Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theater History & Dramatic Arts > 241. Fortune Theatre Model

241.  Fortune Theatre Model. London: James P. Maginnis, ca. 1912. RBML, Dramatic Museum

In 1599, Philip Henslowe, theater producer, and Edward Alleyn, actor and founder of Dulwich College, contracted with Peter Streete, carpenter, to build a theater north of Aldersgate on Golden (formerly Golding) Lane in London. Streete had been the contractor for the Globe Theatre that had opened in late 1599. Henslowe paid £520 for the Fortune, opened in 1600, and almost twice as much to have it rebuilt of brick after it burned in 1621.

The wording of the Fortune contract was exact enough to enable reconstructions to be made. This one was made by James P. Maginnis of London, under the direction of Walter H. Godfrey, for Columbia professor and theater history pioneer, Brander Matthews. The scale is 3:100. It became part of his Dramatic Museum, a vast collection of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, recordings, puppets, masks, set models, theater models, and other museum objects, that he began in 1912.

The Fortune Theatre was to be three stories high, on a low wall foundation of brick "underpinning"). An open stage 43 feet by about 27 feet was to be surrounded by galleries, including four "gentlemen's rooms" and other "twopennie rooms." The stage, modeled on that of the Globe in Southwark, would have its pillars "wroughte plasterwise [i.e.strapwork pilasters], with carved proporcions called satiers to be placed and set on the top of every of the same postes." The reconstruction shows how the gallery, the essential feature of the new theatres, was copied from the coaching inns (such as The George Inn, still partly standing in Southwark), which in turn had adapted it from the large house. The Fortune was located only a few blocks away from what is today the Barbican Arts Centre.

Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum & Library Collection, transferred to Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 2001

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