The collection of books, pamphlets and plays of the theatre in Portugal and Brazil was built up over many years, on the foundation of a notable private collection, by the antiquarian booksellers Motley Books of Romsey, England. It was purchased by the Library in 1975. A supplementary collection was acquired from Motley Books in 1977.


The Portuguese and Brazilian Drama Collection consists of 2121 books, pamphlets, programs, periodicals and plays published between 1755 and 1972. The majority of the works are plays including modern editions and facsimiles of Portuguese plays extending back to the fifteenth century. In addition, there are reference books, critical studies, treatises, histories of theatres and theatrical movements, biographies of writers, actors and actresses, handbills, almanacs, official decrees, exhibition catalogues, offprints and manuscripts. There are also a number of Portuguese translations of plays by French, Italian and English writers.

The original collection of 1474 titles is arranged in the following groupings:

  • Reference and bibliography (16 items)
  • Pre-Vincentine drama (three items)
  • Gil Vicente: works, biography and criticism (106 items)
  • School of Vicente to 1700 (27 items)
  • Eighteenth century (65 items)
  • J.B. da Silva Leitao de Almeida Garrett (20 items)
  • Nineteenth century (63 items)
  • Twentieth century (77 items)
  • Theatre periodicals (23 items)
  • General theatre, cinema, dance (30 items)
  • Brazil and the Portuguese-speaking world (52 items)
  • Portuguese plays and translations: 1800 to the present (840 items)
  • Opera libretti and synopses in Portuguese (43 items)
  • Brazilian and colonial drama (21 items)
  • Addenda (109 items).

The supplementary collection of 647 titles also contains books about the theatre, as well as the texts of about 460 plays and operas, mostly dating from the nineteenth century.

The life and work of Portugal’s greatest dramatist, Gil Vicente (c. 1465–1536), are documented in many modern editions and studies. There is a particularly fine edition of Gil Vicente, Obras completas (Barcelos, 1946). Other notable early playwrights represented in the collection include Luis de Camões, Antonio Chiado, Antonio Ferreira, Simao Machado, Francisco Manuel de Melo, Antonio Prestes, Antonio José da Silva and Jorge Ferreira da Vasconcelos. There are 53 eighteenth-century imprints and over 800 nineteenth-century editions of plays. They include works of Ernesto Biester, João da Camara, Ramada Curto, Antonio Ennes, Gervasio Lobarto, Eduardo Schwalbach Lucci, Henrique Lopes de Mendonça, Marcellina Mesquita and José da Silva Mendes Leal. The outstanding figure in nineteenth-century Portuguese drama was the Romantic playwright, poet, novelist, critic, politician, diplomat and soldier Almeida Garrett (1799–1854). The collection contains modern editions of his plays, biographies, critical studies, exhibition catalogues and publications commemorating the centenary of his death. There are about 175 volumes of modern plays, mostly dating from the early years of the twentieth century, including plays of Raul Brandao, Augusto de Castro, Julio Dantas and Bento Mantua.

Among the relatively small number of Brazilian works is a complete edition of the plays of L.C. Martins Pena (1815–1848), Teatro de Martins Pena. He was the founder of Brazilian comedy.

The periodicals in the collection, all published in Lisbon, include:

Almanach dos Palcos e Salas (1889–1928)

Jornal dos Teatros (1917–32)

Revista Theatral (1885–96)

De Teatro (1922–27).

The collection also contains Portuguese translations of plays and libretti by writers such as Jean Cocteau, Denis Diderot, Alexandre Dumas, Carlo Goldoni, Eugene Ionesco, Pietro Metastasio, Molière, Eugene O’Neill, John Osborne, Jean Racine, William Shakespeare and Voltaire.


The Portuguese and Brazilian Drama Collection is kept together as a formed collection within the Rare Books Collection. Most of the books have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefix RB POR.


Bell, Aubrey F.G., Portuguese Literature, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1922.

Braga, Theofilo, Historio do theatro portuguez, 4 vols, Portugueza, Porto, 1870–71.

Sheren, Paul, The Portuguese and Brazilian Theatre, Motley Books, Romsey, 1974.

Sousa, J. Galante de, O teatro no Brasil, 2 vols, Instituto Nacional do Livro, Rio de Janeiro, 1960.

Picchio, Luciana Stegagno, Historia do teatro portugues, Portugalia Editora, Lisbon, 1964.