A piece of music which was used by Shakespeare in the play ‘Cymbeline’ has been unearthed in Manchester’s Henry Watson Music Library.

Only two copies of the song, entitled ‘Hark, Hark, the lark’ and scored for the lyra viol stringed instrument, are known to exist in the UK – with the other kept at the British Library.  

‘Hark, Hark’ is included in a collection of songs compiled by a mercenary soldier, Captain Tobias Hume, which was published in 1605. It is one of the many ancient books and materials cared for by Manchester’s librarians in climate-controlled vaults at Central Library.  

Librarians have learned that the importance of the piece was first discovered in 1936, when a music historian studying the Hume collection at Central Library found the song and made the connection to its use in Shakespeare’s play.  

Newspapers recorded the find, with the Manchester Evening News reporting that the song had been thought lost for more than 300 years.  

Now that ‘Hark, Hark’ has been rediscovered by Manchester librarians, it will be featured in a special treasure handling session, organised to celebrate Shakespeare Week.

The music will be on display at Central Library on Friday 20 March (12:30 – 1:30pm)

Other Shakespearean and Tudor-era treasures from Central Library’s special collections will be exhibited throughout the week, including a copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio, dating from 1632. Lunchtime handling sessions will be held daily throughout Shakespeare Week (Monday 16 – Friday 20 March).


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