Monday, June 17, 2013

My Adaptation on a Vintage J.F. Schreiber Rococo Toy Theater

Hey All - I knows it's been a few months since my last post...
 but today I have another vintage toy theater post for you to enjoy.

I've had this digital adaptation on the back burner for a while and finally
put the finishing touches on it over the weekend.

This time round it's a German Paper Theater by J.F. Schreiber of Esslingen
I really like the fancy elements on theaters like this one.
This Rococo/Late Baroque style Schreiber was listed as No. 400 a&b and is from around 1894.

Digital Toy Theater Scene using elements from vintage German J.F. Shreiber Paper Theater Sheets
 This first image is a digital composition I did using various elements included in this post.
The theater surround or "Proscenium" is my digital adaptation on an original unassembled sheet.

A vintage J.F. Schreiber Toy Theater Paper Sheet - Rococo Proscenium "No.400 a&b" c1894
 An original vintage sheet came as seen above and had to be cut and assembled to form the 
Theater's Proscenium - that's the fancy outer portion of the stage that frames the performance.

Many of these toy theater Proscenuim sheets came in "to be assembled" format like shown here.
I'm guessing this was to help reduce the cost of these sheets and made them easier to store since some of the original assembled sizes were of a fair size and printed assembled on one sheet would have made them rather large.

This post is about the Schreiber Rococo No. 400a&b but I wanted to show that sometimes the numbering system these printers used could get a bit confusing when "hunting" or collecting.
  Schrieber produced another Proscenuim sheet with a similar number - see below

J.F. Schreiber's Paper theater sheet No. 400c
 the photo is from an eBay auction I didn't win, but did try strongly for.
Schreiber also made a Paper Theater Sheet No.400c, pictured above - not to be confused with the Rococo No.400 a&b.  Even though both theater sheets carry a similar number and both are striking, they are nothing alike.  I'd love to one day find out why they were numbered so similarly, so if anyone out there knows - please drop me a line or leave a comment - grins.

 A bit about J.F. Schreiber
Jakob Schreiber (1809-1868) was the founder of the J.F. Schreiber publishing company.
They were one of the top printers of Paper Theater sheets due to having detailed, quality products.
There were a number of Paper theater sheet printers across Europe in the 1800's and very early
1900's of which the German sheets from J.F. Schreiber were among some of the best available.
Schreiber produced a nice selection of proscenium, curtains, scenery sheets and
over 80 different character sheets; many of which reference children stories. 
Most of these sheets can be identified by the JFS# printed on the sheets

Vintage Schreiber sheets can be purchased on the Internet via a variety of international auction houses but many of then sell for big money; however it's still possible to pick up some of these rare treasures for reasonable prices if you keep hunting.  If antique prints and prices are not your thing there are a few companies that have reprints available for the modern enthusiast. To view a nice selection or Schreiber reprints click HERE. Several vintage JFS sheets can be seen and downloaded from the Dutch website "Memory of the Netherlands".  There is also a nice selection of "Papieren Theaters" on the site; however there is little information listed about each one. If you see JFS marked on a sheet then it's a Schreiber. 

A vintage J.F. Schreiber Toy Theater Paper Sheet - Rococo Proscenium "No.400 a&b" c1894

The Schreiber No.400 a&b sheet I was working with had some issues; which I did my best to correct, so I had a good starting point while doing the digital assembly.  An interesting item I discovered while working with this theater image is that the "2 upper bridge pieces" do not really line up well "color wise" when assembled.  I even examined a number of vintage assembled theaters of the Schreiber Rococo online and noticed several of them do not line up seamlessly either.  I was able to repair this color glitch on the assembled digital version I created and was quite please with the final result - I hope you agree.

Please note: If you try and use the above sheet to assemble a theater
the finished result is a bit "off" aesthetically. 

Here is an example of a vintage assembled Rococo Theater showing the issue described above.
Vintage Assembled Schreiber Rococo Theater found at
If you take a close look along the top bar where the cherubs are you will see a definite division where the two parts of the strip just don't join well and the pattern's flow is broken.  I found that aspect of the original to be too distracting and made corrections to my "assembled" version to correct it.

The next item I needed to consider while adapting my version, was what to do about a base.
The original sheet does not have one so again a did a bit more research and found a variety of ways the original sheet was assembled in past years.  Some had a base drawer as seen in the above photo. Others had a plain pedestal wood base and so forth.  I even found an example of this theater at an auction site where the entire theater was made narrower (maybe to avoid the odd top strip or simply because the other images that person had required a narrower theater)???

Here is a selection of several slightly different assembled versions of this theater
 I've seen posted on a variety of web auction sites over the years.
Several different looks from the same paper theater sheet - Schreiber 400 a&b
 The top two examples seem to include the entire theater sheet.  The top left appears as a slightly wider theater since the sides were assembled farther apart from the upper sections.
The theater on the top right was assembled as the instruction diagram in the sheet showed.

The bottom two examples have been made into narrower theaters where the 2-part cherub strip was shortened so that all the side edges form a straight line; rather than the arched section being slightly shorter. The bottom left version shows a built up stage area or footer; and the one on the bottom right has a built up pedestal which is made up of a duplicate cherub strip.

I liked the original size of the theater and the duplicated cherub strip on the bottom from the last theater so that is the configuration I chose to go with for my digital version.
My digital version of the Schreiber 400a&b Rococo Proscenium
The above image is the version I came up with and since I love curtains I added in a Schreiber curtain for some extra fun.  I consider this an all in one adaptation that can still be modified later on should I want a different look. If you are working with a printout of this version you can cut it up as needed to slightly alter the look.  The curtain can be cut out, the base can be removed; and if you remove the base, then the sides can be cut away and slid farther over to make a slightly wider theater.

That's one of the great things about working with paper theaters that have "sections"; 
many times they allow you to be flexible in how you choose to assemble the theater.

The curtain I used for this theater is a from another unassembled Schreiber sheet
J.F. Schreiber Paper Theater Sheet with and unassembled theater curtain and some foliage
The original version of this sheet I was working from was damaged and discolored. 
I've digitally restored it to reflect what an undamaged vintage sheet should look like.  
(I did not want an antique look to my finished theater, so for my end result
 the curtain has been digitally enhanced even more than shown here.)

I also created a second version of the theater with a blue curtain, for some extra fun.
My same digitally altered theater but with a blue curtain instead of red.
Red theater curtains seem to be the most popular for theaters be they real or toy; but they came in other colors and I thought it would be fun to have a ready to go alternate color for mine as well.
I like the way this periwinkle blue curtain worked with the proscenium so that's what I went with.

I also decided to add in some scenery sheets so this would be a set and not just a theater surround.
Depending on how you build the theater, you may need to size down the scenery
and character sheets for you own project.

Suez Canal 3 Part Scenery Sheets by J.F. Schreiber - digitally repaired and enhanced vintage sheets by EKDuncan 2013
 There are a variety of paper theater sheet configurations. Usually a Scene consists of a Background and some accessory sheets like side wings, props, footers, headers, and characters.
The above Suez Canal scene has 3 sheets that set the stage, giving nice dimension to the final setting.

Exterior & Interior Scenery Sheets by J.F. Schreiber - digitally repaired and enhanced vintage sheets by EKDuncan 2013
Schreiber made a variety of scenery sheets, above are examples of exterior and interior sheets.
I've included a photo of what the interior room looks like once its put together, you can see it a little further down in the post.

It's nice to have the theater and scenery, but what's a play without its players.
Two different JFS Character Sheets in two different sizes
Sheet no.504 Characters for "Die Räuber" - The Robbers
Sheet no.510 Characters for "Elsa Die Standhaft Madg" - Elsa the Steadfast Maid 

I'm not sure what characters should go with the scenery sheets I have on this post, 
but I thought these characters might work with them. 
It's also fun to use fashion plate images from the time period as characters as another option. 
The idea is just to have fun.

For those who want to know what an assembled toy theater scene should look like...
An example of how the interior room looks when it's set in place - image from Spielzeugmuseum Nürnberg
Toy theaters and dioramas can be built in any dimension you choose. Generally a toy theater has quite a bit of depth to it so that when the background is placed to the far back and the individual side wing panels are staggered, as each sequential set is placed forward, you get a great illusion from these flat elements.  You have to remember you are dressing a stage just like in live theater, just on a smaller scale.

Example of a modified Schreiber 400 a&b with scenery panels - via from - item 9093812
The above theater shows a narrower version of the theater along with a good number 
of Schreiber scenery pieces. There is even a scene set up within.

While the J.F.S no400 a&b is just one of many beautiful paper theaters by the German publisher  J.F. Schreiber; there were several other German Toy Theater Paper Sheets makers from the same period.

As with printers in various countries who produced toy theater sheets, there were a variety of qualities available, to suite nearly any budget. The higher quality images were printed on heavier, high grade paper. Those images were sharp and beautifully detailed and the coloring was exceptional.  The budget quality sheets were printed on thinner, low grade paper, very much like newsprint.  Depending on the printer the images range from very detailed to less refined. Usually the coloring process was of a much lower standard than what was being produced by the high end publishers; however there were some lovely sheets available even from the budget conscious print companies.

Here is a list of the German Paper Toy Theater printers I'm aware of and a examples from each:
(Many of the images shown below are from

J.C. Winckelmann -Berlin, Germany (high quality images)
This and other Winckelmann Sheets can be found HERE at


Adolf Engel (AEB) - Berlin, Germany (high quality images)
This and other Adolf  Engel aka AEB sheets can be found HERE at

Gustav Kuhn - Neuruppin, Germany (budget quality)
This and other Gustav Kühn sheets can be found HERE at

 Oehmigke & Riemschneider - Neuruppin, Germany (budget quality)
This and other Oehmigke & Riemschneider sheets can be found HERE at

Joseph Scholz - Mainz, Germany (high quality images)
This and other Joseph Scholz sheets can be found HERE at
See my previous Joseph Scholz toy theater post - HERE (Part 1) & HERE (Part 2)

 J.F. Schreiber - Esslingen, Germany (quality images)
This and other J.F. Schreiber sheets can be found HERE at

Schmidt & Romer - Leipzig, Germany (quality images)
Two Schmidt & Röhmer sheets can be found HERE at

Schmidt & Röhmer are best known for their "Thalia" Proscenium seen below
Schmidt & Röhmer "Thalia" at Pickfords House in Derby, England - See more about it HERE

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my version of a German J.F. Schreiber paper theater 
as well as the above sampling of other German made paper theater sheets.

If you want to see more of my Toy Theater posts they can all be seen 
by clicking the "Toy Theater" label or simply clicking HERE

I'm in the process of working on a beautiful Schmidt & Röhmer theater similar to the 
Thalia (seen above) but I still have a ways to go before I'll be ready to post it.

If you want a general idea of what the theater looks like I've got a photo of one version of it pinned to my Toy Theater Pinterest board at

Thanks for joining me on my Toy Theater Adventure and
Till next time...