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National Theatre Society collection of Irish literary manuscripts

Collection MS-1988-007: National Theatre Society collection of Irish literary manuscripts


  • Creation: 1975 - 1988

Scope and Contents

This collection contains works donated by Irish writers and actors who were affiliated with the Abbey Theatre to the National Theater Society for a benefit auction. The pieces include an autobiography, four plays, one television screenplay, and several poems created by Irish authors in the 1970s or 1980s. All are typescripts except the poems, which are in manuscript. Two of the plays include annotations with notes from their production at the Abbey Theatre.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical Note

The Irish Literary Theatre was founded in 1899 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory to encourage Irish poetic drama. In 1902 it was taken over by the Irish National Dramatic Society, led by Frank and W.G. Fay, and its goal was broadened to presenting Irish plays with Irish actors. Between 1902 and 1903 the Society was restructured, the name was changed to the Irish National Theatre Society, it was given a board, and Yeats was named the inaugural president of the board. Leading figures of the Irish literary renaissance including J.M. Synge, Edward Martyn, A.E. (George Russell), and Maud Gonne contributed their talents as directors and dramatists. In 1904, Yeats's friend Annie Horniman gave the Society a subsidy and the free use of the newly-created Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and J.M. Synge were the Abbey's first co-directors. The theater was purchased for the Society by public subscription in 1910. Among the many dramatists whose works the Abbey Theatre first presented are Padraic Colum, Lennox Robinson, Sean O'Casey, and Paul Vincent Carroll. In 1951, a fire destroyed the theatre and the company spent fifteen years at the Queen's Theatre until the new building opened in 1966. The Society and the Theatre remained in association until 2006, when the Abbey Theatre's Advisory Council dissolved the National Theatre Society and replaced it with the Abbey Theatre Limited.


"Abbey Theatre." Encyclopedia Britannica, October 10, 2019.

Frazier, Adrian. “The Ideology of the Abbey Theatre.” The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Irish Drama, edited by Shaun Richards, 33–46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. doi:10.1017/CCOL0521804000.003.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



Manuscripts of plays, television drama scripts, poems, and an autobiography from late-twentieth century Irish authors including Bernard Farrell, Hugh Leonard, Frank McGuinness, and Thomas Murphy, collected by the National Theatre Society for a benefit auction in 1988.


Alphabetical by author.


Purchased from the National Theatre Society Limited, which was the parent company of the Abbey Theatre and Peacock Theatre, in 1988. The National Theatre Society collected the manuscripts for a benefit auction but offered Burns Library the option to purchase them outright.

Processing Information

These materials were previously described as part of the Boston College collection of the Abbey Theatre, MS.1986.135. Because of their different provenance and subject matter, they were described separately in 2021.

National Theatre Society Collection of Irish Literary Manuscripts
Lynn Moulton
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States