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  • A Carnival Ball in a miniature perspective peepshow. by (DANCE). [ENGELBRECHT, Martin. (DANCE). [ENGELBRECHT, Martin. ~ A Carnival Ball in a miniature perspective peepshow. Augsburg: Martin Englebrecht, c. 1730-50].
    A rare eighteenth-century perspective peepshow depicting a carnival ball. There are 8 dancing figures — 7 men in various costumes (including a harlequin and masks)… (more)

    A rare eighteenth-century perspective peepshow depicting a carnival ball. There are 8 dancing figures — 7 men in various costumes (including a harlequin and masks) and one elegantly-dressed lady at the rear. The setting is sumptuous and theatrical, with columns, heavy curtains and statuary in the foreground and a garden with topiary hedges and a fountain as a background. Engelbrecht (1684-1756) produced many different designs of these sets in three sizes, of which ours is an example of the smallest (and rarest). They were designed to be viewed when slotted successively into a perspective viewing box but can equally be appreciated when standing in simple slots or stands. cf, Ralph Hyde, Paper Peepshows (2015), pp. 14–15 and David Robinson, ‘Augsburg Peepshows’, Print Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2 (June 1988), pp. 188–191.

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  • Grand Equestrian Feat, called the Peasant Frolic. As performed at Astley’s Amphitheatre. Price 4d 1/2 Plain. by (CIRCUS). (TOY THEATRE). (CIRCUS). (TOY THEATRE). ~ Grand Equestrian Feat, called the Peasant Frolic. As performed at Astley’s Amphitheatre. Price 4d 1/2 Plain. [London]: W[illiam]. West at his Theatrical Warehouse, Exeter Street, Strand, Apr[i]l 14, 1821.
    A rare large-format toy theatre print with figures for cutting out and mounting from a performance at Astley’s Amphitheatre, which was then managed by Andrew… (more)

    A rare large-format toy theatre print with figures for cutting out and mounting from a performance at Astley’s Amphitheatre, which was then managed by Andrew Ducrow, the father of circus equestrianism. The plate is unsigned other than by the publisher William West and is unattributed in the British Museum print catalogue, but it is of high quality. The BM copy was acquired with the nineteenth-century collection of toy theatre prints assembled by Ralph Thomas, who had made a tentative attribution to William Blake in Notes and Queries in 1898 (June 4th, p. 455). The British Museum did not adopt the attribution, though there is certainly something of Blake’s style in the print. William West was the pioneer of the Regency toy theatre print, commissioning work from both Cruickshank brothers, Flaxman, Dighton and Brooke.

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  • This is no Caricature. by [HEATH, William]. [HEATH, William]. ~ This is no Caricature. London: John Doyle, Published by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket October 1st 1827.
    In 1827 Harriet Mellon, widow of the banker Thomas Coutts married William Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St Albans. The daughter of a family of travelling… (more)

    In 1827 Harriet Mellon, widow of the banker Thomas Coutts married William Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St Albans. The daughter of a family of travelling players, Harriet had become an actress at an early age and was spotted by Coutts while performing in London. As a young woman she was widely celebrated for her beauty, and was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Lawrence. She became wealthy (as a senior partner of Coutts bank) and was 23 years older than Beauclerk on their marriage, providing ample scope for unkind commentary and ammunition for the satirists. Nicknamed ‘The Jolly Duchess’ Harriett enjoyed her wealth, was a great collector and generous patron. She wrote to her friend Sir Walter Scott:

    ‘What a strange eventful life has mine been, from a poor little player child, with just food and clothes to cover me, dependent on a very precarious profession, without talent or a friend in the world – first the wife of the best, the most perfect being that ever breathed …and now the wife of a Duke! You must write my life… my true history written by the author of Waverley’. (Scott’s Journal, 30 June 1827).

    After her death, she left an allowance to the Duke but her fortune passed to step-grandaughter Angela Burdett-Coutts, whose philanthropic association with Dickens is well known. BM Satires 15461. 

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  • Monsieur Botte. by PIGAULT-LEBRUN. [Charles-Antoine-Guillaume Pigault de l’Espinoy]. PIGAULT-LEBRUN. [Charles-Antoine-Guillaume Pigault de l’Espinoy]. ~ Monsieur Botte. Paris: Barba, An XI, 1803.
    First edition. ‘... born at Calais, author of lively, licentious novels, widely read about 1800 (the favourite reading of Miss Crawley in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair)...… (more)

    First edition. ‘... born at Calais, author of lively, licentious novels, widely read about 1800 (the favourite reading of Miss Crawley in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair)... During a riotous, dissipated youth this author returned to Calais on one occasion to find that his disgusted father had published notice of his death’ (Oxford Companion to French Literature).

    Monsieur Botte was reprinted several times and seems to have found favour in 1803 adapted for the stage as M. Botte; ou, Le négociant anglais comédie en trois actes et en prose, imitée du roman de Pigault-Lebrun by Servières and Sutton de Clonard. The Critical Review describes an English edition of 1804 published by William Lane (of the Minerva Press), but if it was indeed published by Lane, we can find no trace of it in the usual catalogues.

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  • Electre, tragédie. by CRÉBILLON, [Prosper Jolyot de]. CRÉBILLON, [Prosper Jolyot de]. ~ Electre, tragédie. Paris: Chez Pierre Ribou 1709.
    First edition of Crebillon’s five-act adaptation from Sophocles, this copy annotated with contemporary deletions, corrections and other markings, presumably for performance. There are markings on… (more)

    First edition of Crebillon’s five-act adaptation from Sophocles, this copy annotated with contemporary deletions, corrections and other markings, presumably for performance. There are markings on some 40 pages, ranging from simple crosses or other marks to deletions of short passages and occasional comments: ‘on ne pas cela’ or ‘jusque icy’, all suggesting an actor’s or prompt copy.

    Electre was one of Crébillon père’s great early successes, performed for the first time at the Comédie-Française on 14 December 1708, subsequently causing a quarrel with Voltaire, who wrote his own version and disparaged Crebillon’s. In spite of Crebillon’s early celebrity, he famously retreated to a garret around 1711, in a long episode of misanthropy accompanied by his dogs, cats and pet crows before his rehabilitation under the patronage of Madame de Pompadour and the Académie Française. Cioranescu I, 21658. Worldcat: Cambridge, Harvard and Thomas Fisher Library (Toronto) only outside France.

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  • ou, Instruction comique et divertissante, pour s’amuser pendant le carnaval; contenant des dialogues burlesques et amusans entre les enfans de la joie; suivi du testament de Mr. l’Enflammé mort d’amour pour Mlle. Aux Yeux Doux. by (CHAPBOOK). CODE POISSARD, (CHAPBOOK). CODE POISSARD, ~ ou, Instruction comique et divertissante, pour s’amuser pendant le carnaval; contenant des dialogues burlesques et amusans entre les enfans de la joie; suivi du testament de Mr. l’Enflammé mort d’amour pour Mlle. Aux Yeux Doux. Paris: au Dépôt des Annas, [Delaguette. c. 1820s].
    First edition, a carnival chapbook with burlesque dialogues. The first woodcut, as a frontispiece, depicts a cartful of fools led by a horse and pierrot,… (more)

    First edition, a carnival chapbook with burlesque dialogues. The first woodcut, as a frontispiece, depicts a cartful of fools led by a horse and pierrot, the second shows a mountebank poking fun at his audience. The term ‘Poissarde’ (literally, a fishwife) refers, in general, to coarse and vulgar language and is frequently to be found in chapbooks of the period. Gay I, 608. Worldcat: Wisconsin only outside Europe.

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  • Shakespeare traduit de l’anglois, dédié au Roi. by SHAKESPEARE, William. [Pierre LE TOURNEUR, translator]. SHAKESPEARE, William. [Pierre LE TOURNEUR, translator]. ~ Shakespeare traduit de l’anglois, dédié au Roi. Paris: [Clousier, Demonville, Valade, Veuve Ballard & Fils for] Veuve Duchesne, Musier, Nyon, La Combe, Ruault, Le Jay, Clousier, [vols 3-20, ‘Chez l’auteur... chez Mérigot,] 1776-1782.
    First edition of Le Tourneur’s monumental translation, instrumental in securing Shakespeare’s reputation in France. Preceded only by La Place’s pioneering but partial translations (1745-49) and… (more)

    First edition of Le Tourneur’s monumental translation, instrumental in securing Shakespeare’s reputation in France. Preceded only by La Place’s pioneering but partial translations (1745-49) and by some individual translations by Voltaire and Ducis, Le Tourneur’s is the first attempt at the complete works. Inspired by the 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, Le Tourneur prefaces the collection with a long account of the Stratford celebrations presided over by David Garrick (taken without acknowledgement from Benjamin Victor’s History of the Theatres of London, 1771) and with a biography drawn mainly from Rowe. There is also an important critical essay using materials from Rowe, Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, Johnson and Sewell. The extensive subscribers’ lists (a second lists new subscribers since the start of publication) contains prominent names in both France and England.

    The story of Shakespeare’s slow acceptance in France, in the face of prevailing classicism, is well known — Le Tourneur’s translations were the first to allow French readers to make their own judgements and they perfectly reflect the transition from classicism to romanticism in French culture. Indeed, the preface is considered to contain the very first printed appearance of the word ‘romantique’ in the French language, with Le Tourneur referring to the suitably romantic prospect of a clouded landscape and then stressing the need for both the word and the concept in French.

    The edition provoked the ire of the ageing Voltaire (always ambivalent to Shakespeare) who on receiving the first volume wrote in a letter to friend: ‘I must tell you how upset I am for the honour of the theatre, against a certain Tourneur, who is said to be Secretary of [La Librairie], but who does not seem to me the Secretary of Good taste. Have you read two volumes by this miserable fellow, in which he wants to make us all treat Shakespeare as the only model of true tragedy?... What is frightful is that this monster had a following in France; and the height of calamity and horror is that it was I who was once the first to speak of this Shakespeare, it was I who was the first to show the French some pearls that I discovered in his enormous dung-heap’ (translated by Davidson, Voltaire: a Life, 2010, p. 439).

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  • Kane O’Hara Esqr. Author of Midas &c. by O’HARA, Kane. [Edmund DORRELL, engraver]. O’HARA, Kane. [Edmund DORRELL, engraver]. ~ Kane O’Hara Esqr. Author of Midas &c. [London] William Richardson, Nov. 1st, 1802.
    Kane O’Hara, Irish playwright (1711/12–1782), born at Templehouse in Connaught. ‘O’Hara’s first professional play was Midas, an English Burletta, which had its première production at… (more)

    Kane O’Hara, Irish playwright (1711/12–1782), born at Templehouse in Connaught. ‘O’Hara’s first professional play was Midas, an English Burletta, which had its première production at the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, on 22 January 1762. Midas was a clever, chauvinistic response to the success of a touring Italian troupe, the D'Amici family, which had brought a lively production of an Italian burletta to the Smock Alley Theatre on 19 December 1761. The Italian burletta, a slight comic opera already modish on the continent, captivated Dubliners with its simple domestic plot and brisk galante music’ (Oxford DNB). It transferred to London, became a hit and was performed there over 200 times by 1800. O’Hara was seriously shortsighted (he is seen here in spectacles) and lost his sight in 1778.

    The etching by Edmund Dorrell (1778-1857) is comparatively rare, the plate apparently having been destroyed soon after it was first printed. This is a splendid example on a full sheet. O’Donoghue 25-II, 1802.

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  • Titus, tragédie en cinq actes. Avec des Observations sur la poësie dramatique adressées à M. de Voltaire. by BELLOY, Pierre-Laurent Buirette de. BELLOY, Pierre-Laurent Buirette de. ~ Titus, tragédie en cinq actes. Avec des Observations sur la poësie dramatique adressées à M. de Voltaire. Paris: Ballard, 1760.
    First edition of the author’s first two plays. De Belloy began his career as an actor with a company of comédiens touring Northern Europe and… (more)

    First edition of the author’s first two plays. De Belloy began his career as an actor with a company of comédiens touring Northern Europe and found favour at the court of the Empress Elizabeth at St Petersburg. It was there in 1757 that he wrote his first play, then entitled Le Triomphe de l’amitié, which was performed in Paris as Titus on his return in 1761. It was not a success, but de Belloy followed it with Zelmire in 1762 to much greater acclaim. The tale of a princess of the Isle of Lesbos, it was drawn from Metastasio (as was Titus) and was later the source of Rossini’s Zelmira (1822). De Belloy’s major success, Le Siège de Calais followed in 1765.

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  • Poems: by G. D. Harley, of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. 1796... by HARLEY, George Davies. HARLEY, George Davies. ~ Poems: by G. D. Harley, of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. 1796... London: Printed for the Author, by J. Jarvis; and sold by Martin and Bain... W. Miller... and T. Bellamy [ 1796].
    First edition: the first major book of poetry by a professional actor. Included is a 25-page poem, ‘The Cat’. ‘... Oh gentle TABBY! How much… (more)

    First edition: the first major book of poetry by a professional actor. Included is a 25-page poem, ‘The Cat’. ‘... Oh gentle TABBY! How much I do admire / Thy graceful form, thy smooth and cleanly skin, / By rough toungue cleans’d, and ear by foot refresh’d.’

    ‘We have read this volume of poems with much pleasure. The descriptive parts are very excellent; the compositions in general possess originality, and frequently charm by tenderness and simplicity. Mr. Harley’s chief error seems to be prolixity, and the pursuing of a thought too far...’ (Critical Review).

    Most of the book is taken up by only six poems, and printed in small type. The Monthly Review acidly remarked: ‘The subscribers to this volume will certainly not complain of their bargain as far as quantity is concerned, for never have we seen new poetry dealt our in fuller measure. Whatever be the author’s subject, sentiment, description, or morality, he never fails of giving enough. Here is a poem on Night that would almost require a night’s reading to get through it; and a Legacy of Love to a Child, as long as was ever bequeathed by a lawyer’s pen in a real last will and testament’.

    Harley found success as an actor at Covent Garden from the year 1789 and there played several major roles, including Richard III, Iago, Shylock, Lear, and Jacques. This poetic collection dates from his last year in London, thereafter he performed with considerable success in Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and elsewhere. Jackson, p. 211.

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  • The Phoenix and the Turtle. by SHAKESPEARE, William; Léon GISCHIA, illustrator. SHAKESPEARE, William; Léon GISCHIA, illustrator. ~ The Phoenix and the Turtle. [Paris: Imprimérie Union for Raoul Mortier, 17 February 1944.]
    Number 10 of 250 copies. Shakespeare’s metaphysical poem on the theme of idealised and mystical love was first published in the Supplement to Robert Chester’s… (more)

    Number 10 of 250 copies. Shakespeare’s metaphysical poem on the theme of idealised and mystical love was first published in the Supplement to Robert Chester’s Love’s Martyr (1601). In it, the phoenix and the turtle dove are joined in eternal love and burn themselves alive.

    A leading figure in the Nouvelle École de Paris, Léon Gischia continued to produce and exhibit avant-garde work throughout the German occupation, despite repeated denunciation for degeneracy. He also produced designs for the theatre, notably for the production in French of Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral at the théâtre du Vieux Colombier in 1945. Bland, History of Book Illustration, 321.

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  • Antonio e Cleopatra; tragedia. by MARESCALCHI, Ferdinando, Conte. MARESCALCHI, Ferdinando, Conte. ~ Antonio e Cleopatra; tragedia. Bassano: 1788.
    First edition of this play, copy on large and thick paper. Marescalchi was born in Bologna, then in the Papal States, on 26 February 1754,… (more)

    First edition of this play, copy on large and thick paper. Marescalchi was born in Bologna, then in the Papal States, on 26 February 1754, into a noble family, he became a hereditary member of the Senate of that town. He later supported Napoleon in Italy and prospered under his patronage.

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  • Tom Jones on the Paris stage
    Tom Jones a Londres, comédie en cinq actes, en vers, tirée du roman de Fielding, répresentée, pour la première fois, par les comédiens Italiens ordinaires du Roi, le Mardi 22 Octobre 1782. by [CHOUDARD]-DESFORGES, [Pierre Jean Baptiste]. [CHOUDARD]-DESFORGES, [Pierre Jean Baptiste]. ~ Tom Jones a Londres, comédie en cinq actes, en vers, tirée du roman de Fielding, répresentée, pour la première fois, par les comédiens Italiens ordinaires du Roi, le Mardi 22 Octobre 1782. Paris: F. J. Baudouin, 1782.
    First editions. A dramatic adaptation of Fielding’s Tom Jones for the French stage by Choudard-Desforges, with its sequel. The plays were written for performance by… (more)

    First editions. A dramatic adaptation of Fielding’s Tom Jones for the French stage by Choudard-Desforges, with its sequel. The plays were written for performance by the Comédie-Italienne, of which the playwright Desforges had been a member. Cioranescu 23412; 23418.

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  • a landmark in Italian theatre
    Liola. by PIRANDELLO, Luigi PIRANDELLO, Luigi ~ Liola. Rome: A. F. Formíggini, 1917.
    First edition. Considered to be the best play the author wrote in the traditional medium, a landmark in the history of the Italian theatre. The… (more)

    First edition. Considered to be the best play the author wrote in the traditional medium, a landmark in the history of the Italian theatre. The author was later the first Italian playwright to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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