Collezione Edward Gordon Craig

This collection was given to the British Institute of Florence between the years 1948 and 1965 by the writer Dorothy Nevile Lees. Lees built up a collection around the subject of Edward Gordon Craig, the English stage designer, producer, and actor. Craig's links with Florence were very strong; it was in Florence that he founded his periodical 'The Mask' and where he worked on his Moscow 'Hamlet.' This is not a manuscript collection but it does contain many rare items, including the volume 'Gordon Craig's Book of Penny Toys' (1899) and a complete set of 'The Marionette' that is extremely rare.


Reference code: CRA
Date(s) of creation: Late 19th and 20th centuries
Name of creator: Dorothy Nevile Lees
Extent: 12 metres


Administrative information

Acquisition number: 15

Source of acquisition

The collection was given in stages to the Library of the British Institute of Florence between the years 1948 and 1965 by Dorothy Nevile Lees. Possessing herself a fine collection of 'Craigiana' she set about building up a like collection to be made available to students all possible material relating to Gordon Craig. Other donors have added items to the collection and the Library itself has made additions. Should the Library close down, the collection is to pass to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.


Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966), the English stage designer, producer, and actor was born the son of the actress Dame Ellen Terry (1848-1928). Gordon Craig began acting with Sir Henry Irving's (1838-1905) Lyceum company (1885-97). Feeling that the pseudo-realism in vogue was too limiting, he turned to stage design and developed new theories. He strove for the poetic and suggestive in his designs in order to capture the essential spirit of the play. His ideas gave new freedom to stage design, although many were impractical in execution. Among his notable productions were The Vikings and Much Ado about Nothing (both in 1903 for Ellen Terry) and Hamlet (with the Moscow Art Theatre in 1912). Craig spent the years 1907-1914 in Florence, Italy where, in 1913, he founded the 'Gordon Craig School for the Art of the Theatre' at the Arena Goldoni. Also in Florence, Craig edited his magazine, The Mask (1908-29). For many of his publications including the periodicals The Page, 'The Mask' and 'The Marionette', he was the publisher, editor, author and illustrator. It was The Mask which did most to advance Craig's cause and his reputation. He used it as a weapon of propaganda and through its pages attacked many aspects of the commercial theatre of which he disapproved. It became the most stimulating and well-informed theatrical periodical of its time. Among his books are On the Art of the Theatre (1911, rev. ed. 1957), The Theatre Advancing (1921), Scene (1923), and biographies of Henry Irving (1930) and Ellen Terry (1931).

Dorothy Nevile Lees (1880-1966), author and journalist, lived in Florence from 1903 until her death. She wrote numerous articles from Florence for British and American reviews and newspapers and published Scenes and Shrines in Tuscany and 'Tuscan Feasts and Tuscan Friends in 1907. In the same year she met Edward Gordon Craig and she collaborated with him on publication of The Mask. She stayed in Italy during the two world wars and in recognition of her services to the Allies during the Second World War she was awarded a diploma by the Allied Military Command.

Scope and content (inc. arrangement)

This is not a manuscript collection. It consists largely of books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, theatre programmes, magazines and photographs. Many of the items are rare, for example the exhibition catalogue of Craig's show in Poland in 1913, or the volume Gordon Craig's Book of Penny Toys (1899). The set of the fifteen volumes of The Mask is almost complete, and the complete set of The Marionette is extremely rare.


Open to consultation. Some items are fragile and require special care.


The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


This depends upon the state of repair of individual items.

Finding aids

Most of the items in this collection can be found in the online catalogue, either by the classmark (prefixed by 'GC'). Hand-lists provided by Dorothy Nevile Lees on each occasion she donated material also exist.

Related material in the same repository

Researchers are referred to two sections in the Library, Theatre (792) and Printmaking (769).