Multilayered Writing in Hamburg Prompt Books and Playbooks since the 18th Century
The project examines a selection of multilayered prompt books and playbooks archived in the Hamburg Staatsbibliothek theatre collections. It will investigate complex written artefacts from the Theaterbibliothek (theatre library), a collection including around 3.050 spoken theatre books for 2.100 plays. While the majority are manuscripts, around 500 of these are printed books with extensive handwritten annotations. All date from around 1765 to 1850 and originate from the theatre at Hamburg Gänsemarkt under various principals. Traces of usage in these books most prominently include handwritten corrections, additions (as well as their retractions), cuts, comments, instructions and other annotations. Moreover, complete supplementary pages often are glued over others, in select instances even multiple times. This refers especially to books that either were put to long-term use on stage (for up to 40 years) or, on the contrary, have been hastily reworked, possibly to save a failing production. The project will closely analyse at least four but no more than seven books deemed exemplary with regard to their material ‘biography,’ the interplay of their multiple layers, their changing users as well as their relation to the theatre’s collective and at the same time ephemeral practices. In doing so, the project will outline a specific practice of handwriting within a period of time that is increasingly dominated by printed periodicals and books as well as a distinct notion of individual authorship. During the first period, the project will produce extensive commentaries and analyses of the written artefacts in question. In addition, it will explore possibilities of the digital representation of at least one prominent example.