London: Printed and published by B. Pollock, at his wholesale and retail Theatrical Print Warehouse, 73, Hoxton Street, 1876 (after). First Edition. Archive of cut-out characters, scenes, theater wings from Pollock's large- and small-format "Sleeping Beauty," accompanied by a contemporary American (?) wooden tea box which was used for the express use of the Toy Theater. CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION: 2 copies of Pollock's 16-page text (8vo., original self-wrappers, some wear to both copies); 8 octavo-sized plates of characters, numbered 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (with duplicates of 3, 6, 7) with a number of characters previously cut-out; altogether 10 tall folio-sized wings (five pairs) of which 2 are mounted on heavy card (worn) formerly attached to sides of wooden theater box, and 2 wings mounted on thin card (browned); altogether 12 folio plates of scenes, one mounted on card and inserted into the back of the wooden theater box (not from Sleeping Beauty?), 1 is affixed to the top of the wooden box (not from Sleeping Beauty?), and ten from Sleeping Beauty numbered 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; a composite set of 10 cut-out characters affixed to old card bases, of which Lady Bendwell, Prince Charming, and the Harlequin appear to be the only ones from Sleeping Beauty (some slightly defective); plus 3 octavo sized scenes numbered 1, 6, 7. Good. Item #3593
"In the mind of their once happy owner: all survive, kaleidoscopes of changing pictures, echoes of the past." (R.L. Stevenson).
REMARKABLE TOY THEATER ARCHIVE WHICH INCLUDES A HOME-MADE "THEATER" CREATED FROM A TEA CRATE, POSSIBLY AMERICAN. We purchased the archive and its theater from an East Coast dealer, who bought it from an East Coast estate sale. We find it unlikely that everything was shipped as cargo from the U.K.
"A toy theatre was, as we will see, a tiny but complex structure -- as intricate and lovingly assembled, in its way, as model railroads can be for today’s hobbyists. In its prime, it was not a nostalgic hobby but a breathless bulletin from the newly emerging world of mass communications and global celebrities -- a chance for ordinary people to touch their heroes in person." (Garrett Epps, The Rise and Fall of Toy Theatre, online).
Pollock's Juvenile Drama Toy Theater was wildly popular in the 19th-century, for which see Robert Louis Stevenson's wistful musings entitled "A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured":
¶ "These words will be familiar to all students of Skelt's Juvenile Drama. That national monument, after having changed its name to Park's, to Webb's, to Redington's, and last of all to Pollock's, has now become, for the most part, a memory. Some of its pillars, like Stonehenge, are still afoot, the rest clean vanished. It may be the [British] Museum numbers a full set; and Mr. Ionides perhaps, or else her gracious Majesty, may boast their great collections; but to the plain private person they are become, like Raphaels, unattainable. I have, at different times, possessed Aladdin, The Red Rover, The Blind Boy, The Old Oak Chest, The Wood Daemon, Jack Sheppard, The Miller And His Men, Der Freischutz, The Smuggler, The Forest Of Bondy, Robin Hood, The Waterman, Richard I., My Poll and My Partner Joe, The Inchcape Bell (imperfect), and Three-Fingered Jack, The Terror Of Jamaica. [...] In this roll-call of stirring names you read the evidences of a happy childhood; and though not half of them are still to be procured of any living stationer, in the mind of their once happy owner all survive, kaleidoscopes of changing pictures, echoes of the past."
¶ Brander Matthews explains: "These sheets of thin cardboard, with thin little pamphlets containing the text of the pieces to be performed in the toy theater, were originally known as Skelt's Juvenile Drama; and one Skelt seems to have been its originator, probably in the early part of the nineteenth century. Apparently he parted with his precious stock in trade to one Park, who passed it on in due season to one Webb, who transmitted it to one Redington, until at last it descended [in 1876] to its present owner, one B. Pollock, of 73 Hoxton Street, London, N. [Robert Louis] Stevenson affected to think that Skelt's Juvenile Drama had 'become, for the most part, a memory'; yet it survives now in the second decade of the twentieth century as Pollock's Juvenile Drama, and Mr. Pollock proclaims that he has republished some score plays, and that he keeps them always in print, plain and colored. He offers, furthermore, to supply "Drop Scenes, Top Drops, Orchestras, Foot and Water Pieces, Single Portraits, Combats-Fours, Sixes, Twelves, Sixteens-Fairies, Horse Soldiers, Clowns, Rifles, Animals, Birds, Butterflies, Houses, Views, Ships, &c., plain and colored, 1/2d sheet plain, 1d sheet colored." (SOURCE: Brander Matthews, A Book About the Theater, 1916, p. 40).