Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Hall, James S.
James S. Hall Collection of George Frideric Handel
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1714-1968 (mostly 1946-1968)
12 boxes and 29 items
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-12
English German


Consists (primarily) of manuscripts of works by Handel and his contemporaries but also of correspondence and subject files gathered by James S. Hall, the English surgeon who collected most of the manuscripts.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The James S. Hall Collection of George Frideric Handel includes twenty-nine volumes of musical manuscripts of Handel by various 18th-century copyists, mainly anonymous but some identified, most of them collected by James S. Hall, a surgeon by profession and a Handel scholar and collector by avocation. Included are manuscripts of Belshazzar (circa 1744), the nearest in relation to Handel since it is entirely in the hand of John Christopher Smith, Sr., Handel's chief copyist and amanuensis; Alexander Balus (circa 1748) by the copyist "S5", so called by scholar Jens Peter Larson; Joseph, also written by S5; Israel in Egypt (circa 1760) in various hands; Odes for St. Cecilia's Day (1739) and Queen Anne's Birthday (1714), one volume in the hand of several copyists; Te Deum (before 1780), in unidentified hand; the Ayelsford Collection, a set of miscellaneous manuscripts; Messiah and Coronation Anthems, part-book for a bass; a fair copy of Alexanders-Fest, oder, Die Gewalt der Musik . . . (1766-1770); and an English manuscript of the opera Berenice, in the hand of Handel's copyist S2, from the library of Charles Jennens, Handel's patron and librettist of Messiah, and annotated by him.

Other manuscripts include a volume of operatic arias (circa 1738-1743) containing music of Handel and other composers; a folio manuscript book including two Handel pieces; and a photostat of a printed version of Israel in Babylon (1765), a potpourri of Handel's works and some unidentified music. The collection also contains festival medals, portraits of Handel, and prints of city views and churches associated with the composer, as well as an original issue of the London Chronicle, an 18th-century newspaper that reported Handel's burial in Westminster Abbey, and an original watercolor by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, showing a performance of a Handel oratorio at Convent Garden before its 1808 fire. In addition, the papers of James S. Hall are comprised of correspondence, including letters by Benjamin Britten, counter-tenor Alfred Deller, harpsichordist Thurston Dart, Handel collectors Sir Newman Flower and William Charles Smith, and various other composers, performers, scholars and collectors, as well as subject files, including articles by Hall and material relating to Handel festivals and societies, especially the Deal and Walmer Handelian Society which he founded in 1946.

For a more descriptive look at the collection, see: Knapp, J. Merrill. "The Hall Handel Collection," Princeton University Library Chronicle, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1 [Autumn, 1974], pp. 3-18.


Arranged in 7 series: 1. Manuscripts of Handel's Works and Works by Contemporary Composers; 2: Correspondence of James S. Hall; 3: James S. Hall as Handel Scholar: 4. James S. Hall as Handel Collector; 5. Handel Societies and Festivals; 6. Miscellaneous Handel Material; 7. Non-Handel Material Relating to James Hall.

Collection Creator Biography:

Hall, James S.

James S. Hall (1899-1975) was a surgeon by profession but an ardent Handel scholar and collector by avocation. In addition to the Handel scores and libretti the Princeton University Library acquired Hall's correspondence with performers, composers, conductors, scholars and other collectors of his heyday, the 1950s and 60s. As the founder and manager of the Deal and Walmer Handelian Society, Hall was responsible for arranging performances of Handel's works, for public celebrations of Handel's achievements, such as the mounting of the plaque in Dublin on the hall where Messiah received its world premiere, and for representing English Handel lovers at festivals in honor of Handel's memory, especially those in the Handel town of Halle in the former East Germany. At the time of those festivals, travel to East Germany was complicated by Communist bureaucracy, the paper trail of which is preserved in the collection. Hall was also consulted during work on the Hallesche Handelausgabe, the standard edition in German of Handel's works, because of his authority as a Handel scholar. Because of these connections with Handel scholars in Germany, some of the material in the collection is in German. A Roman Catholic, Hall was interested in Handel's knowledge of Latin Church music and his use of it in his own compositions, especially during the period he was known to have spent in Italy. Hall published on this topic as well as on Handel's use of grace notes, in the context of his larger interest in the history of Handel performance.

Collection History


This collection of manuscripts is part of a larger collection containing 425 volumes of printed music from 1714 through the mid-19th century. The main portion of this collection, which was assembled by James S. Hall, was acquired by private sale in 1974 . Since 2005, the library has occasionally purchased additional manuscripts of Handel's works from other sources; the provenance of these additions is noted in the descriptions of those items.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Margaret Sherry Rich and Teresa T. Basler in 2002. New material was added to the finding aid by John Delaney in 2005, 2011, and 2013, and by Kelly Bolding in 2019.

During 2022, restrictions on Series I, Manuscripts of Handel's Works and Works by Contemporary Composers, were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

James S. Hall Collection of George Frideric Handel; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-12