Playbill for The Final Masquerade
Vauxhall Gardens, London
8 September, 1859
Printed by W. S. Johnson
Museum no. S.3-1983
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
By the middle of the 19th century, woodcut or wood engraved images were often used on all sizes of posters and playbills, especially on posters advertising popular entertainment. A greater selection of coloured inks and larger paper was being used too, as well as new letter forms, designed with increasing inventiveness during the first half of the 19th century. If a theatre could not afford a wood engraved image on its posters, it may have asked the printer to make a splash with the lettering instead. The word Masquerade on this poster advertising the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is spelt out with superbly engraved letter forms. Each letter is three dimensional, set at an angle, incorporating an image of a theatrical character on the letter form, including Harlequin and Columbine. No two letters feature the same characters, even the two letter As. Another example of a printer having great fun with lettering can be see on the superbly illustrated poster for Astley’s Circus advertising The Battle of The Alma.