is a unique collection of rare 19th century American and British Theatre memorabilia, books, photos, prompt-books, stage costumes and props. Left originally by the famous American actor Edwin Booth as a resource for young stage actors in the profession, the library today is open to researchers who can demonstrate a need to use PRIMARY SOURCE MATERIAL and/or rare SECONDARY MATERIAL in their work.
The library is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. It is housed within the clubhouse of The Players and is used regularly by theatre professionals, scholars, professors, students, interested laypersons and publishers who converge here from all over the earth.
In 1886, writing to co-founder Albert M. Palmer, Edwin Booth stated: "An actors club has been a dream of mine for many years. Having quite a number of theatrical books, pictures, etc., etc., I have dreamed of furnishing such an establishment with them someday. When I step aside and before I go, I hope to accomplish something of this kind."
At the incorporation of The Players in 1888, founder Edwin Booth charged the members of this new association with the creation of "a library relating to the history of the American Stage and the preservation of pictures, bills of the play, photographs and curiosities."
With the actor's personal thousand volume collection serving as a nucleus, the Library has become an important resource in its first century. The desire to open its doors to the world of research began in the 1957 incorporation of The Walter Hampden Memorial Library, named in honor of the club's fourth president, another renowned actor and major contributor to the substance of the library. The Library was permanently chartered under the Education Law of the State of New York in 1963. The Hampden-Booth Theatre Library serves as a notable memorial to the American and British stage and to the percipience of the great Player who conceived it and ensured its continuity.
The Library is composed of several distinct large collections, four of which are described below. There are numerous smaller ones also, such as the papers of Maurice Evans, Robert B. Mantell, E.H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe, Charles Coburn, and Lawrence Barrett.
The Hampden-Booth Theatre Library collects primary and secondary materials relating to Edwin Booth and his family, as well as relevant 19th century American and British theatre. Primary and secondary source material relating to 20th century theatre will be collected from those persons who continued the actor-manager tradition into the 20th century (such as Walter Hampden) or who were known mainly for their interpretations of classical roles (such as Maurice Evans).
Other material will be added to the collection if it is deemed pertinent by the Librarian or by the Library Committee. In addition, significant published materials relating to The Players and Gramercy Park will be collected.
The Library is open to the public by appointment on weekdays 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Actual examination of specific materials is limited to persons with a demonstrable need to see them.
To Request an Appointment
Please contact Raymond Wemmlinger, Curator & Librarian at (212) 228-1861 or mail an inquiry to Mr. Wemmlinger at:
Hampden-Booth Theatre Library
16 Gramercy Park South
New York, NY 10003