Archive for the 'Old news – archived' Category


Belper Arts Festival

Trevor Griffin will give a presentation on Toy Theatre as part of Belper Arts Festival on Saturday 11th May 2019 at 2.30pm, at the Strutt’s Centre in the town. Full details are available on the Arts Festival website. Entry is free but donations to funds for a local community project would be appreciated. Places are limited to 60 people.


A new exhibition

Christ Church Upper Library in Oxford, which houses the F.B.Brady Toy Theatre collection, is currently holding an exhibition from the collection , Monday-Friday 1000-1630 until 7th October. Full details are available here


Sale of the century?

If you have $185,000 US to spare you might like to buy a Toy Theatre collection currently for sale on ebay! It is the collection of Herbert Zwiauer, the expert on Trentsensky, who wrote a little book on the subject “Papier Theater” in 1987. The collection is said to contain over 50 theatres of different designs, lots of scenery and figures to perform on them and playbooks and original sheets, over 55,000 items in all! If you go on ebay you will find a mass of photos that give you a good idea of the content. Here is the link:


One shop closes, another opens!

As from 31st December 2013 we will stop selling Toy Theatre material via our website through the post. Already we have sold the last of our theatre sets A, B and C. Instead we will launch a new free service whereby you will be able to download and print off all our material, including Skelt reprints, at any time for free. This should be the best available free on-line resource of the British Toy Theatre!

We will sell off our old printed stock via ebay, where you will be able to use PayPal, and at special events.


Toy Theatre is over Two Hundred years old!

Early in 1811 William West, a London print seller, published a sheet showing eight characters from the popular pantomime, “Harlequin and Mother Goose”. The print was in the style of children’s lottery prints, each figure being drawn inside a box with a caption underneath. It is now believed that the plate was engraved for William West by John Green who later claimed to have been “The original inventor”. Green did not draw the figures but copied them from various sources.

The publication appears to have been an outstanding success, 5000 copies were sold immediately. West followed this with the publication of similar souvenir sheets in two or three plates covering at least 21 other plays during 1811. The “box” style was quickly abandoned.

West was not alone. Two lady print sellers, Mrs. Jameson of Duke’s Court off Bow Street and Mrs.Hebberd of Marylebone each published similar souvenir sheets during 1811. In all we know of 35 publications that year covering 30 separate play titles.

A year later stage fronts, wooden stages and scenery made their appearance and the Toy Theatre, as we know it, began. The events of 1811 were however the origin.

Here are copies of typical 1811 sheets for you to download.

“Harlequin and Mother Goose” is the original sheet engraved by Green and published by West. It is the “missing link” between children’ lottery prints and the Toy Theatre.

“Council of Ten” is an example of one of the earliest West publications. It shows the principal characters in that play, which was also known as the, “Lake of the Grotto,” performed on and around the water tank at the Sadlers Wells Theatre. Notice that two characters appear to float on small rafts! The two sheets of this play were copied and republished by George Skelt and these are reproduced here.

West original

Council of Ten


green’s characters and scenes

The latest in our series of information sheets (No.4) gives details about the publications of J.K.Green. There is a list of all his plays showing how many plates of characters, scenes, wings etc., a list of the wings series with descriptions and other details. It is something of great use to collectors and we are the only people publishing this type of list. Hugo Brown, who is a descendent of Mr.Green himself, has provided much of the information and checked it. We are very grateful to him.

The document can be downloaded here Green.


webb archive

If one reads the “classic” histories of the Toy Theatre one gets the impression that although the Pollock business survived into modern times, all that had gone before was irretrievably lost. Plates had been broken up and other material had been destroyed.

Then in the 1980s a man walked into Pollock’s Toy Museum and announced that he was a descendant of the Webb family, not only that but the family still had all the plates, original drawings and much other material from that great Toy Theatre publishing house and its predecessors!

Sadly this material was put up for sale in 1994 and most went to the USA. Fortunately the family had produced a detailed inventory that revealed for the first time the treasures it contained, including material from Skelt and other earlier publishers and proofs for lots of plays that were never published.

The Webb Archive is now housed at the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University, New Jersey. The Library has decided to make the collection easily accessible and as a part of this, Laurie Webb, the great grandson of William Webb, the original publisher, has travelled to the USA this year to assist in cataloguing.

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