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Theatre: reference sources

A selective list of reference sources on theatre, available mainly in the Humanities reading rooms. The shelfmark of each item is given at the end of the citation. Items marked by an asterisk are not on open access. 

The Drama and Literature Section of the Sound Archive has a vast collection of theatre recordings, including hundreds of RSC and NT productions, available for listening on the premises.

Bibliographies and resourcesPlays
DictionariesLord Chamberlain's plays
Encyclopaedias and CompanionsPlaybills, programmes and other theatrical ephemera
Historical surveysPlaywrights and actors
Circus, commedia dell'arte, harlequin & music-hallShakespeare's works
TheatresShakespeare in performance



 Bibliographies and resources

Arnott, J.F. and Robinson, J.W., English theatrical literature 1559-1900: a bibliography. (Incorporating R.W. Lowe's A Bibliographical account of English theatrical literature published in 1888.) London: Society for Theatre Research, 1970.
HLR 792.0941
Baker, B.M., Theatre and allied arts. New York: London: Benjamin Blom, 1967.
HLR 792.016
Block, S., The Original British theatre directory 2000. London: Richmond House, 2000.
HLR 792.0941
Cavanagh, J., British theatre: a bibliography 1901 to 1985. Mottisfont: Motley Press, 1989.
HLR 792.0941
Franchi, F., Directory of performing arts resources. 3rd ed. London: The Society for Theatre Research and the Theatre Museum, 1998.
HLR Enquiry Desk 792.07
Innes, C., Twentieth-century British and American theatre: a critical guide to archives. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999.
HLR 792.0941
Jowers, S. and Cavanagh, J., Theatrical costume, masks, make-up and wigs: a bibliography and iconography. London: Routledge, 2000.
HLR 792.026
Milhous, J., A Register of English theatrical documents, 1660-1737. Compiled and edited by Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
HLR 792.0942
Performing arts books 1876-1981, including an international index of current serial publications. New York: London: Bowker, c1981.
HLR 790.2
Silvester, R., United States theatre: a bibliography from the beginning to 1990. Romsey: Motley Press, 1993.
HLR 792.0973
Stratman, C.J., A Bibliography of British dramatic periodicals 1720-1960. New York: New York Public Library, 1962.
HUR Enquiry Desk 792.0941
Whalon, M.K., Performing arts research: a guide to information sources.
Detroit: Gale Research, 1976.
HLR 790.2


Griffiths, T. R., The theatre guide. 3rd ed. London : A. & C. Black, 2003.
HLR 792.03
Hill, A.D. and Barnett, D.Q., Historical dictionary of African American theater. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2009.
HLR 792.089
International dictionary of theatre. Edited by Mark Hawkins-Dady. 3 vols. Detroit: London: St. James Press, 1992-1996.
HLR 792
Leiter, Samuel L., Historical dictionary of Japanese traditional theatre. Lanham, Md.: Oxford: Scarecrow, 2006.
HLR 792.0952
Moore, F.L., Dictionary of the performing arts. Frank Ledlie Moore and Mary Varchaver. Chicago, Ill.: Contemporary Books, c1999.
HLR 790.203
Pickering, K., Key concepts in drama and performance. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
HLR 792.028
Senelick, L., Historical dictionary of Russian theater. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2007.
HLR 792.0947

 Encyclopaedias and Companions

Osnes, B., Acting : an International encyclopedia. Santa Barbara; Oxford: ABC-CLIO, c2001.
HLR 790.2
The Cambridge guide to theatre. Edited by M. Banham. New ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. [Previous ed. published as: The Cambridge guide to world theatre]
HLR 792.03
HUS 792.03
The Continuum companion to twentieth century theatre. Edited by C. Chambers. London: Continuum, 2002.
HLR 792.03
Encyclopedia of Latin American theater. Edited by Eladio Corte´s and Mirta Barrea-Marlys.
Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 2003.
HLR 792.098
Bordman, G.M., The Oxford companion to American theatre. Gerald Bordman, Thomas S. Hischak. 3rd ed. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
HLR 792.0973
The Oxford companion to the theatre. Edited by P. Hartnoll. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. (6th impression, 1995)
HLR 792.03
The Oxford companion to theatre and performance. Edited by D. Kennedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
HLR 792.03
The Oxford encyclopedia of theatre and performance. Edited by D. Kennedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
HLR 792.03
World encyclopaedia of contemporary theatre. Edited by D. Rubin. 6 vols. London: Routledge, 1994-2000.
HLR 792.03

 Historical surveys

Bentley, G.E., The Jacobean and Caroline stage. 7 vols. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1941-68.
HLR 792.0942
Bolton, H.P., Women writers dramatized: a calendar of performances from narrative works published in English to 1900. London: Mansell. 2000.
HLR 792.95
The Cambridge companion to medieval English theatre. Edited by R. Beadle Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
HLR 792.0942
The Cambridge companion to English Renaissance drama. Edited by A.R. Braunmuller and M. Hattaway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
HLR 822.309
The Cambridge history of British theatre. Edited by Peter Thomson, etc. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
HLR 792.0941
Chambers, E.K., The Elizabethan stage. 4 vols. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1923.
HLR 792.0942
Chambers, E.K., The Mediaeval stage. 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1903.
HLR 792.0941
Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo. 9 vols + 2 supplements. Roma: Casa Editrice le Maschere, 1954-1968.
HLR 790.203
A History of Scottish theatre. Edited by Bill Findlay; contributors Adrienne Scullion ... [et al.] Edinburgh: Polygon, c1998.
HLR 792.09411
Genest, J., Some account of the English stage from the Restoration in 1660 to 1830. 10 vols. Bath, 1832.
HLR 792.95
Nicoll, A., A History of English Drama 1660-1900. 4th ed. 6 vols. Cambridge: at the University Press, 1952-59.
HLR 822.009
A general history of the theatre arranged chronologically by volume, with a hand-list of plays in each volume. Volume 6 is A Short-title alphabetical catalogue of plays produced or printed in England from 1660 to 1900 which refers to the first five volumes.
Prologues, epilogues, curtain-raisers, and afterpieces : the rest of the eighteenth-century London stage. Edited by Daniel J. Ennis and Judith Bailey Slagle. Newark: University of Delaware Press, c2007.
HLR 792.95
Tanitch, R., London stage in the nineteenth century. Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 2010.
HLR 792.0942

 Circus, commedia dell'arte, harlequin & music-hall

Heck, T.F., Commedia dell'arte: a guide to the primary and secondary literature. New York; London: Garland, 1988.
HLR 792.23
Lust, A., From the Greek mimes to Marcel Marceau and beyond: mimes, actors,
Pierrots, and clowns. A chronicle of the many visages of mime in the theatre.
Lanham, Md.: London: Scarecrow Press, 2000.
HLR 792.3
Nicoll, A., The World of harlequin: a critical study of the Commedia dell'Arte. Cambridge: at the University Press, 1963.
HLR 792.23
Senelick, L., Cheshire, D.F. and Schneider, U., British music-hall 1840-1923: a bibliography and guide to sources with a supplement on European music-hall. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1981.
HLR 792.7
HUS 792.70941016
Toole Stott, R., A Bibliography of Books on the Circus in English from 1773 to
Derby: Harpur & Sons, 1964.
HLR 791.3
Toole Stott, R., Circus and allied arts: a world bibliography [1500-1970]. 5 vols. Vol. 1-4 published Derby: Harpur & Sons (Derby) Ltd., 1958-1971; Vol. 5 published [Great Sutton]: Circus Friends Association of Great Britain, 1992.
HLR 791.3
Turner, J.M., Victorian arena: the performers. A dictionary of British circus
Formby: Lingdales Press, c1995.
HLR 791.3


Andrews, R., The London theatre guide. London: Metro Publications, 2007.
HLR Enquiry Desk 792.0942
Howard, D., London theatres and music halls 1850-1950. London: The Library Association, 1970.
HLR 792.09
Loewenberg, A., The Theatre of the British Isles excluding London: a bibliography. London: Printed for the Society for Theatre Research, 1950.
HLR 792.0941
The Theatres Trust guide to British theatres, 1750-1950. Edited by John Earl & Michael Sell.
London: A. & C. Black, 2000.
HLR 792.09


Burling, W.J., A Checklist of new plays and entertainments on the London stage 1700-1737. Rutherford: Farleigh Dickinson University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1993.
HLR 792.95
Greg, W.W., A List of English plays written before 1643 and printed before 1700. London: Printed for the Bibliographical Society, 1900.
HLR 822.008
Harbage, A., Annals of English drama 975-1700: an analytical record of all plays, extant or lost, chronologically arranged and indexed by authors, titles, dramatic companies etc. 3rd ed. rev. by S.S. Wagonheim. London: Routledge, 1989.
HLR 822.008
Kahrl, G.M., The Garrick Collection of Old English Plays. London: The British Library, 1982.
HLR 822.008
The London Stage 1660-1800: a calendar of plays, entertainments and afterpieces, together with casts, box-receipts and contemporary comment. Part 1: 1660-1700 - Part 5: 1776-1800. Edited by W. Van Lennep et al.11 vols.+ Index. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-1979. [New version of Part 2 in draft, 1996]
HLR 792.95
Wearing, J.P., The London stage 1890-1899: a calendar of plays and players. 2 vols. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press Inc., 1976.
HLR 792.95
There are similar sets of volumes for 1900-1909, 1910-1919, 1920-1929, 1930-1939, 1940-1949, and 1950-1959.
The Player's Library: the catalogue of the Library of the British Drama League. London: Published for the British Drama League by Faber and Faber, 1950.Supplements I-III, London, 1951-56.
HLR 808.82
This extensive list of plays and books about the theatre includes a title index of plays and the main entry gives setting and number of characters. The British Drama League was subsequently called the British Theatre Association (BTA), and is now defunct. A large part of the BTA Library was taken over by the Theatre Museum together with the card indexes. This included texts of all plays not already held by the Theatre Museum, together with reference works and critical, bibliographical and biographical works. The playsets collection and the residue of the BTA collections have been taken over by the Drama Association of Wales /Cymdeithas Ddrama Cymru.
Stratman, C.J., Bibliography of medieval drama. 2nd ed. 2 vols. New York: F. Ungar Publishing Co., 1972.
HLR 808.82

 Lord Chamberlain's plays

These are the plays submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for licensing from 1824 to 1968, which are now in our Manuscript Collections. The collection is briefly described in Ongoing Collections, on page 9 of M.A.E. Nickson, The British Library: guide to the catalogues and indexes of the Department of Manuscripts. 3rd ed. revised by J. Conway. London: British Library, 1998 at shelfmark HLR Enquiry Desk 026.091, and in the guide to the collection available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Most plays in the collection appear in A. Nicoll, A History of English drama 1660-1900 (shelfmark: HLR822.009) marked with date of submission to the Lord Chamberlain.
The plays submitted from 1737-January 1824 are in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. They are listed in D. Macmillan, Catalogue of the Larpent plays in the Huntington Library. San Marino, Ca.: Henry E. Huntington Library, 1939 (shelfmark: HLR822.608). They can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room on microfiche.
Since the passing of the Theatres Act 1968 it has no longer been necessary for plays to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for licensing. In order that new plays should be preserved for posterity, Section 11 of the Act laid down that a copy of the script of every new play produced in Great Britain and not published at the time of the first production, should be deposited in Manuscript Collections. There is a handlist in chronological order and a card index by title (1824-1968) and author and title (1968 to date) in Manuscript Collections.

 Playbills, programmes and other theatrical ephemera

The Register of playbills, programmes and theatre cuttings is at shelfmark HLR Enquiry Desk 792.95. The Register gives the following:
1. A list of the playbills in Cox's Fragmenta, shelfmarks 937.g.1-94.

2. Playbills in a sequence of numbered volumes, indexed in order of the town then theatre name, shelfmarks PLAYBILLS 1- etc.

3. Theatre cuttings (pages 51-2 of the register) shelfmarks Th. Cts. 1- etc., and a number of odd general library shelfmarks e.g. 820.m.28.

4. A list of special collections (pages 53-54 of the Register) arranged by name of donor, with shelfmarks: e.g.
Carr Glyn: includes pressmarks such as PLAYBILLS 352-363
Irving: Pressmarks (Banksian Cupboard) Bks 1.b.c.
Petherbridge: includes Tab. 689 & 2
All shelfmarks which consist of numbers on their own should be preceded by the word PLAYBILLS to complete the shelfmark.
There are some collections not indexed in the Register, and the Register does not always give full information about a set of playbills. Enquirers should look for the heading for the theatre in question in the catalogue e.g. London III.- Haymarket Theatre. Other theatre collections in the British Library are listed under the entry for British Library, Collections and Services in Franchi's Directory of performing arts resources (listed under Bibliographies and resources).

 Playwrights and actors

Bryan, G.B., Stage deaths: a biographical guide to international theatrical obituaries 1850 to 1990. 2 vols. Westport: Greenwood, 1991 (Bibliographies and indexes in the performing arts, no. 9).
HLR 791.0922
Bryan, G.B., Stage lives: a bibliography and index to theatrical biographies in English. Westport: Greenwood, 1985 (Bibliographies and indexes in the performing arts, no. 2).
HLR 792.0922
Cairney, John, Solo performers: an international registry, 1770-2000. Jefferson, N.C.: London: McFarland, c2001.
HLR 792.028
Contemporary theatre, film, and television. Vol.1-. Detroit: Gale, 1984-.
HLR 792.028
Contemporary women dramatists. Edited by K.A. Berney. London: St James Press, 1994.
HLR 822.914
The Guinness who's who of stage musicals. Edited by Colin Larkin. Enfield: Guinness Publishing, 1994.
HUS 792.603
Highfill, P.H. et al., A Biographical dictionary of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, managers and other stage personnel in London, 1660-1800. 16 vols. Carbondale, 1973-93.
HLR 790.2
Johnson, C.D., Nineteenth-century theatrical memoirs. Compiled by Claudia D. Johnson and Vernon E. Johnson. Westport, Conn.: London: Greenwood, 1982.
HLR 790.2
Nungezer, E., A Dictionary of Actors, and of other persons associated with the
public representation of plays in England before 1642.
[With a bibliography.] New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929.
HLR 792.0922
Wearing, J.P., American and British theatrical biography: a directory. Metuchen: London: Scarecrow Press, 1979.
HLR 792.0922

 Shakespeare's works


Shakespeare, W., The Arden Shakespeare. London: Methuen & Co., 1955- .
This set consists of duplicates and reissues of certain volumes of the set published from 1899 onwards.
HLR 822.33 J
Shakespeare, W., A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare. Edited by Horace Howard
Furness [the Elder]. Philadelphia, 1871- .
Latest edition of each volume.
HLR 822.33 J
The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.
HLR 822.33 A


Bartlett, H.C., Mr. William Shakespeare, original and early editions of his quartos and folios, his source books and those containing contemporary notices. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922.
HLR 822.33
Ebisch, F.W., A Shakespeare Bibliography. 2 pt. Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1931, 1937.
HLR 822.33 A
Ford, H.L., Shakespeare, 1700-1740. A Collation of the editions and separate
plays, with some account of T. Johnson and R. Walker.
Oxford: University Press, 1935.
HLR 822.33 A
Jacobs, H.E. and Johnson, C.D., An Annotated bibliography of Shakespearean burlesques, parodies, and travesties. New York: Garland Publishing, 1976.
HLR 822.33 H
Jaggard, W., Shakespeare bibliography ... Reprinted. Folkestone & London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1971.
HLR 822.33 A
Shakespearean criticism: excerpts from the criticism of William Shakespeare's plays and poetry, from the first published appraisals to current evaluations. Laurie Lanzen Harris, editor, Mark W. Scott, associate editor. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., c1984.
HLR 822.33 D
Smith, G.R., A Classified Shakespeare Bibliography, 1936-1958. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1963.
HLR 822.33
Shakespeare: a bibliographical guide. Edited by S. Wells. New ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.
HLR 822.33 D


Birmingham Shakespeare Library, A Shakespeare bibliography: the catalogue of the Birmingham Shakespeare Library. 7 vols. London: Mansell, 1971.
HLR 822.33 A
Folger Shakespeare Library, Catalog of manuscripts of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Washington, DC.: Boston, Mass.: Hall, 1971.
HLL 822.33 A


Bartlett, J., A Complete concordance or verbal index to words, phrases and passages in the dramatic works of Shakespeare with a supplementary concordance to the poems. London: Macmillan St. Martins Press, 1979.
HLR 822.33 G
Spevack, M., The Harvard concordance to Shakespeare. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1973.
Refers to previous (i.e. 1974) edition of Riverside Shakespeare.
HLL 822.33 G


Davis, J.M., Frankforter, A.D., The Shakespeare name and place dictionary. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1995.
HLR 822.33
Dent, R.W., Shakespeare's proverbial languages: an index. Berkeley: London: University of California Press, c1981.
HLR 822.33
Dyce, A., A Glossary to the Works of William Shakespeare. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1902.
HLR 822.33 G
Foster, J., A Shakespeare Word-Book: being a glossary of archaic forms and
varied usages of words employed by Shakespeare.
London: George Routledge & Sons, [1908.]
HLR 822.33 G
Onions, C.T.A., Shakespeare glossary. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.
HLR 822.33 G
Shakespeare, W., The Standard Book of Shakespeare Quotations. Compiled and
arranged by Burton Stevenson. London: Mayflower, [1954.]
HLR 822.33 H
Spevack, M., A Shakespeare thesaurus. Hildesheim: Olms, 1993.
HLR 822.33 G

Encyclopedias and companions

A Shakespeare encyclopaedia. Edited by Oscar James Campbell. Methuen & Co.: London: printed in U.S.A., 1966.
HLR 822.33 G
Wells, S. (et al.), William Shakespeare: a textual companion. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.
HLR 822.33 E


Narrative and dramatic sources of Shakespeare. Edited by G. Bullough. 8 vols. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957-1975.
HLR 822.33 F
Chambers, E.K., William Shakespeare. A study of facts and problems. [With plates
and a bibliography.] 2 vol. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1930.
HLR 822.33 G
Ingleby, C.M., The Shakspere Allusion-Book. 2 vol. Oxford University Press: London, 1932.
HLR 822.33 G

 Shakespeare in performance

*The Cambridge companion to Shakespeare on film. Edited by Russell Jackson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
*The Cambridge companion to Shakespeare on stage. Edited by Stanley Wells and Sarah Stanton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
*Manvell, R., Shakespeare and the film. South Brunswick: A.S. Barnes, 1979.
*Rothwell, K.S., A History of Shakespeare on screen: a century of film and television. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
*Sammons, Eddie, Shakespeare: a hundred years on film. London: Shepheard Walwyn, 2000.
*Shakespeare, the movie: popularizing the plays on film, TV, and video. Edited by Lynda E. Boose, Richard Burt. London: Routledge, 1997.

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