Collections

The Art Collection

A unique collection of The Hampden-Booth Theatre Library's art virtually covers the walls of The Players -- an impressive array of the vivid personalities who have made stage, literary and art history. Mr. Booth himself presented portraits of Edmund Kean as Richard III and Mrs. Darley as Juliet, two of fifteen John Neagle portraits of American and British actors and actresses. The life-sized portrait of Edwin Booth as Cardinal Richelieu by John Collier hangs among portraits of Joseph Jefferson as Bob Acres in Sheridan's The Rivals by John W. Alexander; William E. Burton by Thomas Nast; Walter Hampden as Cyrano de Bergerac by Truman Fassett and John Barrymore by John Decker.

There are also bas-reliefs, portrait busts in bronze and marble, rare miniatures, drawings, lithographs, etchings, daguerreotypes and a series of life and death masks including the John Rogers life mask of Edwin Booth. Edwin Forrest's tomahawk from Metamora and the staff Charlotte Cushman used as Meg Merrilies are among a plethora of mementos, properties, jewelry and curios used by Sarah Bernhardt, Henry Irving, Eva La Gallienne, Richard Mansfield, Helena Modjeska, Ada Rehan, Tomasso Salvini and Ellen Terry.

The Edwin Booth Collection

Mr. Booth was a scholar as well as an actor. One need only browse through his Shakespeare prompt-books or read his letters to Horace Howard Furness, compiler of the Variorum Shakespeare, to appreciate the degree of his scholarship. The tragedian was quick to realize that the art of acting demanded documentation and testimonials if it were to acquire a dignity comparable to that of literature, music, painting or sculpture. With this thought in mind, he nourished and preserved a library of diaries, biographies, letters critical treatises on the drama, works of the world's dramatists, as well as several notable editions of Shakespeare -- a collection that today bears eloquent evidence of the actor's reading and reflection. Included in the Booth papers and correspondence are records dealing with his theatrical experiences and business matters: ledgers, account books, journals of Booth's Theatre and the Booth-Barrett and Booth-Modjeska tours, playbills, photographs and scrapbooks.

The Walter Hampden Collection

Walter Hampden was at once actor, director, manager, promoter and critic. The proof of his universal influence can be found in his personal collection of prompt-books and scripts, letters, photographs reviews, programs, ledgers, blueprints and drawings. Among his own company holdings are theatre contracts and leases, box office statements, production cost lists, route books, stockholder records and clipping books. The collection includes photographs and biographical sketches of leading members of the Comedie-Francaise (where Hampden studied with Georges Berr and Eugene Sylvain), as well as souvenir programs and photographs of productions at London's Adelphi Theatre.

The Union Square Theatre Collection

The Union Square Theatre was an institution of outstanding success during the years 1872-1883 under stage manager Albert M. Palmer, an incorporator and vice-president of The Players. Prior to his managing career Palmer had been a librarian and, following his bent, collected and recorded the history of that theatrical decade in meticulous detail. Included in his file are John Oxenford's The Two Orphans, complete with playbills of the first, 100th and last performances, as well as legal documents pertaining to the production. The collection is illustrated with portraits, views, autograph letters, programs, biographies and autobiographies of actors and actresses who appeared in its productions.

William Henderson Collection of English Playbills

This collection consists of forty albums containing some 4,000 English bills between the years 1747 and 1888. Many of these bear evidence of having belonged to strolling players; the box office "takings" are sometimes given and changes in cast are indicated. Playbills illustrative of the "First Appearances of Actors, Plays Acted for the First Time, London Theatres, London Benefits, Provincial Theatres and Shakespeare Plays" are but a sampling. The country bills of York, Durham, Newcastle, Leeds and other circuits detail appearances of the Kembles, Miss Mellon, Macready and contemporaries prior to their London debuts. An example is the bill of the Haymarket Theatre in 1806, which shows Edmund Kean playing minor parts, most importantly in the role of Rosencrantz.

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