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Part 1: The Correspondence, Diaries, Literary Manuscripts and Prompt Copies of W S Gilbert (1836-1911) from the British Library, London

The Savoy Operas have been described as "one of the most remarkable cultural phenomenon of the Victorian Period." (Dennis Chaldecott writing in Victorian Britain).

The British Library holds the pre-eminent collection of the papers of W S Gilbert, allowing us to understand his contribution to their success.  Gilbert was responsible for the book, the lyrics and the staging and we feature:

  • Drafts & synopses of  over 20 plays including Topsy-Turveydom, Patience, HMS Pinafore, The Mikado, The Yeoman of the Guard, and The Gondoliers.

  • Gilbert's own prompt copies, privately printed with manuscript notes giving property plots, plans of sets and stage directions, for 30 plays including Trial By Jury (his first collaboration with Sullivan), The Sorcerer, HMS Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance, Patience, Iolanthe, The Mikado, Ruddigore, The Yeoman of the Guard, The Gondoliers, His Excellency and Fallen Fairies.

  • Drawings by Gilbert for the Bab Ballads and Songs of a Savoyard and photographs recording costumes and stage settings for many plays.

  • His general correspondence, 1866-1911; papers relating the construction and leasing of the Garrick Theatre, 1888-1896 (owned by Gilbert); and diaries, 1878 and 1904-1911.

  • Details of Gilbert and Sullivan's visit to New York in 1879 with records of the weekly takings and expenses of HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, 1879-1881.

Digital Guide
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