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Theatre Manuscript Collections

Over two hundred theater-related collections in the Princeton University Library offer a wealth of primary source materials documenting the history of the performing arts and popular entertainment in the United States and Great Britain. Most of them are in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, where the theater collections grew from the initial presentation of the family papers of the actor and director William Seymour (1855-1933) (TC011) to the Library in 1936. Since then, collections have continued to expand by gift and purchase, with particular strengths in 19th century British and 20th century American theater, early 20th century circus shows, American motion pictures and television, and historical theatrical ephemera.

The Library’s rich holdings of the papers of modern playwrights and screenwriters include Eugene O’Neill’s manuscripts, photographs, and correspondence with his editor Saxe Commins, which can be found in the following collections: the Eugene O’Neill Collection (C0281), Saxe Commins Papers (C0178), Eugene O’Neill Photograph Collection (C0617), and Carl Van Vechten Photographs of Eugene O’Neill (TC100). The Woody Allen Papers (TC002) comprises over 40 boxes of drafts of Allen’s screenplays, short stories, and essays. Other collections containing manuscript drafts include Tennessee Williams Manuscripts (TC081), Ernest Lehman Screenplays Collection (TC127), and Mario Vargas Llosa Papers (C0641), while the Sam Harris Collection (TC025), Warner Bros. Screenplays (TC099), and the Peter Orton Collection of Screenplays and Television Scripts (C1225) represent three of the Library’s expansive script collections. The Leonard L. Milberg (Princeton Class of 1953) Autograph Collection (C0962) includes letters by Sean O’Casey (1880-1964) and other Irish playwrights. Works of earlier writers can be found in the Robert H. T aylor (Princeton University Class of 1930) Collection (RTC01), which includes correspondence and manuscript drafts of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), as well as in the M. L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists (C0171), which includes manuscripts by J. M. Barrie (1860-1937) and the novelist and theater manager Charles Reade (1814-1884).

The process of publishing and adapting texts for the stage and screen is documented in the Vivian Burnett Collection of Frances Hodgson Burnett (C1304), F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers (C0187), Booth Tarkington (Princeton Class of 1893) Papers (C0062), Carlos Fuentes Papers (C0790), Budd Schulberg Papers (C0340), and Guillermo Cabrera Infante Papers (C0272).

The Manuscripts Division also holds the personal papers of actors, theater directors and producers, agents, and other stage professionals, including those of actors Anne Baxter (1912-1985) (TC102), Fanny Davenport (1850-1898) (TC108), Edwin Forrest (1806-1872) (C0721), Lulu Glaser (1874-1958) (TC033), and William Charles Macready (1793-1873) (TC042); agent Sarah Enright (1888-1963) (TC013); composer, lyricist, and writer Clark Gesner (1938-2002) (C1163); Broadway producers George Crouse Tyler (1867-1946) ( TC075) and Max Gordon (1892-1978) (TC024); and performance studies scholar and director Richard Schechner (1934- ) (TC071), whose collection also contains substantial material concerning the academic journal The Drama Review. Other theatrical business papers include those in the McCaddon Collection of the Barnum and Bailey Circus (TC040), along with related photographs and scrapbooks.

Among the Library’s holdings of theatrical ephemera are collections of several thousand film stills, theatrical photographs, and glass slides, which can be found in the Film Stills Collection (TC021), Carl Van Vechten Photographs (C0877), Theater Photographs Collection (TC090), and Alexander Black Lantern Slides Collection (TC109). Documentation of vaudeville and minstrel shows include the Vardaman Collection (TC089), comprising the papers of female impersonator Mansel Boyle (b. 1877); the papers of minstrel show producer Edward LeRoy Rice (b. 1871) (TC062); and the American Minstrel Show Collection (TC050). Costume designs, toy theater sets, and set designs include the Showles Circus Costume Collection (TC067) and, in the Graphic Arts Collection, the Toy Theatre Collection (TC074) and the Albert Mathias Friend Collection of approximately three hundred set designs including the Bibiena family (18th-century), Joseph Platzer, and others ( TC020).

For collections relating to Princeton’s own theatrical companies, including Theatre Intime, the Triangle Club, and McCarter Theatre, please contact the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. For the Library’s extensive collection of play books, prompt books, and playbills, please contact the Rare Books Division. The Cotsen Children’s Library holds a large collection of toy theater materials, including the Skelt and Webb Toy Theater Collection (149996).

For further details about Princeton University Library’s holdings, and to search the collections electronically, please consult the Finding Aids website. Collection-level bibliographic records are available in the Main Catalog.

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