Playbill for a theatrical production based on Charles Reade’s potboiler novel, Foul Play and, more importantly, announcing an upcoming performance of Lotta Crabtree

Boston: F. A. Searle, Pinter, [1868]. Unbound. This playbill measures 8.75” x 19.5”. It is printed on very thin, fragile paper and features a stirring illustration of a shipwreck. It is complete but with the expected wear of a 19th century broadside. Two tape repairs on the reverse. Very good. Item #009189

Charles Reade was a popular 19th century author who was favorably and frequently compared to Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Bulwer-Lytton, and Swinburne. In 1868 his publisher paid £2,000 for Foul Play, a “greatly daring ‘sensation’” novel about a wrongly convicted clergyman sentenced to be transported to an Australian penal colony who became romantically involved with an aristocratic woman after they were shipwrecked alone – Oh, the horror – on an uninhabited island. See the Dictionary of National Biography.

The playbill also announces an upcoming performance of a soon-to-be superstar, Lotta Crabtree (“Who will make her first appearance in one of her characters”), a beautiful and talented ingénue and protégée of Lola Montez. With encouragement from Montez, who was a Grass Valley California neighbor, Lotta became a sensational child performer during the Gold Rush. In the 1860s, she embarked on an Eastern tour which led to international stardom, and she became the most popular and highest paid actress of the 1870s and 1880s. Rather scarce.

As of 2018, one other—but un-illustrated—playbill for Foul Play is for sale in the trade, Rare Book Hub shows no Foul Play playbills having been sold at auction. OCLC identifies two Foul Play playbills held by institutions. No other early (1860s) Lotta Crabtree playbills are for sale in the trade or listed in OCLC; Rare Book Hub shows that only one has been sold at auction.

Price: $400.00

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