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The Lord Chamberlain's Plays, 1852 - 1863

This AHRC-funded collaborative project with Royal Holloway and the British Library seeks to provide wider and more comprehensive access to a major collection of nineteenth-century drama.  The Lord Chamberlain’s Plays collection at the British Library is a rich and vast resource for scholars of theatre history of all periods covered by the collection. The period 1852-1863 is particularly strong in French dramas and comedies as well as their translations and adaptations, Crimean War dramas, adaptations of novels, domestic farce and comedy, fairy tales, and melodrama.

From 1737 to 1968, the Lord Chamberlain’s office licensed and retained a copy of every play newly performed in London and later throughout the provinces as well.  Due to the ephemeral nature of play scripts, particularly during the Victorian era, the collection is filled with unique manuscripts that are invaluable to our understanding of nearly the last two hundred years of theatre history.  However, the abundance of scholarly interest in eighteenth century and Modern drama and the relative lack of interest in Victorian drama have resulted in an uneven documentation of the contents of the collection. Plays licensed throughout most of the Victorian era are accessible only by a rudimentary paper list.

This project is now complete and has resulted in the publication of a complete catalogue of plays submitted for license from 1852 to 1863.  The full catalogue is available on this website in pdf and via the British Library Manuscripts Catalogue.  This catalogue offers readers as much information as possible, including first performance dates, names of theatres and alternative published editions. Most importantly, we have created a subject index so that this portion of the collection will be searchable by keyword for the first time. The project staff have now turned their attention to expanding the collection of electronic editions of plays published on this website.


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