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Welcome to Prospero's Blog! My wife Mollie and I work together in our Rough Magic studio on the coast of Maine. I've always loved old books, memorabilia, curiosities and Americana (especially 19th century dramatic literature) and am happy to share my discoveries in my Etsy Shops. Please come by and browse ~ there's just no telling what you'll find!

December 21, 2009

To Welcome Winter, a New Treasury by Rough Magic Creations on Etsy

This is the first day of Winter, and it's pretty chilly here in Maine.  Although we didn't get the 2-plus feet that other parts of the Northeast are dealing with, we do have a pretty white cover on the ground and some still clinging to the trees and fenceposts. 

To greet the new season, Mollie ~ ~ has a new Treasury on Etsy!  To view "Brrrr! It's COLD outside!" click here.  (It'll be live on till 6:59 p.m. Wednesday, December 23rd.)

Meanwhile, here's a poster sketch showing the twelve featured items and the four alternates -- treasures all!

November 28, 2009

Big Holiday Sale in My Etsy Vintage Shop!

Right now I'm holding a big Holiday Sale in my Etsy Shop:

Here are just a few of the items included in the sale:

Click here to view them all.

And be sure to check out my Postcard Section, because during this Holiday Sale, all postcards in my shop SHIP FREE to U.S. addresses!

And please visit often, as I'm constantly adding "new" vintage items to my Shop!

November 6, 2009


 Many many thanks to the fabulous Vicki Diane of for featuring Team Etsy Project Embrace (TeamEPE) in this fabulous treasury!
Here's the link to Vicki's treasury:

Quiz:  All these featured artists are "cyber" sisters.  Can you guess which two are flesh-and-blood sisters as well?

Special thanks too, to Kristin of and Rebecca of

Hugs and kisses to Vicki and all the brothers and sisters of TeamEPE!


October 28, 2009

Autobiographical Sketch of Mrs. John Drew

"Autobiographical Sketch of Mrs. John Drew" is a Memoir by the Matriarch of a two famous acting families, the Drews and the Barrymores.
~ Published in New York by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1899, the book is 200 pages long and includes an introduction by the author's son, John Drew, biographical notes by Douglas Taylor, and 43 illustrations.
~ The pages are clear and firmly bound, but the cover is worn and smudged. The tissue covering the frontispiece portrait is folded and torn.
~ Inscription in ink on the flyleaf:
"Edward Freiberger December 18, 1899 Chicago"

To view the book in my Etsy shop, please click this link:

Memoir of George Holland the Veteran Comedian

This RARE book provides wonderful primary source material for historians, researchers, and all those who love the 19th century and American theatre!

British born, George Holland (1791-1870) came to America in 1827. He was called a "comedian of peculiar and irrepressible drollery."

The title page reads:
"Holland Memorial. Sketch of the Life of George Holland, the Veteran Comedian. With Dramatic Reminiscences. Anecdotes, &c. Edition limited to 250 copies, 50 which are on quarto paper. New York: T. H. Morrell, 78 Nassau Street. 1871."

The book is 124 pages long, measures 11-1/8" x 7-1/2" x 5/8" and is in fair condition, considering its 138 years. The cover is worn, and the lower portion of the spine is torn. Pages 1 and 2 are loose up to 5" from the bottom, and page 7 is completely detached. There are light scribblings in page margins.  The frontispiece is a portrait of Holland.

To view this book in my Etsy shop, click this link:

October 27, 2009

The Ten Commandments in the Animal World - Vintage Book

Copyrighted in 1907 and published in 1923, this charming little 78-page hardcover book is in excellent condition.

It was written by the popular naturalist and storyteller Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), who believed "that the Ten Commandments are not arbitrary laws given to man but are fundamental laws of all highly developed animals."

Seton tells delightful stories about different animals (from wolves to hens to moose) to prove his theory in terms of the last six Commandments, which are concerned with man's duty to man.

The chapters are:
"Against Disobedience"
"Against Murder"
"Against Impurity"
"Against Stealing"
"Against False Witness"
"Against Coveting"

The book measures 7-1/2" x 4-3/4".

Click here to view it in my Etsy shop.

October 25, 2009

Daniel Frohman Presents ... a Theatrical Memoir

For historians, researchers, collectors and theatre buffs!

Here is the autobiography of legendary American theatre producer Daniel Frohman (1851-1940), published by Lee Furman, New York, in 1937.

Not only is this 397-page memoir packed with primary source information, it is a fascinating "read," written with skill and gentle good humor.  The author gives us "peeps" (as he calls them) at such theatrical notables and celebrities as Mae West, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langry, Sarah Bernhardt, Duse, Modjeska, Enrico Caruso, Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin, Billie Burke, and dozens more.

He also provides insights into stewardship of the Lyceum and Madison Square Theatres.

The book itself is in fair condition. The cover is worn and faded, especially at the spine, which is broken but still firmly attached. There are a few light pencil notes in the margin, and the inside front cover has had an old bookplate removed.

Aside from Frohman's lively and informative commentary, the real treasure in this book is the last section -- "Daniel Frohman's Album." Here, in excellent condition, are 64 black and white photographs of the people we've all heard of and wondered about.

~~~ Was Lillie Langtry ("The Jersey Lily") really a great beauty? Study the photo of her with the great Sarah Bernhardt and then decide.  (That's Lillie on the left.)

Other celebrities in Frohman's Album include:
~ Noel Coward
~ Enrico Caruso
~ Lillian Russell
~ Salvini
~ Henry Irving
~ Thomas Nast
~ Charles Chaplin
~ Mae West
~ Maude Adams
~ Eleonora Duse
~ Edwin Booth
~ Otis Skinner
~ Walter Hampden
~ Ethel Barrymore
~ Maurice Barrymore and John Drew, scions of the famous star-studded family
~ Charles Frohman, the author's brother
~ George M. Cohan, the "Yankee Doodle Dandy"

All in all, this is a thoroughly delightful book, offering many revealing "peeps" at the late 19th and early 20th century theatre scene in America.

To view Daniel Frohman Presents in my Etsy shop, please click here.

October 19, 2009

The Magic Curtain by Lawrence Langner - Story of the Theatre Guild

The Magic Curtain is a wonderful book for everyone interested in the theatre!

Written with wit and clarity, and packed with entertaining anecdotes about famous 20th century celebs, it tells the story of the Theatre Guild, one of the best known and most successful producing theatres in America. And no one knew that story better than Langner, who was, after all, the Guild's founder.

Subtitled "The Story of a Life in Two Fields, Theatre and Invention by the Founder of the Theatre Guild," Langner's book was published in New York by E. P. Dutton & Co. in 1951.  This is the Second Printing of the First Edition.

Its 498 pages include 87 black and white photos -- some of them candid snapshots, others promotional production photos -- including major actors and actresses who performed for the Guild, as well as several of Eugene O'Neill and George Bernard Shaw.

There are a number appendices, one of which lists 173 Theatre Guild plays, and a comprehensive index.

The book measures 9-3/8" x 6-3/8" x 1-1/2" and is in very good vintage condition.

Please click here to view The Magic Curtain in my Etsy shop.

October 10, 2009

King Mahendra's Bhagavad Ajjuka - 7th Century Farce from South India

This is the first edition of the first English translation (with the text) of this Sanskrit play by King Mahendra, one of the most famous kings of the Pallava dynasty of 7th century South India.

In this farce, a holy man tries to explain the human soul to a disciple but accidentally transfers his own soul into the body of a recently dead courtesan.

Published in Madras by The Christian Literature Society in 1978, this hardcover book is 126 pages long and in excellent vintage condition. The binding is firm and the pages are clear and unmarked. The only signs of wear are to the dust jacket (several small tears, the largest a 1" one at the lower front corner) and the edges and corners of the cover.

Complete notes and commentary are included. The book measures approximately 8-5/8" x 5-3/4" x 1/2".

October 9, 2009

London Theatre 14 Programs 1950 1951

Here's a set of 14 programs for plays performed on London Stages in 1950 and 1951!

~ Aldwych Theatre Figure of Fun with John Mills, 1951
~ Ambassador Theatre The Passing Day with Joseph Tomelty, 1951
~ Apollo Theatre Seagulls over Sorrento with Ronald Shiner, 1951
~ Duke of York's Theatre Point of Departure with Mai Zetterling, 1950
~ Globe Theatre Ring Round the Moon with Paul Skofield, 1950
~ Lyric Theatre The Lyric Revue, 1950 (2 copies count as 1)
~ Lyric Theatre The Little Hut with Robert Morley, 1950
~ New Theatre Hamlet with Alec Guinness, 1951
~ Old Vic Theatre King Henry V with Alex Clunes, 1951
~ St. James's Theatre Les Fausses Confidences and Babtiste, 1951
~ St. James's Theatre Partage du Midi with Jean-Louis Barrault, 1951*
~ St. Martin's Theatre Penny Plain a Revue, 1951
~ Savoy Theatre D'Oyly Carte's Season The Mikado, 1951
~ Wyndham's Theatre The Love of Four Colonels with Peter Ustinov, 1951

These programs are in good vintage / antique condition. The pages are firmly stapled and unmarked. *The name of a previous owner is written in ink on the cover of this program. There are some creases and normal signs of age, but there are no rips or tears.

A Record of the Boston Stage by William W. Clapp Jr. 1853 Vintage Book

A rare original edition!  Click here to view.

For Historians, Collectors, Theatre Buffs and Lovers of Boston Memorabilia!

Here is an antiquarian book by William W. Clapp Jr., published in 1853 (Boston by James Munroe and Co.), a treasure trove of information.

This is a basic history for the study of Boston theatre by the "Editor of the Boston Evening Gazette," where these chapters were first published.

There's no denying that this book shows its 156 years. The well-worm cover is frayed along the edges and the spine is faded. The binding showing on the inside of the front and back covers is cracked but remains firmly glued. The left upper corners of pp. 51-68 have been turned, and the back flyleaf is torn. The edges have turned brown with ages, but the pages are unmarked and securely bound.

A previous owner's name - "A. A. Folsom" (?) and the date "Nov. 8, 1879" are written in ink on the flyleaf.

The book is 479 pages long and measures approximately 7-1/4" x 4-1/4" x 1-3/8".

September 17, 2009

Plays by William Dean Howells, 19th Century American Writer

Looking for plays by William Dean Howells?

We have them for sale! We've just added a number of Howells' plays to our catalog of used and rare books. Some are first editions. They are from a private collection and are in very good condition.

Among them are The Register, The Elevator, The Garroters, The Sleeping Car, The Parlor Car, The Mouse Trap, Five O'Clock Tea, The Albany Depot and A Counterfeit Presentment.

Can't find what you're looking for? We have many plays and books that are not yet online.
Please contact us!  Email:

A Chronological Outline of World Theatre by Feedback Theatrebooks

Click here or on the image to view.

~ Where did the theatre really begin?  And what has happened to it over the past 4000 years?  For answers take a look at A Chronological Outline of World Theatre.
~ Clearly presented in outline form with succinct expository information, diagrams of major stages around the world and throughout history, and a complete index, A Chronological Outline of World Theatre is published by Feedback Theatrebooks, now celebrating our 25th year.
~ Long a treasured "crib" for students, A Chronological Outline Outline of World Theatre is also an excellent reference for anyone interested in the theatre.
For example:
What was happening in the rest of the world
when Shakespeare was writing in 16th century England?
  • In the Middle East there were religious parades and bazi (play) performed at Iranian courts.
  • These were the "Dark Ages in Indian Theatre".
  • Wayang gedog shadow puppets were introduced to Java.
  • China marked the rise of K'un ch'u drama.
  • O'Kuni brought a new dance to Japan.
  • The "Golden Age of Spanish Theatre" began.
  • French theatre, in transition, produced its "first professional playwright."
  • Two comedies were presented at a Spanish Mission in Tequista, Florida.
China celebrated its "Golden Age" during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). 
Elsewhere --
  • The meddahs, or storytellers, formed a guild in Baghdad.
  • Sanskrit drama had disappeared from India.
  • Dengaka guilds were well established in Japan.
  • In medieval Europe, theatre was only beginning -- with folk plays in France, puppet shows in Spain, street pageants in many places, and celebrations of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
A Chronological Outline of World Theatre is a "must have" for every reference library, every theatre teacher and student, everyone with a passion for the stage!

The Metropolitan Playhouse Stages Early and Classic American Plays

Live in or planning to visit New York City? 
Want to see a classic American play on stage?  
Click here to visit the Metropolitan Playhouse website and check out their season.

September 16, 2009

Racism in the Theatre - Bigotry and Prejudice on Stage

Here is a collection of plays from America's past.

These dramas express feelings that today's audiences cannot condone, or even comprehend, but that our ancestors understood -- in some cases all too well.
George Aiken's dramatization of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1952) gained instant acclaim as "the world's greatest hit!"

Dion Boucicault's The Octoroon (1859) drew audiences in both America and England for decades.

Less popular but earnest presentations of racial issues in America were J. T. Trowbridge's Neighbor Jackwood (1857), William Wells Brown's The Escape (1858) -- a stageworthy play by America's first black dramatist, and James McCabe's The Guerillas (1862), showing the Civil War from the Southern perspective.
By the early 20th century, views of African Americans had changed in the theatres -- or at least begun to change. In 1909 Edward Sheldon, that thoughtful dramatist who has never been adequately appreciated by historians) wrote his perceptive play with the title we cannot mention. Ironically, Ned Sheldon's play is forcefully pro-African American.
One critic, Clayton Hamilton, a professor at Columbia University, found himself unable to consider the play seriously. George Jean Nathan, an astute critic with a lasting reputation, called this play "one of the ten dramatic shocks of the century."

As the 20th century progressed and American society underwent even greater upheavals, dramatists edged into American race problems through folk drama. Paul Green's one-act White Dresses (1926) makes a poignant comment. Marc Connelly's The Green Pastures (1930) captured more audience attention -- by entertaining while avoiding issues.

A vital play of this period, Dubose Heyward's Brass Ankle (1931, also available among our rare books) with a title suggesting its pain, did not attract a large audience -- only 44 performances, but its anti-racism theme deserves attention. (Heyward, with his wife Dorothy, had been successful with Porgy a few years earlier.)

But in the theatre, which always pursues a single moment of excitement or sensation, entertainment value usually wins the day. Thoughtful appreciation and understanding frequently take years -- if not decades.

You won't find such a collection of American plays anywhere else -- so click here to visit us today!
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