Toy Theaters

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The Graphic Arts Collection holds a small selection of paper and model theaters, along with sets, costumes, figures, and props. Several are particular stages, such as the Globe Theatre where William Shakespeare's plays were performed. The rest are 19th century toy theaters produced by such manufacturers as Benjamin Pollock and Skelt & Webb. A larger selection can be found in the Cotsen Children's Library.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was given a paper theater as a child and remembered the toy in an essay for the Magazine of Art published in April 1884 entitled, "A Penny Plain And Twopence Coloured."

"These words will be familiar to all students of Skelt's Juvenile Drama. That national monument, after having changed its name to Park's, to Webb's, to Redington's, and last of all to Pollock's, has now become, for the most part, a memory. Some of its pillars, like Stonehenge, are still afoot, the rest clean vanished. It may be the Museum numbers a full set; and Mr. Ionides perhaps, or else her gracious Majesty, may boast their great collections; but to the plain private person they are become, like Raphaels, unattainable..."

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"There stands, I fancy, to this day (but now how fallen!) a certain stationer's shop at a corner of the wide thoroughfare that joins the city of my childhood with the sea. When, upon any Saturday, we made a party to behold the ships, we passed that corner; and since in those days I loved a ship as a man loves Burgundy or daybreak, this of itself had been enough to hallow it. But there was more than that. In the Leith Walk window, all the year round, there stood displayed a theatre in working order, with a "forest set," a "combat," and a few "robbers carousing" in the slides; and below and about, dearer tenfold to me! the plays themselves, those budgets of romance, lay tumbled one upon another. Long and often have I lingered there with empty pockets."

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Note the two finger holes for raising and lowering the curtain.

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To search these and other theater resources, see the Visuals database: