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Performing Arts Prints Collection:

An Inventory of the Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Performing Arts Prints
Title: Performing Arts Prints Collection
Dates: 1669-1906 (bulk 1775-1825)
Extent: 54 document boxes, 7 oversize boxes (33.38 linear feet)
Abstract: The collection consists of circa 8,000 prints, the great majority of which depict British and American theatrical performers in character or in personal portraits.
Call Number: Performing Arts Collection PA-00029
Language: English.
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.

Provenance The Prints Collection was assembled by Ransom Center 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 Center, University of Texas at Austin

The Prints Collection, 1669-1906 (bulk 1775-1825), consists of circa 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 circa 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 circa 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 circa 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.

Similar prints are also located 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 is 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.


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