Special Collections & Archives



Pettingell Collection

The Pettingell collection of plays was acquired by the University in 1967 from Mrs. Ethel Pettingell, the widow of the actor Frank Pettingell (1891-1966) - see a chronology of his life.

Pettingell himself had acquired almost all of his collection of some 4,400 printed and manuscript playscripts, with a number of works on the history of the English theatre, from the son of their original owner, Arthur Williams (1844-1915), a popular comedian in the late Victorian and Edwardian popular theatre. The material is extra-illustrated, ie it has paste-ins by Williams, giving the cast lists of productions in which he was involved or which he knew about. See also the Arthur Williams Collection.

The collection covers many of the most popular writers for the stage, stretching in period from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Its strength lies in its concentration on the popular: melodramas, tragedies, farces, and burlesques.

The original collection has been added to by the purchase of over a thousand playbills, mostly from the London theatres, and by textual material such as the Marcus Elmore Collection, comprising about 600 printed texts used mainly by the Victorian actor Marcus Elmore.


See a content overview of the Pettingell Collection.

The following authors are well represented in the manuscripts collection (often, though not always, holograph):

Of particular interest are:

  • the manuscripts (10, some unpublished) and printed texts of Dion Boucicault's plays; see also our Dion Boucicault Collections
  • a unique collection of over 300 pantomime libretti
  • a collection of manuscript plays from the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton
  • the many annotated, interleaved, and prompt copies, often supplied with extra cast lists for London and provincial performances by Arthur Williams.

Thanks to monies received under the Non-Formula Funding Programme (Follett Funding) we have been able process and catalogue material from this collection. Search in LibrarySearch for details of the items.

Collection in brief

Contents: play texts, manuscripts, libretti, prompt copies, playbills
Period: 18th-20th century

Catalogued: yes


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Last Updated: 24/09/2020