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Pantheon Theatre collection

Identifier: 02416

Scope and Contents

The Pantheon Theatre Collection consists primarily of architectural plans and broadsides dating from 1789-1833. It includes 6 architectural plans of Londons Pantheon Theatre; in chronological order they are: one season advertisement dated 1789, which includes a plan view of theatre seating for the earlier Great Concert Room, three undated plans of the remodeled Pantheon, circa 1790-1792; and two plans of a later, rebuilt opera theatre, dated 1831 and 1832. These items constitute one of the most complete architectural drawings for a theatre in this era, detailing stage size, placement, and seating. The circa 1791 plans document the theatre when it was under the ownership of English patrons of Italian opera, the Duke of Bedford and Marquis of Salisbury. They sought to build a theatre for the performance of Italian opera after a 1789 fire destroyed the Haymarket Theatre. In early summer 1790 they struck an agreement to remodel and expand the great rotunda of an Oxford Street exhibition hall called the Pantheon. To reconstruct the building as a theatre, they obtained the services of the Pantheons original architect, James Wyatt. The original Pantheon, built between 1769 and 1772, was called a wonder and the most elegant structure in Europe. The opera group sought to create a more intimate and exclusive theatre to compete with the large and successful Kings Theatre. The plans included in this collection document the extensive alterations to the exhibition hall and expansion of the building to make room for a small stage and five tiers of boxes. The venture proved unprofitable, and in 1791 the opera company left the theatre, with investors responsible to return the premises to the original condition. The terrific financial loss this incurred prompted charges of arson when a fire broke out in 1792 that left only the exterior walls intact. The collection also includes two historical accounts of unknown origin, on folio sheets-one of the Pantheon and another of the Lyceum, or English Opera. The printed historical sketch of the Pantheon describes its construction and architectural details first as an exhibition hall, then as the home of the Italian Opera Company, and the 1792 fire. It continues its history, stating that the Pantheon was rebuilt as an assembly hall in 1795, and as a superb operatic theatre in 1812. Apparently this venture proved equally unsuccessful, as ownership changed frequently over the next three years. An undated engraving in this collection entitled, Interior view of the late Pantheon Theatre as it appeared in its dilapidated state, published at J. Netherdifts Lithographic Office, possibly dates from this era. The collection also includes three broadsides. One from 1832 seeks a leasee for the theatre. Apparently this effort failed, for two duplicate broadsides of 1833 announce an auction of the premises. The 1831 and 1832 plans noted above show nearly identical buildings, and were probably commissioned to advertise the premises.Sources: Curtis Price, Judith Milhous, and Robert D. Hume, A Plan of the pantheon Opera House, 1790-1792, Cambridge Opera Journal, 3, 3, 213-246; folio sheet in collection. A copy of the Cambridge Opera Journal is available in the control folder.


  • 1789-1833

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies of original materials may be made available for research purposes at the discretion of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library. Photocopies or reproductions of original materials may be subject to fees as outlined by the Pennsylvania State University Libraries reproduction policies. Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Patrons seeking advice on the availability of unpublished materials for publication should consult relevant copyright law and laws of libel.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.


12 Items


This collection includes a theatre advertisement (1786), 5 architectural plans, an engraving, and 3 broadsides for London's Pantheon Theatre. It also includes two undated historical sketches, one of the Pantheon and another of the Lyceum or English Opera.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Penn State University Libraries catalog via the link above. Archival collections may be housed in offsite storage. For materials stored offsite, please allow 2-3 business days for retrieval.

Pantheon Theatre collection, 1789-1833
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Revision Statements

  • 2021: As part of bulk updates, Benjamin Mitchell updated standardized notes to current standard

Repository Details

Part of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library Repository

104 Paterno Library
Penn State University
University Park 16802 USA