scores of operas, serenatas and Italian oratories from the second half of the 18th century. These are works that were performed in the Ajuda, Queluz, and Salvaterra Royal Theatres and the Bemposta, Necessidades, and Ajuda Patriarchate Royal Chapels.

They also encompass the King Dom Luís I’s personal collection of music, including compositions of his own and many unpublished manuscript scores that composers presented to the King.

It is also worth noting the large number of manuscript scores by Portuguese composers. Some of the most significant include works by João Domingos Bomtempo, Marcos Portugal, Luciano Xavier dos Santos, José Joaquim dos Santos, Manuel Inocêncio Liberato dos Santos, Emílio Lai, and Artur Napoleão.

The collection also contains a number of librettos which, although only comprising around 200 titles, is both varied and valuable. They include librettos from the São Carlos National Theatre, which date from the latter’s inauguration on 30 June 1793 to 1880, as well as others from the Rua dos Condes Theatre, which was the forerunner of the Condes Cinema.

Reference works:

  • Catálogo de música manuscrita / Mariana Amélia Machado dos Santos
  • Catálogo de Libretos da Biblioteca da Ajuda / Maria da Conceição Carvalho Geada
  • Flores de música da Biblioteca da Ajuda / Mariana Amélia Machado dos Santos