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Theatre Collection The Mander & Mitchenson Collection

Set design for Twelfth Night, Osborne Robinson, Drawing, 1933 by Osborne Robinson. 
Mander & Mitchenson Collection

The Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection (M&M) is completely unique - the result of the lifetime’s work of Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson collecting the archives and ephemera of Britain’s theatrical history.

Joe and Raymond were actors with an insatiable appetite for collecting information about all aspects of theatre; the performances, the places and the people who work within the industry. With their theatrical connections they had a privileged insight and access to the theatre world “backstage” and the result is a wonderful collection, internationally recognised for its quality, which reflects the public and private “life” of theatre from the 18th century to modern times.

As an independent charity, M&M was already one of the three largest theatre history archives in the country. In 2009, when it became clear its operation was no longer financially viable, the Trustees began the process of finding the most appropriate new home for the collection. In December 2010 it was legally transferred, in its entirety to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, and following this acquisition we believe, the joint collections now form the second largest British Theatre History archive in the world.

Les Sylphides, Lotte Reiniger, Paper Silhouette 1945 by Lotte Reiniger.
Mander & Mitchenson Collection At the heart of the collection are 1,500 “reference boxes”. These contain a myriad of information and material including playbills, posters, programmes, engravings, news cuttings, photographs, scripts, correspondence, prompt copies, designs and more, dating from the early 18th century. Thematically arranged, the boxes cover, every actor, director, producer, writer, composer and musician of note over the last 200 years alongside all London and many regional theatres. Most importantly, the often neglected areas of popular entertainment are very well documented including sections on individual entertainers, circus acts (acrobats, trapeze, Indian acts etc), Music Hall, Variety, puppets, minstrels, toy theatres, speciality acts (jugglers, ventriloquists, dwarfs(!)), magic and comedy. Many of these are areas that have rarely been documented or collected before and consequently it is extremely important to catalogue them and make available to the maximum range of users.

In addition to the reference boxes, there are another 1,000 boxes of personal archives containing ephemera, costumes, artwork, audio recordings objects, props and much more. The material was collected through sales, auctions and donations from friends such as Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, Somerset Maugham, Angus McBean and Dame Sybil Thorndike. The whole collection is particularly strong in 18th and 19th century theatre history, although it continues up to the present day, and was used by its creators to write no fewer than 19 books on theatrical subjects including Hamlet through the Ages; The Gay Twenties; The Theatres of London and The Lost Theatres of London which are all still widely referred to today. In addition, images of documents and photographs from M&M have been consistently and frequently used in a wide range of other peoples publications - both academic and coffee table - over the last 40 years and continue to be so. The media also make regular use of the visual material held within M&M. Costume design for Regan, Roger Furse, Drawing, 1940 by Roger Furse.
Mander & Mitchenson Collection

The Mander & Mitchenson Reference Box Collection has recently been catalogued with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives. The catalogues for Inner London Theatres, Greater London Theatres, Regional Theatres and Actors can be viewed here.

A list of the entire Reference Box Collection is also available.

The rest of the Mander & Mitchenson Collection is being assessed and prioritised for cataloguing.

Photographs from the Mander & Mitchenson Collection may be ordered through Arenapal (+44 (0) 20 7403 8542), but only of items for which images are already available.