Exhibition of restored items

Celebrating Edward Gordon Craig fifty years after his death:

restoration of items in the Craig collection, 2013-2016


Over the past three years, in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the death of Edward Gordon Craig this year, we have been restoring items in the Craig collection. The collection - over 250 books and over 600 items - is, on the whole, in good condition. It has been a real pleasure to oversee a restoration project that ensures continued use of more fragile or damaged items; items that demonstrate the work and influence of one of the major figures of twentieth-century theatre. 


The collection covers much of Craig's working and publishing life, from the Book of Penny Toys (1899), The Page (1898-1899) and his work for the stage, such as Acis and Galatea (1902), to his seminal work The Art of the Theatre (1905); from The Mask (begun in 1908) and A Living Theatre: the Gordon Craig School, The Arena Goldoni, The Mask (1913), evidence of his work in Florence, to the post World War I work in The Marionnette, in A Production: being thirty-two collotype plates of designs projected or realised for The Pretenders of Heinrik Ibsen (1930), and in Fourteen Notes (1931). And so on to publications that synthesised earlier work, such as Scene (1923), or Woodcuts and Some Words (1924). In addition to Craig's own work, the collection contains works about him, works to which he contributed, and works on the theatre, including George Sheringham's Design in the Theatre (1927), Gino Gori's Scenografia: la tradizione e la rivoluzione contemporanea (1926) and magazines such as Comoedia


Here follow some examples of the restored material. The selection shows, among many things, the speed at which Craig's designs and ideas spread in Europe and in the world of the theatre. The work of restoration was carried out by the restoration lab of the Gabinetto Vieusseux (Claudia Tarchiani and Patrizia Tirinnanzi) with the financial contribution of Lauri Thorndyke, who has been a consistently generous supporter of the British Institute's archival collections. Last, the Craig collection itself was established by Dorothy Nevile Lees, Craig's collaborator on The Mask, who also died in 1966.


Any reproduction here of the work of Edward Gordon Craig is made with kind permission of the Edward Gordon Craig Estate. 

Craig's mother was the great Victorian actress, Ellen Terry. In his teens and twenties Craig appeared on stage with her and Henry Irving at Irving's Royal Lyceum Theatre. These are programmes for Henry VIII (1892) and Richard III, before and after restoration. The restored envelope containing the programmes indicates that Dorothy Nevile Lees acquired these items from Ifan Kyrle Fletcher, a bookseller and Craig bibliographer. 

In the 1890s Craig began to experiment with wood-engraving. His art magazine The Page, which ran from 1898 to 1901, became the showcase for increasingly sophisticated engravings.  

 Volume I, Number 5 

Volume 1, Number 7 

 Volume 1, Number 10 

Volume 2, Number 2

Volume 2, Number 3  


Craig designed bookplates for friends; some of these were published in 1900. This charming small-format publication demonstrates the care Craig took over paper, typeface and design.

The souvenir programme to Purcell's Acis and Galatea, with Craig's illustrations. This 1902 production was directed by Craig, designed by Craig, with Martin Shaw as musical director.  

Craig designed and directed Ibsen's The Vikings in 1903. It starred his mother, while Craig's sister Edith (Edy) executed the costumes to Craig's design. The image of the unrestored copies shows the type of note Dorothy Nevile Lees made on the material she collected and donated to the British Institute.  

In 1905 Craig published The Art of the Theatre; it was immediately published in other languages. The collection holds three copies printed that year; one in English, which belonged to the Irish dramatist Lady Gregory, one in German, Die Kunst des Theaters, published in Berlin in 1905, and one in Dutch, De Kunst van het Theater, published in Amsterdam in 1906. This latter edition, seen here before and after restoration, was given by Craig to the artist Graham Robertson; Craig's inscription reads 'Autumn greetings - and isn't it pleasant this year'.


Kunst und Künstler, Berlin 1904, contains work by Craig and an article on him by Emil Heilbut  

Also in 1904, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Darmstadt, July 1904 contains illustrated articles on Craig by Dr. Max Osborn and E.W. Bredt 

This 1905 issue of Hohewarte, [1905] includes an illustrated article on Craig's Die Kunst des Theaters 

 The catalogue of an exhibition in Rotterdam, 1906, includes an etching and is decorated with annotations and scribbles made by Craig. 


Some months following his design of Ibsen's Rosmersholm for Eleanora Duse at the Pergola Theatre in Florence in December 1906, Craig returned to the city where he worked until the outbreak of war. Craig developed his school for the art of the theatre in the Arena Goldoni; he founded and published The Mask to disseminate his ideas (many of the articles in the journal were written by Craig under a variety of assumed names); he continued to develop his ideas on the use of light in the theatre; he invented large hinged screens to create scenery and facilitate its movement on the stage; and he continued to make his prints, his model stages and the figures incised in wood that were inked and made into prints, the black figures. It was here too that he worked on the production of Hamlet he directed for Stanislavski at the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1912.

 The Mask, Volume One, Number 1 

 The envelope containing the 1918-1919 shorter editions of The Mask

 Bound issues of The Mask


This catalogue with notes accompanied Craig's 1908 show of his work in Florence, where Bernard Berenson bought the portfolio of work. 

In his L'Art Théâtral Moderne, published in 1910, Jacques Rouché devoted individual chapters to only two contemporary figures: Adolphe Appia, architect and scenographer, and Edward Gordon Craig. 

In 1911 W.B. Yeats used Craig's folding screens on the stage of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Poetry and Drama, Vol. I No. 3, September 1913 included an article on Craig by the Russian poet John Cournos, 'Gordon Craig and the Future of the Theatre'.

In 1912 and 1913 Craig also exhibited his work in England, at galleries in Manchester, Leicester, Leeds and Liverpool; he showed work relating to his productions.

In 1913 Craig published Towards a New Theatre: forty designs for stage scenes with critical notes, styling himself 'the inventor' 

The catalogue for Craig's contribution to the exhibition of theatre arts held in Zurich in early 1914. Craig first met Adolfo Appia on Zurich railway station on the occasion of this exhibition. 

 While Craig staged few plays, both before and after World War I, his influence on theatre was enormous. After the war he continued to publish his ideas for the theatre in, for example, The Marionnette (1918), here below, The Theatre Advancing (1921), Scene (1923), On eight pages from The Story of the Theatre by Glenn Hughes with some fourteen notes (1931), and published his art in, again examples, Woodcuts and Some Words (1924), Nothing, or, the Bookplate (1925) and the Cranach Hamlet (1929 and 1930). He was also much written about; in 1950/51 he and Adolphe Appia were the subjects of an exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

 The Marionnette

The Marionnette

Craig contributed an article to this catalogue of an exhibition on marionettes, Zurich, 1920. Both restored copies again show the kind of notes Dorothy Nevile Lees provided when she donated material to the collection.

In 1922 the art critic and historian Haldane Macfall contributed an article on Craig's woodcuts to the Print Collector's Quarterly. 

Two years later, in 1924, Craig published Woodcuts and Some Words 

Woodcuts and Some Words and Towards a New Theatre, were both published and advertised by J.M. Dent.

In this copy of Teatro (1923) Dorothy Nevile Lees left notes in considerable detail. She points out that this issue contains an article on Craig as well as one by him. The copy was given to her in 1949 by Danilo Lebrecht (Lorenzo Montano).

Craig published Scene in 1923. The Foreword, by John Masefield, includes a plea for funding for the theatre, and particularly for Craig. The works shown in the volume are almost all from 1907.

Discussions of Craig's work or articles by him appeared in different issues of Comoedia, published in Milan and edited by the writer Umberto Fracchia. Craig's article 'Il teatro di Sabbioneta' appeared in the issue of December 1925.

Gino Gori's Scenografia, published in 1927, includes numerous references to Craig.

George Sheringham, painter and theatre designer, and James Laver, Keeper of Prints, Drawings and Paintings for the Victoria and Albert Museum, published Design in the Theatre in 1927. The publication included contributions from Craig, Charles Cochran, the theatrical manager, and Nigel Playfair, the actor-manager.

In 1928 the American review The Drama included articles on Craig around the time of the short-lived production of Macbeth. 

 This publication accompanied the production. 

In his Foreword to On Eight Pages from The Story of the Theatre by Glenn Hughes with some Fourteen Notes by Edward Gordon Craig of 1931, Hughes explains the genesis of these fourteen notes:

"About a year ago I wrote to Mr E. Gordon Craig asking him for an essay to be published in one of the series of books which I edit. He replied that he had no essay available, but that if I agreed to the proposal he would endeavour to prepare for publication a set of notes based upon the account I had given of himself and his work in my Story of the Theatre (published 1928). He thought such a set of notes would help to clarify certain important points."

The work of both Adolphe Appia and Craig was shown at the Biennale di Venezia in 1963; Ferruccio Marotti's article 'Appia e Craig le origini della scena moderna' appeared in the accompanying catalogue.  

These restored materials give only a glimpse of the contents of a rich collection that is accessible to researchers; a collection housed not far from where Craig established his experimental theatre school in the city that inspired him.


Edward Gordon Craig 1872-1966