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Juvenile Drama Collection
University of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Theatre; Drama; Costumes; Stage-setting and scenery

The collection was established in 1970. It was acquired from Desmond Seaton Reid.

The collection is a large collection of engraved and lithographed sheets depicting actors and scenes from a variety of British and European plays. Texts for many of the plays accompany the sheets. Individual sheets show actors in the costumes and poses they used in actual productions. Stage sets were also reproduced. The earliest sheets were designed as souvenir portraits for adult theatre-goers and showed individual actors in favourite roles. Later sheets showed all the characters and settings from an actual production and often included a play book with the entire text. These were directed toward a juvenile audience who would cut out and mount the characters and sets and produce the play in the nursery, using a small-scale replica of an actual theatre. The plays cover the range from Shakespeare and Scott to fairy tales, pantomines, and melodramas. The sheets, particularly the earlier ones, give valuable documentation for a study of British theatre history in the nineteenth century, providing a pictorial record of staging, costume, set design, and acting styles, as well as indicating the popularity of various genres and individual productions. The collection is particularly significant for its pre-1850 holdings. There are over six hundred sheets published by William West, one of the earliest publishers, active between 1811 and 1831. In size and comprehensiveness only the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Harvard University have comparable collections. The geographic emphasis is British with some European examples. The collection includes material from 1811 to the 1940s.

English material predominates. There are some examples from German, Danish, French, and Spanish juvenile drama.

6,000 sheets of characters, scenery and theatrical portraits; 250 playbooks to accompany the sheets. There are also tinselled sheets; 2 dioramas; and 2 model toy theatres. The sheets are coloured and uncoloured; some have been cut out and pasted on cardboard.

Bibliographic Access
The collection is uncatalogued. It is listed by publisher and by play. There is also an exhibition catalogue (see below).

Physical Access
The collection is open to the public with identification. For further information visit:

Interlibrary Loan: No.

Reprography: As the condition of the material warrants.

Reference Assistance: Yes.

Publications Describing Collection
A penny plain, twopence coloured. -- Toronto : Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, 1976.