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Boston College collection of the Abbey Theatre

Collection MS-1986-135: Boston College collection of the Abbey Theatre


  • Creation: approximately 1903-1988

Scope and Contents

The collection contains ephemera, primarily programs, from theatrical productions of the Irish National Theatre Society (later the National Theatre Society Limited) at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, from shortly after the Society's inception in 1902, through the burning and reconstruction of the theatre in the 1960s and up until 1988. Programs also include productions by the Abbey Theatre Players while on tour, as well as a smaller number for productions by other theater companies of works by Irish playwrights. A few articles about the Abbey, booklets on its history, and photographs of its productions and directors complement the ephemeral materials. Programs feature the works of founders W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, as well as J.M. Synge, George Bernard Shaw, and Sean O'Casey.


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 Abbey Theatre (1904- ) is the Irish theatrical company devoted primarily to indigenous drama (presenting the Irish character with an Irish audience in mind). W.B. Yeats was a leader in founding (1902) the Irish National Theatre Society with Lady Gregory, J.M. Synge, Edward Martyn and A.E. (George Russell) contributing their talents as directors and dramatists. In 1904, Annie Horniman gave them a subsidy and the free use of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The theater was bought for them 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. The Abbey began touring America in 1911 and was not well received. However, they were appreciated by the next generation when they returned to New York and Boston in the 1930s. 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.

In close association with Irish dramatists, the Abbey also has been an important instrument in the revival of Irish drama that began in the 1960s. From 1977 to 1983, the Abbey's small experimental theatre, the Peacock, saw the rise of a new school of playwrights, including J. Graham Reid, Bernard Farrell, Tom MacIntyre, Frank McGuinness, Neil Donnelly, Michael Harding, Dermot Bolger, and Sebastian Barry. Some of the work of Farrell and McGuinness was also successful on the larger Abbey stage. Nevertheless, the work of an earlier generation of playwrights - particularly Brian Friel, Tom Murphy, and Hugh Leonard - has been the mainstay of the Abbey repertoire since the 1970s.


"Abbey Theatre" in The Dictionary of Irish Literature edited by Robert Hogan (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996): 85-95 and "Abbey Theatre" in The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature edited by Robert Welch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996): 1-5.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



Collection of materials relating to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, including booklets, theater programs for the Abbey and the Abbey Theatre Players, photographs, and newspaper articles.


Organized into five series: I. Correspondence, II. Ephemera, III. Newspaper articles, IV. Photographs, and V. Publications.


The earliest materials in this collection were acquired before 1986. Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of these materials. Subsequent acquisitions were a gift of John Deedy (photographs and programs, 1999) and a purchase from Maggs Brothers, Ltd. (Irish National Theatre Society programs, 2015).

Related Materials

Manuscripts collected by the National Theatre Society for a benefit auction were previously described as part of this collection. They are now available as the National Theatre Society Collection of Irish literary manuscripts, MS.1988.007, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Burns Library holds additional Abbey Theatre programs which can be found in the Library Catalog.


Boston College Collection of the Abbey Theatre
approximately 1903-1988
Virginia Lipscy in Summer 2001; revised by 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