Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 August 2020
Chapter 5 examines the importance of the playbill in general in Romantic-period culture. Playbills represent by far the largest body of ephemeral texts that have survived and this chapter explores the history of their interest to collectors and how the theatre, as part of the category of ‘public amusements’, was integrated into ephemera collecting as a whole. The history of the playbill also focuses a discussion of changes in printing technology around 1800 – mainly the introduction of larger typefaces that could be read from a distance – which led to the emergence of the poster and the increasing colonisation of urban space by print. I argue for the importance of ephemera and ephemerality to Romantic-period media history and also to the genealogy of theatre history as a discipline. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the earliest printed document in Australian history to be discovered to date, a playbill for a performance of the tragedy Jane Shore at the ‘Theatre, Sydney’ in 1796.