Papers and Porcelains: Two Recent Gift Collections

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John Philip Kemble and Sarah Siddons as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, c. 1800. Folger Digital Image 6845.

Papers and Porcelains: Two Recent Gift Collections, part of the Exhibitions at the Folger, celebrated the arrival of two magnificent collections at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The exhibition opened on July 15, 1998 and closed on October 24, 1998. The exhibition catalog can be purchased from the Folger Shop.

Each of these collections adds significantly to an existing area of the library's collecting interest; each reflects the dedication and discrimination of its builders; and each comes to the library as a resplendent gift, bringing objects and artifacts of rare beauty and value to this institution and the lives of those who use and enjoy its treasures.

The Lada-Mocarski collection of early decorated papers was built over a period of five decades, beginning with a chance purchase shortly after World War II. Over the years, during which Lada-Mocarski pursued her interest in bookbinding and conservation, she and her husband added judiciously to the collection. Now it has few rivals.

The Babette Craven collection of theatrical memorabilia is one of the finest compilations of early English porcelains and objects de vertu assembled by any private collector. Craven brought a finely attuned sensibility and a great love of the stage to her life as a collector. The Folger hopes that that as a result of the exhibition, the two splendid collections featured here will begin to receive the study and appreciation they richly deserve. ‘’

Gift Collections

Papers: The Lada-Mocarski Decorated Paper Collection

The Lada-Mocarski collection of early decorated papers was built over a period of almost five decades, beginning with a chance purchase shortly after the end of World War II. Over the years, during which Mrs. Lada-Mocarski pursued her interest in bookbinding and conservation, she and her husband added judiciously to the collection, and it now has few rivals. Consisting of some 650 sheets, a few of which are unique, the Lada-Mocarski collection provides historical documentation of the beauty and variety of the decorated papers used in books over several centuries. The collection was a gift to the Folger Shakespeare Library from Champion International, who with Sotheby's Inc., New York, supported the Papers and Porcelains exhibition.

"Decorative papers" comprise those embellished in some way with decorative patterns. From the beginning of the 1600s to the early decades of the 1800s, the coloring and decorating of paper was carried out solely by hand. Techniques ranged from printing colored paper with simple wood and metal blocks to stenciling, marbling, sprinkling, and applying colored paste in combination with other decoration. Marbled, block-printed, paste, and embossed or brocade papers were among the most common decorative papers.

The first brocade papers appeared around the year 1700 in Augsburg, Germany, where decorative papers were already known and produced. Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Fürth, established publishing centers, also attracted artisans who created decorative papers. In addition, embossed brocade papers were manufactured in Italy. Used to cover the small pamphlet editions appearing in growing numbers during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, brocade papers were sought after by publishers because they were soft, pliable, inexpensive, and highly decorative. The methods used to create them were adopted from centuries-old techniques employed to decorate leather bindings with panel stamps made from engraved and cast designs. An engraver's press that exerts enormous pressure was used to emboss designs with metal leaf, usually an alloy of gold with tin and copper, or gold with brass, or occasionally pure gold or silver leaf. A particular type of brocade paper that is commonly referred to as Dutch gilt (because of the great numbers of papers imported by Dutch merchants) was stenciled with four or five different colors in splotches as a background prior to embossing.

Paste papers were first made at the end of the sixteenth century primarily in Germany. Some of the earliest were used in the manufacture of playing cards. These papers became very popular in the eighteenth century and continued to be manufactured commercially in Germany throughout the century. From about 1765, papers of a very high quality were made in the German village of Herrnhut, a Moravian refuge, by women of the community. These papers were distributed throughout Germany. Papers to which a colored paste (such as rice-flour paste) had been applied were decorated with designs while the paper was still wet. A finger or some other object was used to draw on the surface, two pasted papers could be pressed together and then separated to create a stippled surface (called pulled-paste), or part of the paste might be removed with a sponge gently dabbed over its surface. One other technique was to press a small block, object, or roller with a carved design onto the pasted surface, leaving the imprint of the object.

Block-printed papers were most popular during the eighteenth century and were manufactured throughout Europe, particularly in the Netherlands. The earliest block-printed papers using small repeated patterns and one color were produced about 1550. Since the process of printing these papers was similar to that used to print fabrics, it has been asserted that blocks once used for fabrics were later used to print papers and that textile factories printed papers as a sideline. Woodcut blocks and metal designs mounted in wooden blocks were used in this process. Seventeenth-century papers were generally printed with only one color. Adding other colors was often done by hand with the aid of stencils. Multi-color block printing did not occur until the eighteenth century when it became customary to produce designs in a variety of colors. Italian papers in particular were printed, and frequently pre-brushed, with a colored paste rather than printer's ink.

Porcelains: The Craven Collection of Theatrical Memorabilia

A scent bottle depicting David Garrick as Macbeth, ca. 1780-1790. Folger Digital Image 6872.

The Babette Craven collection of theatrical memorabilia is one of the finest compilations of early English porcelains and other objets de vertu assembled by any private collector in the post-war period. The Craven collection comprises eighteenth- and nineteenth-century porcelain figurines, plaques, tiles, boxes, ewers, jugs, portrait medallions, engravings, and playbills. A selection of pieces can be viewed in the Folger's Digital Image Collection. The Craven collection illuminates the impact of the English stage on an important aspect of the visual arts and complements the Folger Library's extensive holdings of Shakespearean memorabilia. Whereas Henry Folger acquired artifacts relating specifically to Shakespeare, Mrs. Craven collected more widely, acquiring some Shakespeare but also objects relating to other popular plays and playwrights, their characters, and the theatrical personalities of their time. The collection was a gift to the Library from Mrs. Craven and her family.

Unlike their European counterparts, who depended upon wealthy patrons to insure their financial stability, English porcelain factories were, from the beginning, commercial operations. Growing demand and competition among factories challenged manufacturers to come up with new and novel designs for their creations. English porcelain manufacturing flourished at exactly the same time that David Garrick dominated the English stage. Garrick (1717–1779) was the greatest and widest-ranging actor of his generation and was unsurpassed in such roles as Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. He was equally admired in comedy. A selection of these pieces can be viewed in the Folger's Digital Image Collection.

The next actor of note was John Philip Kemble (1757–1823). At his best in heavy dramatic roles, Kemble was thought unfit for romantic parts despite his handsome appearance. He often played opposite his older sister Sarah Siddons (1755–1831), a widely acclaimed tragic actress whose most famous role was Lady Macbeth. Their performance of Macbeth was captured on a plaque and exhibited.

At the age of thirteen, William Henry West Betty (1791–1874) took the London theater world by storm. Excitement ran so high that the military had to be called out to maintain order in the streets outside the theater on his opening night. Master Betty, the "Young Roscius," was the brightest star of the London stage during the 1804–1805 season, playing such roles as Hamlet and Romeo. Prints, engravings, medals, and other memorabilia struck in his likeness filled all the shops. After his brief but hectic London success, audiences just as quickly turned against him, and he was hissed off the stage. His attempted comeback, years later, was virtually ignored.

One of the most popular actresses of the day was Dorothy Jordan (1761–1816). Jordan was known to London audiences as a fine comedienne. From 1791 to 1811 she was familiar to the public at large as the mistress of the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) with whom she had ten children. She retired from the stage in 1814 and spent her last years in Paris.

A table snuff box with a portrait of Edmund Kean, ca. 1822. Folger Digital Image 9066.

Edmund Kean (1787–1833) was a strolling player until 1814, when he first acted Shylock at Drury Lane. He continued to delight audiences with villainous parts such as Macbeth, Iago, and Richard III. A selection of these pieces can be viewed in the Folger's Digital Image Collection.

The central feature of the Craven collection is the world's most comprehensive iconological collection of objects relating to John Liston, the leading comic actor of the first half of the nineteenth century. Liston was extremely popular and well respected in his day, even though he was a comedian competing with those great tragedians Kemble and Kean. After twenty years on the London stage, John Liston reached the summit of his career with the creation of his masterpiece character, Paul Pry in John Poole's play of the same name. Pry, a man consumed with curiosity, is an interfering busybody unable to mind his own business. With his striped trousers, hessian boots, tail coat, and top hat, Liston molded Pry into a uniquely endearing character. Most memorable was the umbrella that Pry conveniently left behind everywhere he went so that he would have an excuse to return and eavesdrop. The public became totally infatuated with John Liston and with Paul Pry. Effigies of Liston as Pry appeared on inn signs, in print shops, in the pottery warehouses, in the center of pocket handkerchiefs, stamped on butter, adorning snuff boxes, and in toyshops. The Staffordshire, Rockingham, Derby, and Worcester porcelain factories all produced figures of Paul Pry. One of the greatest theatrical hits of the age, Paul Pry was still being revived in the 1890s with Liston's performance imitated, dress and all.

For Liston there was never to be another part as memorable as Paul Pry, but the actor's popularity never waned. During his thirty-eight year career (from 1799 through 1837), Liston played in more than 600 roles. He was particularly adept at affecting unpolished manners, an awkward gait, and a variety of accents. He took particular care to select just the right costume and wig for each of his characters. No matter how bad the play or how silly the part, Liston always managed to captivate the audience. He was celebrated in prints and porcelain more than any other actor before or since.

The mass market for theatrical memorabilia that developed in the eighteenth century and flourished in the nineteenth century continues even to the present day. David Garrick, Sarah Siddons, and Paul Pry, who captivated the imaginations of earlier audiences and were immortalized on a wide range of products, have yielded to Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and the vast array of Star Wars collectibles that mark today's fascination with the stage and screen.