The following list is a first attempt to catalogue and describe systematically the British Museum's extensive holdings of early opera librettos and related plays. The great importance of these unpretentious booklets as supplementary and, more often than not, even primary sources for the history and bibliography of dramatic music, besides or instead of the scores, was already clearly recognized in the eighteenth century by Dr. Burney and other scholars. But it is only since 1914, the year in which O. G. T. Sonneck's Library of Congress Catalogue of opera librettos printed before 1800 appeared, that their documentary value could to any greater extent be put to general use in international musicological research. A similar bibliography of the British Museum librettos, while naturally duplicating many Washington entries, would produce a great number of additional tides, not a few of them otherwise unrecorded; it would provide the musical scholar with the key to a collection unequalled elsewhere in Europe, which owing to the peculiar nature of the material is not easily accessible by means of the General Catalogue.
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