Collection News / Penn Libraries

Shakespeare in Performance: Prompt Books from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Macbeth, 1663, prompt book

Macbeth: Prompt Book With Notes and Instructions. Dublin, 1663. Available through Adam Matthew: Shakespeare in Performance: Prompt Books from the Folger Shakespeare Library.

The Penn Libraries recently added Shakespeare in Performance: Prompt Books from the Folger Shakespeare Library to our subscriptions of digital primary collections.

Prompt books are designed for individuals within a theatrical production, including actors, directors, and stage managers. Alterations to the source text, marginal annotations, and inserted cues all help contemporary readers to learn the nuances of a past production.

This collection comprises over 1,000 digitized prompt books, acting editions, and ephemera, covering 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. Notable items include:

  • Letters from David Garrick describing his 1772 staging of Hamlet
  • Prompt books and set design sketches from William Charles Macready’s The Merchant of Venice, 1841
  • A souvenir prompt book from Paul Robeson’s Othello, 1930

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