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Toy, Theatre, Stage Print Set, Temple of Death, Antique, London, 1820s (Sold)

1st Scene in the Temple of Death
2nd Scene in the Temple of Death
3rd Scene in the Temple of Death
4th Scene in the Temple of Death
5th The Last Scene in the Temple of Death
Wings in the Temple of Death

Hodgson & Co., London: c. 1822-1824
Hand-colored engravings
6.75 x 8.5 inches, images
7 x 9 inches, sheets

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Set of six prints produced as backdrops for a play called The Temple of Death, A Drama in Two Acts. They were created in London in the 1820s to be used in Hodgson toy home theatres. Together they depict exotic scenes of interiors and exteriors of ancient temples, ruins, and royal tents. Each of the first five prints has one main backdrop and a narrower, vertically oriented image intended to be placed on one two theatre wings (a left side facade and a right side facade on either side of the stage). The sixth print has four wing prints to be paired opposite those for the 3rd, 4th and 5th scenes, plus one extra possibly also for the 4th scene. The wings accompanying the 1st and 2nd scenes are a matching pair that probably are for use with both scenes.

Another example of this set is in the British Museum and is presumably complete with the six prints. Nonetheless, these prints are apparently very rare, perhaps due to their ephemeral nature. The British Museum also has one of the character prints for The Temple of Death depicting an actor dressed in armor named Mr. Bradley. The National Library of Australia has a book of scripts for juvenile plays published by Hodgson that includes The Temple of Death. A comprehensive exhibition called “Hodgson’s Juvenile Drama: The British Stage in Miniature 1821-1840” was held at the Guildhall Library in 2017.

Product description continues below.

Description

English toy theatre sheets were first published by William West in London in 1811. In 1821, the publisher Hodgson & Co. took the genre to a more sophisticated level by publishing scripts adapted from the London stage accompanied by series of engraved sheets of set designs (backdrops), actors, and various accessories. According to Guildhall Library, “[t]hese could run to as many as 32 plates of characters and up to 29 scenes, which were then supplemented by vast processions, grand cars and battle scenes.” The stage views with pairs of stage wings, and the characters and other figures were designed to be cut out and pasted on cardboard for use in home productions of the play in a small wooden theater. Some of these were issued hand colored while those issued as black and white engravings could be colored by the user.

Theatre historians today view these prints as valuable records of the range of popular theatrical productions of early-19th-century Regency period London. This was further explained for the Guildhall exhibition:

The English toy theatre — or juvenile drama — far from being merely a child’s plaything, offers a unique record of the actors, scenery, costumes and spectacle experienced by the London play-going public of the early 19th century. As a barometer of popular taste of the period it is unsurpassed, and well deserves its 1820s epithet of “The British Stage in Miniature”.

This was also emphasized by David Robinson, a British film critic, historian, and expert on toy theatre: “The people who issued the toy theatre prints were not just printers: they were impresarios — and impresarios who presented not just the legitimate repertoire of the patent houses but the whole range of London’s popular theatre.”

Hodgson & Co. was a British theatrical publishing firm based in London, active from 1821 to 1840. The repertoire included adaptations of historical dramas, exotic epics, Shakespeare, and plays about life in London.

Full publication information: Hodgson & Co., 43 King St. Snow Hill & 43 Holywell St. Strand.

References:

“File: Toy Theatre.” Wikimedia Commons. 18 August 2011. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toy_Theatre.jpg (6 July 2020).

“Five of Hodgson’s scene plates for the play ‘The Temple of Death.'” British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1886-0513-1507-1514 (3 July 2020).

“Hodgson’s juvenile drama.” National Library of Australia. https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/34441198?q&versionId=42591297 (3 July 2020).

“Hodgson’s Juvenile Drama: The British Stage in Miniature 1821-1840.” Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section Electronic Newsletter. No. 9, Autumn 2007. Online at: https://archives.history.ac.uk/guildhallmanuscripts/newsletter9.htm (3 July 2020).

Loxton, Howard. “Archive Exhibition, Hodgson’s Juvenile Drama: The British Stage in Miniature 1821-1840, Guildhall Library, 2007.” Rogues & Vagabonds. 14 November 2007. https://roguesandvagabonds.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/archive-exhibition-%E2%80%A2-hodgsons-juvenile-drama-the-british-stage-in-miniature-1821-1840-%E2%80%A2-guildhall-library-%E2%80%A2-2007/ (3 July 2020).

“No. 39 of Hodgson’s Theatrical Portraits for the toy theatre.” British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1886-0513-1544 (3 July 2020).

Additional information

Century

19th Century