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Subseries 1: Play Manuscripts, 1894 - 1942


Scope and Content Note

Most of the play manuscripts in this subseries were organized and arranged by Jonas Turkow at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, in the late 1950s to mid 1960s. Sometime after the processing by Turkow, YIVO staff produced a handwritten inventory list of the play manuscripts. That inventory list, which was consulted during the present processing and is kept on file at YIVO, reflects Turkow's organization of the manuscripts alphabetically by author name, followed by one folder of unidentified plays and a separate grouping of plays designated as foreign-language plays ("fremdshprakhike pyesn").

In accordance with Jonas Turkow's original arrangement, the subseries is divided into three subsubseries. Subsubseries A, in which the manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by author name (according to the Yiddish alphabet), accounts by far for the bulk of the materials. Subsubseries B contains materials for which the author could not be determined, although some are labeled with a title. Subsubseries C comprises a small grouping of dramatic works in languages other than Yiddish. The works in the latter group have no specific connection to Yiddish-language theater, except in the instance of one German translation of a Dutch work that was apparently solicited from the author by theater director David Herman.

A small number of scattered play manuscripts, fragments, and actors' role books have been newly processed and integrated, including items that were found in a box of unsorted manuscript materials labeled as belonging to the grouping of play manuscripts, and some that were found either in other portions of the Esther Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum Archive, or elsewhere among unprocessed materials belonging to the YIVO Vilna collections more generally. The newly processed materials were integrated in the appropriate places in the existing subseries by adding new folder numbers with appended letters (e.g. 4065A). Among these added materials are complete or partial manuscripts found in the following folders: 4067C, 4071A, 4104A, 4144B, 4157A, 4165A, 4202A, 4213H, 4260C, 4271J, 4271O, and 4271P. Some existing folders that needed to be shifted to new locations for consistency in the arrangement were similarly given new folder numbers with appended letters (in those cases, the original folder number is noted at the end of the folder summary).

This subseries contains approximately 320 items, of which approximately 70% are complete manuscripts of plays, while the remainder comprises partial manuscripts or fragments (20%), or role books without any accompanying manuscript (10%). Although some manuscripts contain song lyrics, and title pages occasionally give the name of the composer of music for the play, no sheet music is included here, except in one instance (Veltman, "Khinezishe raketn," Folders 4146-4147), among materials related to an amateur theater group.

The play manuscripts span the period from 1894 to 1942. Although many items are undated, the bulk of the materials likely fall within the period from 1900 through the 1930s. The oldest text represented is the play "Reb Yakhtse del Gaya" (Folder 4088), which was published by Sh. Bernshteyn in the Yiddish periodical Kol mevaser in 1871; however, the manuscript included here is a handwritten copy made from the published source, apparently sometime after 1917. Otherwise, the oldest items in the subseries are three manuscripts dated in the 1890s (Folder 4071A, 1894; Folder 4263, 1895; and Folder 4065A, 1896). The latest dated Yiddish manuscripts are two items with Latvian-language censor's stamps of 1939 (Folders 4080 and 4214); and the latest dated item in the subseries overall is a Romanian-language work, in Subsubseries C (Folder 4276A), dated 1942, Rostock, Germany.

Many of the manuscripts were evidently used by active theater troupes, including nearly 60 items that were donated to YIVO by the theater director Nahum Lipovski (1874-1928), of Vilna. Others are original manuscripts by the authors of the works.

Approximately half of the manuscripts are enclosed in the original four-flap folder from YIVO Vilna, affixed with a Yiddish-language label printed especially for YIVO's Esther Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum. These items also bear an accession stamp from YIVO Vilna on the title page or cover. The accession stamp is a red rectangle with the words "YIVO teater-muzey" written in Yiddish characters, and the accession number handwritten inside the rectangle (consisting of two numbers separated by a slash, e.g. 71/2319).

For additional details about the items in this subseries, see the respective "Scope and Content" notes for the three subsubseries.


  • Creation: 1894 - 1942

Language of Materials

Predominantly in Yiddish, with some German and Russian, as well as scattered items in or using Belarusian, English, French, Polish, Romanian, and Latvian.

Access Restrictions

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.


10.4 Linear Feet (25 boxes; 323 folders)


Arranged in the following subsubseries:

  1. Plays by Author Name, 1894-1939
  2. Unidentified Plays, undated, circa 1924-1933
  3. Plays in Languages Other than Yiddish, 1907-1942

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States