The Swing Mikado: Gilbert and Sullivan Reinvented in 1938

Cast photo of Swing Mikado, Chicago, 1938. Federal Theatre Project photographs #C0205 Box 46, Folder 17

Here in the Special Collections Research Center, we are gearing up for #GandS2017 – our celebration of all things Gilbert and Sullivan, culminating in the opening of an exhibit of materials from the David and Annabelle Stone Gilbert and Sullivan Collection.

One of Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular comic operas is The Mikado; or, The Town of Titpu. It opened on March 14, 1885 and ran for 672 performances as a production of the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

The Mikado remains popular, and in the years since it opened, has been updated and re-imagined. In 1938, The Swing Mikado premiered in Chicago as a production of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Theatre Project. The production was conceived and directed by Harry Minturn, with swing re-orchestrations of Sullivan’s music by Gentry Warden. First staged by an all-black company in Chicago, it became a huge hit with audiences black and white alike. It also featured a live swing orchestra. The show was later produced on Broadway to similar acclaim.

Cast photo of Swing Mikado, Chicago, 1938. Federal Theatre Project photographs #C0205 Box 46, Folder 17

The Federal Theatre Project itself was a New Deal program to fund live artistic programs during the Great Depression, one of numerous relief measures to employ artists, writers and theatre workers.

The Languages of Special Collections

There is a babel of languages in Special Collections.

Here at the Special Collections Research Center at George Mason University Libraries, a quick catalog search shows archival materials or rare books in the following languages:

A book of Lutheran devotional exercises

Tagliches Hand-Buch, Call Number BV 4834 .S7 1846. This volume is a book of Lutheran devotional exercises in German

  • English
  • German
  • French
  • Russian
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Greek
  • Arabic
  • Hebrew

In the Archives alone, untranslated material abounds. Whether it’s the Gustav Klemp German WWI Collection of untranslated German materials, the Michael La Vean French Documents Collection of French Revolution era documents, or the Kukryniksy Russian Cariacture Collection of Russian posters, these untranslated primary source materials present a unique opportunity for scholars, students, and researchers at George Mason.

Highlighted here are a few examples of rare books and archival materials in the many languages represented in the Special Collections Research Center.

Biblia Sacra spine

  • Biblia Sacra, printed in 1692 (Call Number: BR 75 1692)

“Biblia Sacra” is the Latin title for the Vulgate (Latin translation of the Christian Bible).

The Latin Bible faced challenges throughout the sixteenth century, as reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale and other figures of the Reformation questioned whether a Bible in the vernacular would be more accessible.

Translated into Latin in the fourth century by St. Jerome, the Vulgate was affirmed as the official Latin Bible of the Catholic Church during the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

This edition of the Vulgate was published in 1692.

  • The Parson’s Guide, or the Law of Tithes: Where is Shewed, who must pay tithes, and to whom, and of what things, when and how they must be paid, and how they may be recovered at this day, and how a man may be discharged of payment thereof, by W.S., Esq. (Call Number: KD 8747.Z9 S54 1654)

Bound with the SCRC copy of “The Parson’s Guide” are extensive manuscript annotations on the text that follows.

Manuscript annotations bound with The Parson's Guide

  • Tagliches Hand-Buch, in guten und bosen Tagen : das ist : Aufmunterungen, Gebete und Gesange, 1) fur Gesunde ; 2) fur Betrubte ; 3) fur Kranke ; 4) fur Sterbende ; wie auch Spruche, Seufzer und Gebete, den Sterbenden vorzusprechen, nebst den Fest-Andachten ; viel schone Buss-, Beicht-, Communion- und Wettergebete, Morgen- und Abend-Andachten auf alle Tage in der Woche, Trost- und Erquickungs-Gebete, sammt Ges2017-01-23 13.56angen, und Kriegs-, Theurungs-, Pest- und Friedens-Gebete, bei allen Angelegenheiten nutzlich zu gebrauchen,  und mit Kupfern gezieret ; Gebeten fur Schwangere, Gebahrende und fur Unfruchtbare ; als der funfte und sechste Theil dieses Handbuchs, compiled by Johann Starck (Call Number BV4834 .S7 1846)

Published in 1846, the above book is a book of German Lutheran prayers and devotional exercises.

  • The Michael La Vean Collection of French Documents, C0078
Receipt for a debt, C0078

Receipt for a debt, Michael La Vean Collection of French Documents, C0078, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries

Finally, from our Manuscript Collections comes this document from the Michael La Vean Collection of French Documents, C0078. Written on February 9, 1790, this documents is the receipt of a debt of 2,806 livres paid.

This collection contains many other documents dating to the French Revolution.








To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. For rare books, search the library catalog, limiting your search to Fenwick Special Collections.

You may also e-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

Holiday Break

An update on our holiday hours:

The Special Collections Research Center will be closed Thursday, December 22nd through Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 for the semester break. The Special Collections Research Center will open again on Thursday, January 5th at 10:00 am. Emails sent over the holiday break will not receive a reply until Thursday, January 5th, 2017, at the earliest.

Between January 5, 2017 and the start of the Spring semester on January 23, 2017, our hours will be 10:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. You can find our regular hours on our homepage.

We wish everyone a very happy holiday!

-The SCRC Staff

Marking the Hours


Music for celebrating the Divine Office from the Directoriuvm Chori: Ad Vsvm Omnivm Ecclesiavm Cathedralium & CollegiatarumRare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries, M2153.2 .C36 1665

Sunday, November 27th marks the beginning of Advent in the Western Christian tradition. The season of Advent starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. It also marks the beginning of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church.

In the Special Collections Research Center, we have some examples that allow us to see the ways in which people historically celebrated the Christian liturgical year.

Vellum Leaf from a Missal printed in 1493

Vellum Leaf from a Missal printed in 1493, Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries, BX2015 .A2 1493

In medieval Christian Europe, public worship and the liturgical year revolved around the Mass or the Divine Office.

The Mass can be defined as the rituals, hymns, and readings that evolved around the celebration of the Eucharist.

In contrast, the Divine Office is a set of prayers recited at specific hours of the day. The Divine Office is primarily composed of the biblical Psalms with supplemental hymns and readings. In the Middle Ages, singing the Divine Office was the responsibility of monks and nuns. According to John Cassian (d. 435), “The whole purpose of the monk and indeed the perfection of his heart amount to this–total and uninterrupted dedication to prayer.”(1)

The medieval Divine Office was composed of eight “Offices” or “hours.”

In the Middle Ages, each of these forms of worship (Mass & Divine Office) was celebrated using a different type of book:

  • Lectionary: used by priests, it contains the Scriptural readings for use in Mass
  • Breviary: used by monks, the Breviary was a service book containing the texts necessary to celebrate the Divine Office
  • Missal: used by priests, the missal is a service book containing texts (prayers and instructions) necessary for the performance of the Mass.
  • Gradual: used by priests, it contains the musical portions of the Mass, and omits the spoken parts
  • Antiphoner: used by monks, this book would have been large enough for a monastic choir to see it, and contains sung portions of the Divine Office.

One can see how the emergence of the printing press began to change these medieval books with one of the volumes from our Rare Books collection, the Directorivm chori : ad vsvm omnivm ecclesiarvm cathedralium & collegiatarumThe Directorivm Chori is the first post-Tridentine chant book published in Rome, and it contains the basic elements for singing the Divine Office, including the principal Psalms, hymns, verses, lessons and prayers. Unlike medieval antiphoners, however, the Directorivm Chori is small, meant to be held and viewed by one person–not an entire choir.

To search the rare books collection for more interesting items from our collection, search the Mason Catalog, click on “Set Limit” and limit by the location “Fenwick Special Collections.”

  1. John Cassian, Conferences. Trans. Colm Luibheid. (New York: Paulist Press, 1985) 101


E-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have any questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.