So we know there are an estimated 240,000 playbills in the printed collections at the British Library - and 'In the Spotlight' participants have found that it's certainly not a straightforward matter to categorize what playbills are and what they advertise (see the discussion thread, "What Counts as a 'performance'" https://community.libcrowds.com/d/4-what-counts-as-a-performance/10) - are we talking about plays, songs, juggling, conjuring, fireworks, performing animals, ventriloquism, mime, dioramas, lectures etc etc?
But what about printed communications that have all the appearances of a 'straightforward' playbill but are actually imitations, replicas or satire? The visually striking design of playbills look to grab the attention of the passer-by - their primary purpose is to get noticed. They are really quite effective and it should perhaps come as no surprise that the form has been appropriated by others looking to grab attention for news, events and views.
There are some quite clever and utilitarian examples of historical printed sheets which advertise the stock and contents of shops, such as a grocer's or an ironmonger's; and there is also an entire genre of printed ephemeral sheets which can be referred to as 'Parody Playbills' - mock playbills that make political messages and provoke responses and even calls to action.
James Gregory, Associate Professor of Modern British History at the University of Plymouth, has written about this interesting genre in an article just published on the Electronic British Library Journal; 'Parody Playbills: The Politics of the Playbill in Britain in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries' can be read here http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2018articles/article6.html
The publication of this article has a nice association with our In the Spotlight project as James was part of the project's first workshop held last November at the University of Plymouth. It's great that the engagement and collaborative aspects of the project have helped stimulate interesting and scholarly work.
if you've been enjoying the playbills on In the Spotlight, you will love seeing examples of 'mock' parody playbills held in the British Library's collections as discussed in James's article.
Perhaps you might know of other examples of 'mock' playbills? Please do share them with everyone here ...