The Murray Edwards Duse Collection is the best record of Eleonora Duse’s literary background. It puts before us three fundamental facts: first, her literary education began – or became active – around 1886; secondly, it assumed a nationalistic character in the early 1890s; thirdly, her intellectual evolution influenced her acting. So advanced was her artistic and literary emancipation that she was considered one of the foremost Italian aesthetes. The discovery and the reconstruction of The Collection changes in many ways the reception of her acting and of her intellectual profile, and sheds new light on her art. The Murray Edwards Duse Collection includes several books that Eleonora Duse read, and they still reveal her comments. They are a kind of knowledge-map of the accomplished erudition she promulgated in her acting. Furthermore, the Collection proves that her books are a fundamental resource in understanding the roots of her artistic profile. It could now be said there are two aspects to Duse’s acting. She is first and foremost a great actress, one of the greatest in the history of theatre; but she is also an incomparable intellectual of her time. She herself was fond of pointing out, how the ‘actress’ and the ‘intellectual’ closely (and perhaps indistinguishably) interacted. The Murray Edwards Duse Collection may be considered metaphorically as Duse’s gold. In many letters to her daughter Enrichetta, she referred to her books as her ‘only wardrobe’ and as her most valuable possessions. It brings to mind Leonardo’s tomb in d’Annunzio’s Dead City (La città morta, 1896). In the fifth scene of the first act, Leonardo, coming from the Gate of the Lions, screams: ‘The gold, the gold […] A terrible splendour […]’. This ‘gold’ has been previously considered to be lost for ever.

Anna Sica, now Anna De Domenico Sica, is a lecturer in Theatre at the University of Palermo. She is a scholar in history of theatre, with special reference to nineteenth century acting. She also specialises in Commedia dell’arte, contemporary Italian drama and North-American and Russian theatre. She is the author of Uptown-Downtown New York Theatre from Tradition to Avantgarde (Milan, 2005); La regia tetrale di Arthur Penn (Palermo, 2000); Eros nell’arte: lo spettacolo delle maschere (Palermo, 1999). She has also published chapters in volumes on Italian Contemporary Theatre ‘La drammaturgia degli emarginati nella recente scena italiana’ (Rome, 2007), and on Russian theatre ‘ Chekhov’s Poetic and Social Realism: Communication beyond Classification’ (Palermo, 2008). Her essays have been published in New Theatre Quarterly (Cambridge University Press),Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film (Manchester University Press),Biblioteca Teatrale (Rome, Bulzoni) among others. She is founder and director of the Studio Teatro-New Butoh Drammatica Laboratory. She teaches at the University of Palermo and the University of Pavia.

Alison Wilson from 1994 to 2010 was Librarian of New Hall, later Murray Edwards College. She is a specialist in rare books and manuscripts. She has worked in Cambridge University Library, the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and as a consultant for academic and public libraries across the South of England. She has published Recent Developments in Cambridge College Libraries (LIBER Quarterly. Vol.16, 2006); Furtherance of Academic Excellence: Documentation of New Library Buildings in Cambridge (Goettingen, Niedersaechsische Staats und Universitätsbibliothek, 2006); Re-thinking Berlin’s Academic Libraries(CILIP Update, 2008) among others.


Thomas Postlewait – Theatre Journal, Volume 66, Number 3, October 2014, pp. 491-492, The John Hopkins University Press