You are here


  • Location designator: ThX

    The best summary about the history and development of the Theatre Collection is found in the following article: Mary Ann Jensen, "The William Seymour Theatre Collection, Princeton University Library" in Special Collections, vol. 1, no. 1 (Fall, 1981) pp. 41-51. See also: Mary Ann Jensen, "The William Seymour Theatre Collection: A Curator's View" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XLVIII, 1 (Autumn, 1986) pp. 7-20 [full text] . (Entire issue celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Theatre Collection.)

    Summary list of collections comprising the non-printed-book holdings of the Theatre Collection.

    William Seymour Collection.

    The Theatre Collection includes the William Seymour Collection, which was gathered assiduously by William Seymour during his long career as actor and stage manager in the United States; about 3,000 playbooks and prompt books. Most are associated with Seymour's own career, others belonged to his father or E.L. Davenport. Also included were playbills, letters, photos, clippings, and engravings on American stage history. The collection held quite a number of rather rare theatre books, such as Roscias Anglicanus. Coming with the gift as well was Seymour's correspondence with over 1800 people, most of whom were theatre figures. When the gift arrived, playbooks and prompt books already in the Library were transferred to the Theatre Collection, making a total of about 5,000 titles at that time. The Seymour collection contains also 700 playbills covering Civil War performances as well as the life and career of the famous actor James E. Murdoch.

    For particulars refer to: Biblia VIII, 1 (March, 1937) pp. [6-7] [full text] .

    Details about the subsequent development of the collection can be found in the following two articles: Marguerite Loud McAneny, "Confessions of a Custodian or An Original Recipe for a Large Theatre Collection" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle II, 4 (June, 1941) pp. 137-146 [full text] and Marguerite Loud McAneny, "Some Recent Gifts to the William Seymour Theatre Collection" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXVI, 3 (Spring, 1965) pp. 201-206 [full text].


    Major accessions of English 19th century playbills were made during the 1940's. Today these playbills constitute a major resource in the Theatre Collection.

    In 2002-2003, the miscellaneous playbills were organized into the Broadside playbills collection, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This collection contains broadside playbills from the United States, England, and Europe. It is divided into series. In the first and largest series, the playbills are organized by country and state, and individual theaters are grouped into one folder where there are several playbills from that theater. Represented theaters include the Boston Museum, Chestnut Street Theatre, Covent Garden Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Haymarket Theatre, and Walnut Street Theatre. In the second series, the programs were gathered by H. R. Renton and are part of the large accession of his collection made in 1947; these are arranged geographically. See the Broadside playbills collection, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries [(Thx) TC113] for details.
    The finding aid for TC113 is at
    The Library also has playbills pasted into scrapbooks and these are being indexed. The collection number for these 486 scrapbooks is TC055. See the following URL for details


    Collection number TC023 is a very large collection of playbooks --over 7000 distributed across 181 boxes. Individual cataloguing of these playbooks is now complete. (Records for these are in the main catalogue.) The following list is a simple listing of the first and last item in each box: 

    Specially marked performance copies can be found in the catalog by searching 'rehearsal copy' and 'TC023' or 'promptbook' and 'TC023.'

    Music of the Theatre

    Transferred to Mendel Music Library.

    What may be one of the country's most comprehensive private collections of music of the modern theatre was presented to the University by Robert B. Sour '25. The collection, amassed by Mr. Sour and augmented by the collection of the late Milton K. Breslauer '22 represents musical comedies and operettas of the past 50 years of the Broadway stage. About 80 volumes of scores, plus another 100 volumes of music by individual composers and representative show tunes 1919-1969. Also four volumes of music and lyrics composed by Sour. [Mendel Music Library TC069.]

    See: Mary Ann Jensen, "The Robert B. Sour Collection of Music of the Theatre" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXII, 2 (Winter 1971) p. 134 [full text].

    Valva Collection of Theatre Orchestra Music

    Consists of scores for silent film background music arranged for various orchestral instruments and used by Fred D. Valva, a theater musician, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

    For particulars refer to the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXX, 2 (Winter, 1969) p. 137 [full text].

    Albert Mathias Friend Collection, and Other Theatre Drawings

    The Friend Collection is one of the major assemblages of 18th-century stage drawings in the U.S., basically Italian and Austrian. Artists represented: the Bibiena family, Domenico Fossati, Bernardino Galliari, Filippo Juvara, Josef Platzer, Lorenzo Sachetti.

    See: [Mary Ann Jensen]. The Albert M. Friend,, Jr. Collection of Eighteenth Century Theater Drawings (Princeton, 1974). Pamphlet contains checklist of the collection as well as an introductory essay and a bibliography.

    See also: David Coffin, "Theater Drawings" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XVIII, 4 (Summer, 1957) pp. 194-201 [full text] .

    For other theatrical drawings, also consult Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXIII, 2 (Winter, 1972) p. 119, item 62 [full text], giving details of a collection of 62 double sheets and two double leaves of drawings and three full sketchbooks.


    Together with the holdings of the General Rare Books Collections, the Collection offers interesting material in the history of ballet. For particulars refer to: [Allison Delarue and Mary Ann Jensen]. Let Joy Be Unconfined: An Exhibition Representing Three Centuries of Ballet, Held in The Gallery of Princeton University Library. (Princeton, 1980) 23 pp. [(Thx) Z7514 .D2l47 1980)

    Mimeographed Film Scripts

    Several thousand of these, about two thirds of which are from Warner Brothers. The Warner Bros. screenplays, 1928-1969 [(MSS) TC099] consists of a large collection of scripts for films produced by the Warner Bros. studio and has an online finding aid. The Miscellaneous screenplays collection, 1930-[1980s] consists of screenplays and related materials, such as continuity, superimposed versions (i.e. script translations), release dialogue scripts, and revisions/drafts. There are also a few information packets--these include interviews with and/or biographies of stars, synopses, and various and sundry other materials meant for release.

Research Tools for Printed Material (Books, Maps, Prints, etc.)