The Quintessential G.B.S. : About the Collection

In 1991 the Brown University Library acquired a collection of George Bernard Shaw material formed by Sidney P. Albert, professor emeritus of philosophy at California State University-Los Angeles. The collection is rich in manuscript material, including autograph and typed letters, post cards, notes, inscriptions and signed photographs as well as costume designs and a fragment of music in Shaw's hand. There are more than 2,000 books by and about Shaw and a strong collection of ephemera - pamphlets, "rough proof" rehearsal copies of plays, programs, press clippings, film stills, posters, publicity photographs, recordings, photographs of Shaw's 1933 visit to Hollywood, and publications of Shaw societies in London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. More than 200 periodicals containing pieces by or about Shaw round out the collection.

The Brown University Library also holds the correspondence between Shaw and his American publisher, Dodd, Mead & Company. That purchase, including 15 letters, original contracts, sketches and photographs of Shaw, and more than 100 files covering contracts and reprint rights, provides a picture of Shaw as a businessman who composed his own contracts and championed the economic cause of writers. An inventory of the Dodd Mead Shaw Archive is available in pdf form.

The Sidney P. Albert-Bernard Shaw Collection*

Described by Don B. Wilmeth, Asa Messer Professor 
and Professor of Theatre and English, Brown University

In November 1991 Brown University announced the addition of the Sidney P. Albert-G.B. Shaw Collection to its Special Collections (acquired in June). The purchase of the private collection of Sidney P. Albert was accomplished with the support and encouragement of the then president of Brown, Vartan Gregorian. At the same time, and upon Albert's recommendation, Brown acquired the correspondence and other documents relating to Shaw's dealings with his American publisher Dodd, Mead & Company (and, by extension, other publishers). An inaugural exhibit of material from the Albert Collection ("Quintessential Shaw") was mounted in Brown's John Hay Library, May 5-July 28,1995, curated by former Brown Curator of Printed Books, Jennifer B. Lee. To celebrate the opening of the exhibit and to mark the addition of the Albert-Shaw Collection to Brown's holdings, the Friends of the Brown University Library hosted a dinner-reception on May 5th with readings from Shaw plays and a brief talk ("100 Years Ago: G.B.S. in 1895") by Albert, followed by a public lecture ("Shaw's Utopia") delivered by Shaw biographer Michael Holroyd.

Sidney P. Albert, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, California State University-Los Angeles, is a well-known Shaw authority, specializing in Major Barbara. His interest in Barbara naturally combines his life-long interest in philosophy and the theatre, for in addition to a 1939 Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University, Albert also did postdoctoral study in drama and theatre at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon), Northwestern, Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Illinois. His focused interest in Major Barbara is reflected in numerous lectures and papers delivered on various aspects of the play and over a dozen published essays, including two on his investigation into sources of Perivale St. Andrews in Volume 19 of the Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies.

Yet Albert's collecting of Shaviana, covering a period of over forty years, has been far more catholic in its scope than just material on Major Barbara. As the news release on the acquisition noted, The Albert Collection includes more than 2,000 books by and about Shaw, among them a substantial group of pre-1900 publications, and works by critics, many of them inscribed. In addition, there are more than 220 volumes of a general nature on the theatre/drama of Shaw's time. The Collection is exceptionally strong on ephemera: pamphlets, "rough proof" and rehearsal copies of plays, press clippings, film stills, posters, publicity photographs, recordings, photographs of Shaw's 1933 visit to Hollywood (from the Hearst collection), and publications of Shaw societies in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. Some 79 items of original Shaw correspondence can be found in the holdings, as well as five letters from Shaw's long-time secretary, Blanche Patch, and one by secretary Georgina Musters, all six written on Shaw's behalf. Some 16 additional letters of associative interest are in the holdings (including five letters from Charlotte Shaw). More than 222 periodicals containing pieces by (85) or about Shaw round out the collection. As a complement to the original material in the collection, Albert has added photocopies of Shaw material from various archives in the United States and England.

Although there is no one focus to the Albert Collection, a brief description of some of the special items might provide a sense of Albert's acquisitions:

  • Shaw's magazine piece, The Great Fight (reprinted by Mitchell Kennerly, June 1921).

  • Is Free Trade Alive or Dead? : a lecture by Shaw given at the Glasgow Fabian Society, October 2, 1903, and printed for private circulation by George Standring (London 1906).

  • Documents for the terms and conditions for public performance of various Shaw plays.

  • Shaw's memorandum of agreement with Penguin Books for the publication of Major Barbara (7 February 1944).

  • First publication of various plays (Widowers' Houses, Why She Would Not: A Little Comedy; Shakes versus Shav, Pygmalion).

  • Costume designs for Arms and the Man with notations in Shaw's hand.

  • First American edition (unauthorized, n.d.) of Shaw's lecture, "Modern Religion" (New Reform Club, London, 21 March 1912).

  • Limited edition (750 copies) of Saint Joan press book with colored plates of settings and costumes (by Charles Ricketts) for first British production.

  • The Art journal (1891): large bound volume containing a rare surviving example of Shaw's art criticism (on "J.M. Strudwick").

  • Statement of the Evidence in Chief. . . Before the joint-Committee on Stage Plays (July 1909). Scare, privately printed edition.

  • Rough proof (unpublished) copies of Pygmalion, Androcles and the Lion, The Inca of Perusalem, O'Flaherty V.C., Augustus Does His Bit, The Apple Cart, Too True to Be Good, On the Rocks, The Six of Calais, The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles.

  • Rehearsal copies of Geneva and Buoyant Billions; actors' copies for Androcles and the Lion and The Philanderer.

  • A large series of Fabian publications.

  • Theatre programs for the Court Theatre and other early Shaw productions, as well as a large collection of various Major Barbara programs.

The Dodd, Mead component of the Albert-Shaw Collection incorporates 15 letters signed by Shaw (plus numerous postcards), original contracts, sketches and photographs of Shaw, and more than 100 files covering contracts and reprint rights. Collectively, this unique holding provides a revealing picture of Shaw as a businessman who structured his own contracts and, as is well known, constantly championed the economic cause of writers. In all, there are over 300 items in this archive. The Dodd, Mead holdings are organized under two series. Series I (to 1950) and Series II (after 1950). Likely of most interest are the items in Series I, covering the period of Shaw's personal relationship with Dodd, Mead. Subseries A includes letters from Shaw (1933-1949); subseries B gathers together graphic materials from Shaw, including several photographs (William Morris, Shaw, Edward Burne-Jones); subseries C are contracts with Shaw (including one with Brentano's); subseries D are three items relating to Blanche Patch (on Shaw's behalf); subseries E include a sizable number of letters, mostly from Shaw's publisher; subseries F are items having to do with the publication of specific titles (i.e., The Adventures of the Black Girl, The Apple Cart, Arms and the Man, Arms and the Man and Two Other Plays, Back to Methuselah, Buoyant Billions, Caesar and Cleopatra, Candida, The Devil's Disciple, The Doctor's Dilemma, Everybody's Political What's What?, Florence Farr, Bernard Shaw, and W.B. Yeats, The Future of Political Science in America, G.B.S. 90, Geneva, Geneva/Cymbeline Refinshed/Good King Charles, Nine Plays, Pygmalion, Pygmalion/Major Barbara, The Real Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan, Sixteen Self Sketches, Three Master of the English Drama, William Morris as I Knew Him, Works [various editions, 1933-1949]).

Subseries G are miscellaneous items identified by name (Dodd, Mead; F.E. Lowenstein, Society of Authors; Stern & Reubens; Theatre Guild; Walter Trumbull; U.S. Customs [about Penguin Books]). Subseries H is labelled graphics (and likely includes some post-1950 items). This group of folders includes a charcoal drawing of Shaw, an ink drawing of Shaw by Constance Joan Naar, and several other drawings and engravings of the playwright. Subseries I are various photographs used or considered for publication (including a group of shots of Shaw and Gabriel Pascal). Subseries J and K include files of miscellaneous printed materials, tearsheets, and clippings.

Series II (after 1950) is comprised of three subseries. A is "By title" (similar to F in Series I), including publications by various publishers (up to the late 1960s) of the following: The Adventures of the Black Girl, Androcles and the Lion, Arms and the Man, Back to Methuselah, Bernard Shaw's Will, Buoyant Billions, Caesar and Cleopatra/Saint Joan/Pgymalion, Candida, Collected Letters (various editions, 1957-1982), Complete Plays with Prefaces, Don Juan in Hell, Lesser Known Plays, London Music, Major Barbara, Major Plays of Shaw, Man and Superman, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, Pygmalion, Caesar and Cleopatra, Pygmalion and Other Plays, Saint Joan, Saint Joan/Major Barbara/Androcles, Selected Plays, Selected Prose, Seven Plays, Shaw's Music, Ten Short Plays, The Shorter Plays, The Theatre of Bernard Shaw, Treasury of Bernard Shaw, An Unfinished Novel). The final two subseries (B and C) include various documents relating to press reports, sales figures, invoices contracts, and tearsheets and clippings.

Combined, the Sidney P. Albert Shaw materials and the Dodd, Mead archive form a unique and important collection devoted to Bernard Shaw. They likewise complement Brown's sizable collection of play texts, in particularly the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Drama.

The magnitude of the collection has made full cataloguing a slow proposition. A project is underway to create in-process records for printed materials and databases will be created for ephemeral materials.  A detailed inventory is available for the Dodd, Mead holdings. In order to gain access to the Albert-Shaw Collection or to obtain additional information, potential users should contact Jean Rainwater, Special Collections, Box A, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912.

*1 wish to thank Brown Special Collections Librarians Mark Brown and Jean Rainwater, and former Curator of Printed Books at Brown, Jennifer Lee, for guidance in the description of contents of the Albert Collection.

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Last Updated: Thursday, 01-May-2003 13:55:41 EDT