Riverside, CA: Bo Press Miniature Books, 2019. Number 4 of 20. At his height, Henry Irving (1838 - 1905) was the greatest actor in the world (and the first to be knighted). He was much more than an actor, he was an actor-producer, which in those days meant that he was responsible for everything, what we would call the artistic director, the director, the production manager, the production designer, and also the lead actor. And the scale of his productions at the Lyceum Theater in London were gorgeous and spectacular, using the latest technology in staging and special effects. Irving led the English theater for over thirty years, and died as he would no doubt have wished, still acting. I came upon his obituary in the Times, and it was a wonderful piece of writing, but also a very good valuation of his art and his place in theatrical history, which isn't so easy to do so near an actor's own time. The old joke used to run that he was an actor who would never play Faust when he could play Mephistopheles. He changed the status of the theater forever, bringing it from the shady demimonde of the 18th century to the height of a recognized and respected form of art. Everyone at the Lyceum called him the Guv'nor, a term of both affection and a well-founded wariness of his perfectionism. If in a former life I had worked as a costumer in his company, I would have been proud to do the same. This miniature book is bound in a gray paper with horizontal slubbed gold lines, and a black and gold marbled paper that wraps around the back to form a small pocket inside filled with theater memoribelia: programs, autographs, advertising posters, and other souvenirs. 2 7/8" x 2", 64 pages. Fine.
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