Since the 1990s, there has been a large number of ‘how-to’ manuals published in English for aspiring playwrights. By and large, these texts treat the pedagogy of playwriting as a recent phenomenon. However, a series of relatively unknown books from the mid-nineteenth century were written with the purpose of teaching the craft of dramatic writing, emphasizing the importance of a hands-on understanding of the theatre and the individual roles within it. This article argues that, while these books are representative of the historical context in which they were written, they also contain advice which is still useful for playwrights, along with fascinating individual characteristics. Texts featured include one of the earliest manuals discovered, written by the anonymous ‘A Dramatist’; a text by the first (known) woman to write a how-to manual in English; and a book which uses a mathematical formula as a foundation for writing a script. Karen Morash is Lead Academic Tutor on the BA Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. She is a playwright and poet, and works as a dramaturg with the theatre company Head for Heights.