Gilbert & Sullivan Book and Ceramics Collection
The Oviatt Library at California State University-Northridge (CSUN)
18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330
is now home to
The Gilbert and Sullivan Book and Ceramics Collection
Gilbert and Sullivan operas have been enjoyed by countless theater goers since they were first performed over 100 years ago. Their characters and music continue on in our culture in many ways. The Gilbert and Sullivan Collection is housed in the Special Collections Department. It contains Peter Goffin posters, music scores, Bab Ballad books, theater programs, advertising cards, and other ephemera produced for fans of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
The collection was assembled over an eighteen year period from 1988 through 2006 and donated to the Oviatt Library in 2007 and 2008. It numbers well over 900 books in addition to the aforementioned items. The collection is on the library's online catalog under the name The David Trutt Gilbert and Sullivan Collection.
Collecting began with the widely available Alan Jefferson Complete Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Guide and ended with the scarce Isaac Goldberg compilation of "New and Original Extravaganzas" by Gilbert. William Schwenck Gilbert was born November 18, 1836 and Arthur Seymour Sullivan was born May 13, 1842. The first and last of their fourteen collaborative efforts are: Thespis opening in December 1871 and The Grand Duke opening in March 1896. The other twelve are: Trial by Jury, The Sorcerer, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, Patience, Iolanthe, Princess Ida, The Mikado, Ruddigore, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, Utopia Limited.
Three principles governed the collecting process: 1.) Books published between 1869 and 2000 authored by or on the subject of W. S. Gilbert and/or Arthur Sullivan. The significance of 1869 is that it was the first year of publication of Gilbert's Bab Ballads. 2.) Every effort was made to acquire dust jackets. Titles were rebought to upgrade quality or add a dust jacket. 3.) Non Gilbert and Sullivan titled books, but with significant sections relating to the pair were included.
As the amount of books increased the following were added to give this collection a distinctive quality: 1.) Every available edition of a given title is included. This transformed the collection to include a visual experience; for a given title there are size changes, cover design and jacket variations. Alan Jefferson's book comes in two dust jacket versions, one selling for $22.95 and one selling for £14.95. 2.) Bab Ballads. Prior to his partnership with Sullivan, Gilbert produced a series of "topsy-turvy" verses for periodicals signed by Gilbert as Bab. These were collected in various groupings and published in book form as The Bab Ballads, More Bab Ballads, Fifty Bab Ballads and similar titles. There are over one hundred of these books, including three first editions.
Related Materials in the Collection
The collecting process led to pathways from the main Gilbert and Sullivan road to related materials. These include works on the Savoy Hotel, the Savoy Cocktail Book, William Gilbert, Blanche Roosevelt, Eyre Massey Shaw, George Grossmith, and Tennyson's Princess.
Richard D'Oyly Carte built the Savoy Theatre to showcase the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and the adjoining Savoy Hotel with profits earned from his business, On this pathway is an large sub-collection of books about the hotel.
The popular Savoy Cocktail Book, originally published by the Savoy Hotel bartender, Harry Craddock, has gone through numerous editions over the decades. Many of them are in the collection.
William Gilbert (1808-1890), the father of W. S. Gilbert, began writing novels in the 1860's after noting the success of his son. Two novels, The Magic Mirror (1866) and King George's Middy (1869) are rightfully in the collection, as they were illustrated by his son. A number of other titles of this hard-to-obtain author are also present.
Blanche Roosevelt (1853-1898) played Josephine in HMS Pinafore and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance in the first American company. She married well, left the stage, and became a writer of novels and biographies of eminent men of the day. Some of her books, the novels being hard to obtain, are in the collection.
Eyre Massey Shaw (1830-1908), or Captain Shaw, was a famous Victorian London Fire Chief. At the opening of Iolanthe, he was escorted to a front row seat and became immortalized in Gilbert and Sullivan lore when the Fairy Queen opened her arms to him and sang "Oh Captain Shaw". He wrote a number of books, now scarce, on fire prevention. These are included, along with a couple of biographical sketches.
George Grossmith (1847-1912) created the "patter song" parts in the Gilbert & Sullivan operas, such as Joseph Porter in HMS Pinafore and Ko Ko in The Mikado. George and his brother Weedon are equally well known for being the co-authors of the 1892 fictional Charles Pooter's The Diary of a Nobody. There are fourteen editions from 1892 to 1992, including the first edition, first American edition and the Centenary Facsimile Edition in the collection.
The Princess by Alfred Tennyson was adapted by Gilbert into Princess Ida from his earlier play The Princess, which was a "respectful perversion" of Tennyson's lengthy 1847 poem. There are over fifty books on the subject. This includes the first seventeen editions published by Moxon from 1847 through 1868 and the first American edition published by Moxon in 1848. Of particular interest is the 1911 Bobbs-Merrill edition with illustrations by Howard Chandler Christy and possessing the scarce dust jacket.
Some Significant Pieces
Aspects of some of the works in the collection may not be readily apparent to the researcher, but are of particular interest.
Twelve signatures of D'Oyly Carte performers are at the front of Original Plays, third series, 1920 by Gilbert. There are nineteen versions of The Best Known Works of Gilbert and Sullivan issued in 1932.
The four copies of Townley Searle's A Bibliography of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert include two 1931 editions published in a limited edition of 300. The hand-colored illustrations differ in the two copies. The popular 1931 edition with a different subtitle corrects a number of errors in the limited edition (a review is inserted in book). The 1968 reprint of the limited edition reproduces the original errors.
Isaac Asimov, a Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiast, wrote a short story "Fair Exchange" on Gilbert and Sullivan that appeared in a science fiction magazine. It was reprinted in two later Asimov collections, one a signed limited edition. All are in the collection.
There are extensive runs of Gilbert and Sullivan society periodicals. Among them are the Gilbert and Sullivan Journal, 1925-1981, Gilbert & Sullivan News, 1982-2007, The Savoyard, 1962-1982 which includes several issues reflecting a failed attempt to restart D’Oyly Carte in the 1990s, Sir Arthur Sullivan Society, 1983-2006, and the W. S. Gilbert Society, 1985-2007.
There is a picture of the collection's ceramic Gilbert and Sullivan opera related figurines. Included is a map to locate and specify the various items.
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