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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 1897

Harvard Theatre Collection on Japanese theater


Contains prints (visual works) depicting Japanese theater, mainly Kabuki and Noh.


  • circa 1813-1989

Language of Materials

The majority of materials are in Japanese, some with English captions. A single item is in German.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


.84 linear feet (21 oversize folders)

Contains mainly woodblock prints depicting scenes from Kabuki and Noh performances, as well as some actor portraits. Known artists included in this collection include Shunbaisai Hokeui, Kuniseda, and Toyokuni. Amongst the Kabuki-related subjects are the interior of Ichimura Theatre, a portrayal of the behind the scenes activity at a performance, a scene from Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees featuring Yoshitsune’s mistress, Shizuka-Gozen, and a portrait of actor Arashi Rikan II. There are additional unidentified woodblock prints, several of which are in the traditional Japanese triptych format. The Noh-related works include a portrait of actors in The Stone Bridge of Noh Play, as well as several triptych woodblock prints. Unidentified prints and portraits follow. The collection also includes a series of reproduced prints with German captions entitled “Die Toilette der Japanerin,” which may relate to geisha rather than theater.

Biographical / Historical

The Harvard Theatre Collection was founded in 1901 through the efforts of Professor George Pierce Baker, and collects documentary materials pertaining to the history of the performing arts, including theatre, dance and ballet, and opera and musical theatre, among other areas. These prints relating to Japanese theater were collected over the years through multiple purchases and gifts.

Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama, known for stylization and elaborate make-up. Noh is a different style of classical Japanese dance theatre which dates to the fourteenth century. It is the oldest major theater art that has been continuously performed. Noh theater integrates, masks, costumes, and props into dance-based performances.


Arranged first by prints (visual works) depicting Kabuki theater, then by those depicting Noh theater, followed by miscellanous Japanese theatrical prints.

Physical Location

pfd (P1.C3.06.08 [Folders 1-12]), ppf (P1.C3.06.09 [Folders 13-21])

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Various sources at various dates. Known acquisition information is noted in the file description.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup, 2019.

Harvard Theatre Collection. Harvard Theatre Collection on Japanese theater, circa 1813-1989 (MS Thr 1896): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2019 January 28
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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