Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO): British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture

Wildfoot, the wanderer of Wicklow Wildfoot, the wanderer of wicklow. N.p.: Edwin J. Brett, 1875. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
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Primary Sources
More than 1 million
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Explore British plays, music, and literature in the nineteenth century.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online: British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture features a wide range of primary sources related to the arts in the Victorian era, from playbills and scripts to operas and complete scores. These rare documents, many of them never before available, were sourced from the British Library and other renowned institutions, and curated by experts in British arts history. Covering approximately 1733 to 1968, this is without equal as a resource for nineteenth-century scholars.

Interest in the arts became big business in the Victorian era, as a burgeoning middle class became patrons. This archive includes thousands of invaluable primary sources—including original, signed works—that explore Victorian popular culture, bloods and penny dreadfuls, music, the history of the English stage, and more.

Collections include:

  • Archives of the Royal Literary Fund
  • Archives of the Royal Philharmonic Society
  • Crystal Palace Saturday Concerts
  • Crystal Palace Triennial Handel Festival
  • Drury Lane Theatre Archive
  • J.W. Davison Papers
  • King's Theatre, Haymarket Archive
  • Konzert-Programm-Austausch
  • Lord Chamberlain's Plays
  • Royal Albert Hall Archives
  • Sir George Smart Papers
  • St. James Hall Monday/Saturday Popular Concerts
  • Wandering Minstrels
  • And many more

Nineteenth Century Collections Online is the most ambitious electronic scholarly archive of its kind, providing full-text, fully searchable content from a wide range of primary sources. Selected with the guidance of an international team of expert advisors, these primary sources are invaluable for a wide range of academic disciplines and areas of study, providing never before possible research opportunities for one of the most studied historical periods.

This unparalleled collection provides a detailed look at the state of the British art world. It contains not only manuscripts and compositions, but also documents such as personal letters, annotated programs, meeting minutes, and financial records, offering scholars an unmatched glimpse into the inner workings of the arts world and life in Victorian Britain.

British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture is available on Gale’s cutting-edge research platform. This state-of-the-art platform was developed using our flexible Agile approach, incorporating user testing and feedback throughout the process to ensure that we are providing the features that scholars require—such as detailed subject indexing and metadata, textual analysis tools, personalized user accounts, and more—for research in the digital age. These rare documents, many of them never before available, were sourced from the British Library and other renowned institutions, and curated by experts in British arts history.

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Subjects Covered
  • English Language and Literature Studies
Term Frequency

Researchers can now easily see the frequency of search terms within sets of content to begin identifying central themes and assessing how individuals, events, and ideas interacted and developed over time.

Term Clusters

By grouping commonly occurring themes, this tool reveals hidden connections to search terms — helping scholars shape their research and integrate diverse content with relevant information.


Integrate content from complementary primary source products in one intuitive environment to enable users to make never-before-possible research connections.

Reviews & Testimonials

“With its outstanding content and effective search devices, this is an excellent research tool for all library users interested in the subject areas it encompasses. SUMMING UP: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.”

B.P. Tolppanen, Eastern Illinois University

“The British Library is delighted to be partnering with Gale Cengage Learning to provide access to some of our rare and unique holdings from the 19th Century via the innovative Nineteenth Century Collections Online platform. NCCO's options for search and navigation through rich content from many libraries and archives opens up some of our vast collections in ways never possible before.”

Simon Bell, head of strategic partnerships and licensing, the British Library

“The wealth of rare, hard-to-find works available in NCCO will be of great interest to researchers in a variety of disciplines, while the unique 'Term Clusters' feature will delight users. For academic and larger public libraries.”

Booklist, November 2012

“The ranges of sources of all this material boggled my mind. Yes, some of it is from mainstream publications, but so much of it was from rare, hard-to-find sources that I gained an appreciation for the time and effort it's taken to assemble these vast digitized collections.”

Library Journal

“I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring the material in the first two archives – British Politics and Society and European Literature, 1790-1840: The Corvey Collection. It really is most impressive – very easy to navigate, extraordinarily good definition of hand-written archival material, and including some pretty obscure – and hence invaluable – finds amongst what has been loaded on the two archives. Nineteenth Century Collections Online is clearly destined to become a gold star resource for economic and social historians.”

Dr. Brian Robson, director, Centre for Urban Policy Studies (CUPS), University of Manchester

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