fonds VLIF - Vivian Liff Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Vivian Liff Archive


  • 1949-2002 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.02 cubic metres

1 box

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Vivian Alexander Liff was born in London in 1926. Together with his partner, George Stuart, he compiled the world-famous Stuart-Liff Collection, which comprises 6,000 books and 11,000 vinyl records relating to Western classical music. Many of these were used for ‘The Record of Singing’, a compilation of international classical-music vocals from the first half of the twentieth century devised by Liff and issued by EMI between 1977 and 1999. The original collection was donated to the National Centre for the Performing Arts in 2009.

Liff was also involved with the scheme to ‘rescue’ and reissue recordings of historic vocal performances, devised by Richard Bebb and George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood in conjunction with the British Institute of Recorded Sound. Following the successful issue of twenty LPs in 1973, the company Historic Masters Ltd was formed in the early 1980s to continue the scheme, chaired by Lord Harewood, then director of the English National Opera. Liff, who served on the management committee, had known Lord Harewood since 1949 when, as a third year university student, he had written to the Earl to ask his advice on a student design project for a new opera house. The company issued their first set of Historic Masters in 1983 and by 2008 had issued a total of 192 records.

Liff has written widely on historic opera and also served as President of the Recorded Vocal Art Society.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 2009. A further addition was made to the archive in 2011.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers of Vivian Liff, comprising correspondence, cards, press cuttings, photographs and other papers exchanged between Liff and Lord and Lady Harewood, 1949-2002; letters from Cathy Gaskin Cornberg., n.d; letter from Lord Harewood to Professor Stanley Henig concerning the Historic Masters Group, 1997.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The archive has not yet been catalogued.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Lord Harewood's private archive of recordings is deposited at the Borthwick Institute as part of the Music Preserved Archive.

The Stuart-Liff Collection is held by the National Centre for the Performing Arts:

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 23.02.17.




Accession area