For fifty years, theater and literary scholars of the long eighteenth century have relied on the information contained in The London Stage, 1660-1800: a Calendar of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces, Together with Casts, Box-receipts and Contemporary Comment (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-1968). This 5-part, 11-volume, 8000-page reference book represents a herculean effort on the part of its editors—Emmett L. Avery, Charles Beecher Hogan, Arthur H. Scouten, George Winchester Stone, Jr., and William Van Lennep—who compiled evidence from playbills, newspaper advertisements, diaries, receipts, and the like to construct a timeline of theatrical performances in London over a 140-year period. Until recently, however, the book has only been available in a limited number of hard copies, typically found in the reference collections of college and university libraries.
In an exciting new development, this year has finally seen the release of an e-book of all eleven volumes of The London Stage, 1660-1800, available to the public through Hathi Trust.
Last winter, in the course of developing a database of performances around the turn of the eighteenth century, I realized how valuable it would be to have this reference source available in digital form. After making some inquiries, I learned that Hathi, through their partnership with Google Books, had already created fully searchable PDFs of the University of Michigan's copy of The London Stage. They were unable to release the scans to member institutions or to the public, however, because of the copyright protections held by SIU Press. Upon learning this, I connected with the Rights and Permissions Manager at the press. She told me that the editorial staff were aware of scholarly interest in an electronic edition and had long wanted to release the resource digitally, but they were unaware that high-quality searchable images of the book had already been produced. After a series of negotiations, SIU Press ultimately granted Hathi permission to release the e-book under a Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commercial license. It can now be viewed, searched, and downloaded in full here.
I hope that the members of ATHE Theater History Focus Group will find this resource useful and share the news widely with anyone else who might benefit from its availability.