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History of Boosey & Hawkes

Boosey & Hawkes originated from the 1930 merger between two great family businesses, Boosey & Company founded in the 1760s, and Hawkes & Son founded in 1865. Both were involved in music publishing and the manufacture of musical instruments. From 1930 the merged company continued this twin business activity for many decades until 2003 when the instrument division was sold, leaving Boosey & Hawkes focusing solely on music publishing.

For a lively and detailed history of the company we recommend you read Boosey & Hawkes: The publishing story by Helen Wallace.

Also view our short Timeline of the company's history.


Boosey & Company's history goes back 250 years to the 1760s when John Boosey founded a music lending library in London. By pioneering inexpensive editions of the classics, the company expanded rapidly, acquiring the rights to works by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi.

In the 1850s the company branched out into making brass and wind instruments. 1867 saw the launch of the renowned Boosey Ballad Concerts, including such favourites as The Lost Chord by Sir Arthur Sullivan, Danny Boy and Abide with Me. This success continued with the publication of works by Elgar and Vaughan Williams. In 1892 Boosey & Company established an office in New York, a business still flourishing today as Boosey & Hawkes Inc.

Hawkes & Son was founded in 1865 by William Henry Hawkes. The company followed a rival course to Boosey & Company, concentrating on band and orchestral music publishing, but also diversifying into the manufacture of instruments, fittings and reeds. Over the next 60 years, the company continued to develop its publishing activities.

20th Century Classics

Following the 1930 merger, the new company rapidly became a significant force on the international publishing scene. By this time Ralph Hawkes had acquired the agencies of Belaieff, Édition Russe de Musique, Gutheil and Universal Edition. Through these connections, prior to the Second World War, he became the publisher of Bartók, Kodály and Delius, as well as signing the then unknown Benjamin Britten in 1935 and Stravinsky in 1947.

Through his contacts, the London company signed a contract with Richard Strauss in 1943 for all his operatic works (outside Germany and Italy) and subsequently for all his late works. Hawkes' final coup was to buy Serge Koussevitzky's Édition Russe and Gutheil catalogues in 1947, thus securing many of the most important copyrights of the century, including Stravinsky's ballets The Rite of Spring and Petrushka, Prokofieff's Classical Symphony, Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto and Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

As its publishing portfolio grew, Boosey & Hawkes added to its London and New York offices further international offices including an Australian company in 1934 (closed in 2004) and another in Germany in 1949. In addition to the three current affiliates in London, New York and Berlin there are now Boosey & Hawkes agents in many other countries.

Boosey & Hawkes in New York continued to develop, building an American catalogue upon the signing of Copland in 1938 and contracts with composers in wartime exile including Bartók and Martinu. New American signings in the post-war decades included such figures as Argento, Floyd, Ginastera and Rorem, and in the 1980s agreements were reached with Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, Steve Reich and John Adams.

Further expansion

In 1996, Boosey & Hawkes acquired the distinguished German publishing house, Bote & Bock. A family-owned business which was founded in Berlin in 1838, Bote & Bock has a fine catalogue of works by renowned figures such as Richard Strauss, Pietro Mascagni, Max Reger, Boris Blacher, Gottfried von Einem and Isang Yun. Bote & Bock's historical association with the music of Offenbach prompted the launch of the Offenbach Edition Keck, an authoritative new edition of Offenbach's works edited by Jean-Christophe Keck, which is now being employed in opera houses around the world and has attracted numerous prizes for its publishing excellence.

The next important step in the creation of a significant German publishing centre was the acquisition in 2002 of the Anton J. Benjamin catalogue with its Simrock editions of Brahms and Dvorák. In 2004 Tempo (Prague) was added with its range of Czech music, including the children’s opera Brundibár, and the company has continued to publish music by exiled or supressed composers of the 20th century.

The 2005 purchase of the Jaune Citron catalogue brought works of Astor Piazzolla into the fold.

Into the 21st Century

By the turn of the new millennium, Boosey & Hawkes had built an illustrious international roster that encompassed iconic composers of the modern era, including Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter and Peter Maxwell Davies, and a wide range of world-leading figures including John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Unsuk Chin, Brett Dean, Detlev Glanert, Osvaldo Golijov, Karl Jenkins, Elena Kats-Chernin, Magnus Lindberg, James MacMillan, Olga Neuwirth, Steve Reich and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Further signings have continued to grow the roster in range and diversity, including Michel van der Aa, Ondrej Adámek, Courtney Bryan, Anna Clyne, Bernd Richard Deutsch, David T. Little, Gabriela Ortiz, Aziza Sadikova, Donghoon Shin, Mark Simpson and Ana Sokolović.

In 2017 Boosey & Hawkes joined Concord – the fast-growing independent recorded music and publishing company – as the group’s first classical music business. In a further embrace of classical publishing, Concord acquired Hamburg-based Sikorski Music Publishing in 2019, with its many Russian and Soviet-era copyrights including Shostakovich, Prokofieff, Khachaturian, Kabalevsky, Schnittke, Kancheli, Weinberg and Shchedrin and its ongoing relationships with such major contemporary composers as Lera Auerbach, Sofia Gubaidulina, Marius Felix Lange, Marko Nikodijevic and Peter Ruzicka. As sister companies within Concord, Boosey & Hawkes and Sikorski are now fully integrated and focussed on working optimally on behalf of our composers.

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