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In the autumn of 2014 the Flemish Government decided to include an item from the University of Antwerp Library's Special Collections in the Topstukkenlijst (Top Items List). This signifies that the item has been officially recognized by the Topstukkendecreet (Top Items Decree) as rare and necessary cultural heritage, required to remain preserved in Flanders for the Flemish Community because of its sexceptional archaeological, historical, cultural, artistic or scientific significance. For top items such as these, restoration grants can be requested. The items are submitted to specific protection regulations regarding physical intervention and to restrictions for export these out of Flanders.

MAG-P 13.1522

The object in question is known as shelfmark MAG-P 13.1522 and consists of a collection of play programs (both in manuscript and in print) in quarto, bound in semi-imitational leather. At first sight, this compilation does not seem extraordinary at all –the reason for its status as an exceptional item lies in its content, rather than its form. In the past, people were just the same as today: they too usually discarded the play program after a play was finished. For this reason, this compilation of 253 play programs from the seventeenth and eighteenth century is a truly remarkable object. Nowhere else have this many play programs been preserved together as in this collection.

The programs originate from various Jesuit colleges from the then Provincia Flandria Belgica  (the Southern Netherlands) and shed light on the period 1678-1771. That way, we have discovered a great deal about the titles, the stage moments and even the individual actors from the Early Modern school plays in our region. The collection contains printed and handwritten programs, and also features a full manuscript version of the rare play Athanes.

View the top item online!

A complete list of these alphabetically arranged play programs and a full digital version of the top item can be found on our digital platform.