Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Prints Collection:

An Inventory of the Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Prints Collection
Title: Prints Collection
Dates: 1669-1906 (bulk 1775-1825)
Extent: 54 document boxes, 7 oversize boxes (33.38 linear feet)
Abstract: The collection consists of ca. 8,000 prints, the great majority of which depict British and American theatrical performers in character or in personal portraits.
RLIN Record #: TXRC02-A1
Language: English.

Open for research


The Prints Collection was assembled by Theater Arts staff, primarily from the Messmore Kendall Collection which was acquired in 1958. Other sources were the Robert Downing and Albert Davis collections.

Processed by

Helen Baer and Antonio Alfau, 2000


Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

The Prints Collection, 1669-1906 (bulk 1775-1825), consists of ca. 8,000 prints, the great majority of which depict British and American theatrical performers in character or in personal portraits. The collection is organized in three series: I. Individuals, 1669-1906 (58.25 boxes), II. Theatrical Prints, 1720-1891 (1.75 boxes), and III. Works of Art and Miscellany, 1827-82 (1 box), each arranged alphabetically by name or subject.

The prints found in this collection were made by numerous processes and include lithographs, woodcuts, etchings, mezzotints, process prints, and line blocks; a small number of prints are hand-tinted. A number of the prints were cut out from books and periodicals such as The Illustrated London News, The Universal Magazine, La belle assemblée, Bell's British Theatre, and The Theatrical Inquisitor; others comprised sets of plates of dramatic figures such as those published by John Tallis and George Gebbie, or by the toy theater publishers Orlando Hodgson and William West.

Most of the collection, located in Series I. Individuals, dates from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and consists of prints of ca. 2,400 Britons and Americans, the majority of whom were associated with the theater. Portrayed in busts, half- to full-length portraits, scenes from plays, or caricatures are actors, playwrights and composers, dancers, theatrical managers, popular performers, and concert artists. The series also includes, to a lesser extent, poets and novelists, European royalty, members of the British peerage, statesmen, religious and military leaders, and medical doctors. Those persons represented by the greatest volume or variety of material are Frances Abington, Elizabeth Billington, Maria Theresa Bland, Thomas Potter Cooke, John Emery, David Garrick, Elizabeth Hartley, John Henderson, Joseph George Holman, Robert Keeley, Frances Maria Kelly, Thomas King, Edward Knight, John Liston, Charles Mathews, Isabella Mattocks, Anne Merry (née Brunton), John Palmer, William Parsons, John Quick, Rachel, Sarah Siddons, William Smith, Anna Thillon, Ellen Tree (Ellen Kean), James William Wallack (1795-1864), John Lester Wallack, James Pimbury Wilkinson, Henry Woodward, and Eliza Wrixon-Becher. Among the most frequently represented plays are The Beaux' Stratagem, The Double Dealer, The Duenna, The Heir at Law, The Hypocrite, Love in a Village, The Road to Ruin, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, The Suspicious Husband, Venice Preserved, The Way of the World, and various works of Shakespeare.

Series I is arranged alphabetically by the individual's name. Composite portraits and unidentified persons are located at the end of the alphabet; individuals in composites are cross-referenced. When known, the roles and works in which performers are depicted are also given in the folder list.

The Theatrical Prints series, 1720-1891, contains ca. 100 prints which do not depict a particular person but have a dramatic theme. About three quarters of these prints depict scenes from plays in which the actors are not identified; many are idealized representations of characters and settings. Works by Shakespeare are prevalent. The remainder of this series consists of a small number of prints that do not relate to any particular play but contain a theatrical element. The subject of these prints ranges from wax museums to religious processions, with more material pertaining to the commedia dell'arte than to any other topic; caricatures and stock characters are also present. The prints are arranged alphabetically by title of play or subject; for the plays, specific characters depicted are given in parentheses in the folder list when known.

Series III. Works of Art and Miscellany, 1827-82, consists of ca. 60 landscapes, romanticized or idealized scenes, and assorted images. Notable items are the invertible pictures of faces in which a second face can be seen when the print is viewed upside down. The series is arranged alphabetically by artist; untitled works by unidentified artists are followed by miscellaneous material.

Prints can also be found in the Theater Biography Collection, Theater Buildings Collection, and the Boydell Shakespeare Prints.

Note on the Folder List

Lillian Arvilla Hall's Catalogue of Engraved Dramatic Portraits in the Theatre Collection of the Harvard College Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932) is the source of many of the attributions for roles and plays, as well as being the basis for the identification of many of the performers. With few exceptions, the form of a person's name that Hall used is the form employed in this inventory. When a performer's forename is unknown, the title of address by which he or she was best known is often substituted. Royalty and hereditary peers are listed under their Library of Congress headings, which include dates of birth and death. For cross-references between different forms of a name, particularly between a woman's maiden and married names, researchers should consult Hall.

For reasons of brevity, the title of a play is not repeated if it exactly matches the name of the character (e.g., Hamlet and Othello). Although the dates given in the folder list most often reflect the year in which the items were published, they sometimes indicate when the original painting (which the engraver copied) was executed, or when the engraving was etched. Composites are housed in folders 26.47-28.80, 53.7-54.5, and oversize 59.6-9.

Abbreviations in the List:

comp---composite, composites

ob---oversize box


The finding aid for the Prints Collection is a conflation of the original inventory created in 2000, and of an addition that was catalogued in 2006. Currently the addition is described only by a Folder List which has been appended to the original inventory, using the series arrangement established within the original inventory and continuing the box and folder numbering sequence. The Scope and Contents note does not make reference to the addition, and the RLIN record for the collection summarizes the original inventory only.

Due to size, the original inventory has been divided into three separate units which can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted text below:

Prints Collection--Original Inventory, Series I. [Part I] [This page]

Prints Collection--Original Inventory, Series I. (continued)- Series III. [Part II]

Prints Collection--Addition [Part III]


Abington, Frances

Billington, Elizabeth, 1768-1818

Bland, Mrs. (Maria Theresa Catherine), 1770-1838

Brunton, Anne, 1768-1808

Cooke, T.P. (Thomas Potter), 1786-1864

Emery, John, 1777-1822

Garrick, David, 1717-1779

Hartley, Elizabeth, 1751-1824

Henderson, John, 1747-1785

Holman, J.G. (Joseph George), 1764-1817

Kean, Ellen, 1805-1880

Keeley, Robert, 1793-1869

Kelly, Frances Maria, 1790-1882

King, Thomas, 1730-1805

Knight, Edward, 1774-1826

Liston, John, 1776-1846

Mathews, Charles, 1776-1835

Mattocks, Isabella

Palmer, John, 1742-1798

Parsons, William, 1736-1795

Quick, John

Rachel, 1821?-1858

Siddons, Sarah, 1755-1831

Smith, William, 1730-1819

Thillon, Anna

Wallack, James William, 1791?-1864

Wallack, Lester, 1820-1888

Wilkinson, James Pimbury

Woodward, Henry, 1714-1777

Wrixon-Becher, Eliza

Actors--Great Britain--Portraits--1775-1875

Actors--United States--Portraits--1775-1875







Theatrical managers--Portraits--1775-1875

Document Types