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The Garrick Club

About the Library

When the Garrick Club was founded in 1831, the first of its Rules and Regulations called for the “formation of a theatrical Library, with works on costume”. Presentations by James Winston, the first Secretary and Librarian of the Club, as well as other early members formed the nucleus of the Library which now holds well over 10,000 items - not only books, but manuscripts, playbills, programmes and, particularly, a number of extra-illustrated books and scrapbooks containing rare archival and ephemeral items. It also holds many bibliographic and biographic reference works that are relevant to its collections. The Library continues to grow by bequest, donation and purchase.

The Club was named in honour of David Garrick (1717-1779) and the Library holds an important collection of material relating to the great actor. This includes Garrick's own time books (which give durations for each act of every major play he put on at Drury Lane) as well as books from his Library. There is also ‘David Garrick. A memorial illustrative of his life’, five scrapbook volumes compiled for Sir Henry Irving. Other scrapbooks devoted to players include the nine volumes of ‘Original Letters of Dramatic Performers’, a collection made by the little-known Charles Britiffe Smith around 1850. Smith also compiled the five volumes of ‘Original Letters from Drinkwater Meadows’ as well as an extra-illustrated copy of Theatrical Sketches by Richard James Lane, originally published in 1840. There are twenty-two scrapbook volumes devoted to Henry Irving, collected by his biographer Percy Fitzgerald, and five volumes cover the career of William Charles Macready. Charles Mathews's famous ‘At Home’ one man shows are documented in another scrapbook volume.

There is an important collection of John Philip Kemble's Covent Garden prompt books. Among the Library’s drama holdings are also a number of manuscript plays, including The Will by James Barrie and Love à la Mode by Charles Macklin. The latter is a copy specially made for King George II.

There are many early playbills, including sets for the Theatres Royal, in Drury Lane and Covent Garden, which are virtually complete for the years 1798 - 1840. The periodicals include a complete run of The Era from 1858-1939, providing valuable data on theatre performances in London and the provinces.

The Library holds the Garrick Club Archive, with a wealth of information documenting the Club's history and that of its past members. There are also a number of small archives relating to individual writers and performers, for example Sir Arthur Wing Pinero.

Most, but not all, of the material in the Library is recorded in the online catalogue.