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A7746 Toy theatre with box, includes proscenium arches, sets, scenery, characters and scripts for 'Hansel and Gretel', wood / paper / cardboard / metal, made by Johann Ferdinand Schreiber, Esslingen / Munich, Germany, 1880-1890. Click to enlarge.

Schreiber toy paper theatre 'Hansel and Gretel'

Schreiber paper theatres set the standard for German children's theatres in the 1880s in Europe. This paper theatre with its proscenium arch, sets, characters from several different stories and copy of 'Hansel and Gretel' is a fine and rare example of this speciality. It was purchased at auction in 1981 in Sydney, part of the Julian Robinson collection of toys and juvenalia. Julian and Renee Robinson began collecting from the 1950s when they were students at the Royal College of Art in London.


Object No.


Object Statement

Toy theatre with box, includes proscenium arches, sets, scenery, characters and scripts for 'Hansel and Gretel', wood / paper / cardboard / metal, made by Johann Ferdinand Schreiber, Esslingen / Munich, Germany, 1880-1890

Physical Description

Lithographed paper mounted on cardboard and cut-out to form elements of the theatre, for example sets, characters, orchestra. Each piece is mounted with wooden stand or batons to allow upright display. The parts are mounted for use on a wooden box which is also intended for storeage. There are two printed paper scripts of Hansel and Gretel.


see parts



900 mm


813 mm


875 mm



The theatre has been cut from lithgraphed paper and backed onto board. The figures and pieces of scenery are backed in cardboard and have small strips of wood attached at the back to allow them to stand vertically.

This paper theatre's proscenium appears to have been wrongly cut across the heads of the orchestra. The same theatre featured in 'Toy Theatres of the World' by Peter Baldwin and shows the orchestra still attached to the proscenium arch and the classical Greek figures and small cones are yet to be cut out and attached to the top.



Lithographic paper theatre sheets were produced from about 1830 by J.C.Wiinkelmann in Berlin, sold as postcards and in children's books. Johann Ferdinand Schrieber set up a printing company in Esslingden in 1831. At first concentrating on art he later produced plays including Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, William Tell, and Little Red Riding Hood which were subsequently copied by Adolf Engel c1880 and reprinted in English by Morritz Gottshalk of Marienberg, Saxony. Ferdinand, Johann's son (1835-1914), took over at his father's death and focussed more and more on children's books and plays. Entering the market somewhat later was able to improve the presentation of the sheets and plays and the results were considered far superior. He and his brother Max published two instruction books with technical information about paper theatres 'Das Kindertheater' by Hugo Elm 1886, and another by Max Eickmeyer in 1900. These set the standard for toy theatre design in Germany. Schreiber Cut-out Sheets were also produced. They included, among others, dress-up dolls, Christmas cribs, models of ships and aeroplanes.

Ferdinand aimed at a young market with a preference for children's stories. There was one character sheet per play except for his Aschenbrodel (Cinderella), Round the World in Eighty Days, The Fairy Doll. the lead charcaters would remain in the same clothing and pose throughout. Early sheets were hand coloured and scenes generic - wood, garden, town, room, village, castle etc and instructions were given as to which sheets should be used for a particular play. By the late 1880s Ferdinand had enlisted 22 year old Munich stage designer Theodor Guggenberger (1866-1929) whose work was prolific.

In 1880 Ernst Sievert published a book of nine plays which he wrote for Ferdinand but they had limitations with the stiff cardboard characters. Innocens Tallavania (1868-1934) wrote more practical scripts for at least 18 plays.

In the late 1960s Pollock's Toy Museum discovered that Schrieber had ceased their operations and were destroying a large stock of sheets. They bought the stock then sorted and sold them for 3 pounds per 100 sheets. There were no complete plays but a large range of colour printed character sheets, scenes and sets in 2 sizes (36 x 43 small format and 43 x 54cm large format).

Further information:
Schreiber's Kinder Theater, by Pfluger and Helmut Herbst, 1986
Toy Theatres of the World, by Peter Baldwin, 1992


Credit Line

Purchased 1981

Acquisition Date

27 April 1981

Cite this Object


Schreiber toy paper theatre 'Hansel and Gretel' 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 October 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Schreiber toy paper theatre 'Hansel and Gretel' |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=26 October 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}