Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Books and Periodicals

Title page. Click to enlarge.

Title page of The True Tragedie of Richard III, 1594. Pforzheimer Collection.

The Ransom Center's books and periodicals are searchable in the UT Library Catalog. To limit your search to materials held at the Center, select "Harry Ransom Center" as the location.

Early Books and Manuscripts
The Ransom Center collections have extensive holdings in early manuscripts and printed books. The Aldine Press collection includes a number of early printed works relating to dramatic literature and classic texts including an early printed edition of Aristotle's Poetics (1536), as well as first and early printings of works by Virgil, Plato, and other classical writers.

The Ransom Center's Gutenberg Bible (ca. 1454) likely belonged to a monastery in northern Europe. The text was meant to be read aloud in the community, and added markings on the pages assist readers in finding their place.

The Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts collection includes a number of early music manuscripts, with a particular strength in early antiphons. The Tegernsee miscellany (between 1000-1050 AD) includes a spurious letter from Jerome of Stridon to Claudius Postumus Dardanus on types of music. The Ransom Center also holds a manuscript of Giovanni Rucellai's Oreste y Pylade, originally written around 1516 but possibly copied out in the late 17th-century.

The Pforzheimer, Wrenn, Stark, and Aitken book collections include hundreds of important books of Renaissance and Early Modern dramatic literature. The Pforzheimer library includes one of only three known existing copies of The True Tragedie of Richard III written by an unknown author and published in 1594. Other highlights include first and early editions of William Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Aphra Behn, Colley Cibber, John Dryden, Nahum Tate, and other Renaissance and Restoration playwrights and critics.

Theatre Arts Library
The Theatre Arts Library is an assemblage of over 30,000 theatre and performance-related volumes largely assembled as part of the University of Texas' Hoblitzelle Theatre Collection. Among the earliest of books is a first edition of Reginald Scot's Discourie of Witchcraft (1584) from the library of Harry Houdini, which was one of the first books to explain magic tricks and debunk witchcraft in the English language. The library is searchable in the UT Library Catalog. The Library of Congress designations for each book in this collection end with HRC-TA.

B. J. Simmons & Co. Costume Research Library
From 1860-1960, B. J. Simmons & Co. was one of the leading costume houses in Great Britain. Along with their design holdings, production portfolios, and organizational records (see finding aid), the Ransom Center holds the costume research library for B. J. Simmons & Co., which was used as reference for the company's team of designers. Researchers can review the holdings of the costume research library in the UT Library Catalog.

Comedias Sueltas Collection of Spanish Drama
Spanish comedias sueltas are short plays published in Spain from the late 17th through the 19th century in small pamphlet formats. This collection of over 15,000 items documents the evolution of Spanish drama from the 17th century into the early 20th and is a rich source for research in the history of the Spanish theater, and Spanish printing and publishing. While consisting primarily of original Spanish language works, the collection also includes bilingual editions, and translations from various languages including Russian, Swedish, German, and Catalan.

The earliest item in the collection dates to 1603: Juan de la Cueva's Comedia de la muerte del rey don Sancho y reto de Zamora, printed in Barcelona; however the bulk of materials were published after the 1850s. Many of these later items are inexpensive reprints of old favorites that were produced for the public a few days before the performances.

The collection contains an abundance of provenance evidence, including numerous prompt copies, author- and composer-signed copies, and handwritten censor's statements. Marginalia in some of the plays provides a wealth of material for investigation: the back page of an otherwise ordinary mid-nineteenth century play about young love becomes the place for a handwritten murder confession with some interesting side sketches. Another reveals a censor's remarks about the use of the dative plural that may not be understood "en América." There are stamps, musical scores, photographs, postcards, and loving inscriptions to mothers, benefactors, sweethearts, and of course to the Spanish royalty.

The Texas Collection of Comedias Sueltas and Spanish Theater Database contains descriptions of each item in the collection. Included in the database are approximately 600 titles held in the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M University.

Lambs Club Library
In the 1970s, the Ransom Center became home to the historic library of The Lambs, America's oldest professional theatrical organization. Founded in New York in 1874, the Lambs library includes over 150 important early play scripts and theatre manuals from the 18th and 19th centuries. The inventory of the Lambs Library can be found in the UT Library Catalog.

McManus-Young Collection of Magic
The McManus-Young Collection contains over 2,000 books on the practice and history of conjuring, sleight of hand and stage magic, card tricks, hypnotism, spiritualism, ventriloquism, and witchcraft, as well as biographies and memoirs of well-known practioners. Assembled by John and Hanna McManus with Morris and Chelsey Young, the collection is particularly strong in 19th and early 20th century printed material. The inventory of the McManus-Young Magic Collection can be found in the UT Library Catalog. The Library of Congress also holds a significant library of books from McManus and Young.

Author Libraries and Former Owners
The Ransom Center's general book collection is home to the libraries of several notable figures in the performing arts. In some cases, the holdings are extensive such as with the libraries of George Bernard Shaw, Harry Houdini, and Philip Moeller. In other cases, the library holds only a few books formerly owned by an individual, such as David Garrick. Catalog records will also frequently include information about books signed by performing arts personalities. Researchers can search the online book catalogue by former owner by entering the individual's name (last name first), and limiting the search to the Harry Ransom Center.

Periodicals are catalogued in the UT Library Catalog and some are currently only catalogued separately on the Ransom Center's website. Periodical holdings in Performing Arts date back to 1721 and include full or partial runs of magazines and journals such as Theatre Arts, Dance, Stage, New York Dramatic Mirror, Opera News, The Mask, The Sphinx, Theatre World, and American Theatre.

Additional resources in theatre history and dramatic literature are located in University of Texas at Austin's Perry-Castañeda and Fine Arts Libraries.


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Monday, May 27
Thursday, July 4

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