I'm a puppet maker with a degree in theatre. A former lighting techie, stage manager and producer. And I like to think that with puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. More...
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Finding theatre and puppetry books can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding things to do. If you are at all involved in theatre, whether it is as an amateur, a student, or a professional, you will have come across the severe lack of places to buy books. So here’s some good tips to finding puppetry books. Though my experience is mainly limited to the Victoria area, bookstores across Australia are pretty much the same, so you can find some useful tips here even if you are from another part of the country.
Generally speaking, the online stores of the following list will have a bigger range of books than in their physical stores. However, this may mean that you would need to pay for more on shipping and handling, especially if the book is a special order. In most cases, I find it easier to order books from the specialty online stores listed below. Most of the Australian brick-and-mortar stores are crap for finding puppetry books, outside of secondhand shops and selected kids books.
Is that it? Really? No more physical bookstores…. Well, this is where the fun part is. The best places for puppetry books are not going to be mainstream brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, puppetry is such a niche market that the mainstream stores wouldn’t find stocking these books to their benefit. But people chuck out old books all the time. So everytime you go past a secondhand bookstore, go in. Look around. I’ve found most of my books this way. And yes, many of them will have been written in the 60s or 70s, but there are some excellent tutorials and guides out there. Two tips for hunting in secondhand bookstores: look in the craft section as well as the theatre/performing arts sections; and always ask the seller if they have any puppetry books. Once I asked the seller, and she found me three books when I had found none. Quite often asking them saves time too, because many don’t or won’t stock puppetry books. So here’s a small list of secondhand bookstores that I frequent; I may not have found puppetry books in some, but they all offer a very good selection of theatre books on a range of topics. Of course, there are hundreds around, so be sure to check any out if you come across them. You never know what you may find! (I will update this list as I come across new stores, or if I remember any more)
As with all online sales, you should go with people or dealers that you trust. Here’s some places that I have bought puppetry books from with confidence. Additionally, one should check out local puppeteers; many of them sell their own self-published books, scripts and CDs.
Who is he? A German puppeteer, well known for his book published in the 1970s. The book detailed some of the best diagrams, concepts and methods for building puppets, and Glove and Rod Puppets is considered one of the best books on the craft of puppetry. It has excellent notes on placement of eyes, proportions of faces and bodies, making characters and caricatures. As well as discussing a range of glove puppet and rod puppet building techniques,
with diagrams and instructions for both. From what I’ve skimmed, it’s clear and concise. Which is what makes the book so useful; it’s ideal for both novice builders and more experienced people. However, it’s a rare and out-of-print book, and as such lots of people ask how to get their hands on a copy.
Glove and Rod Puppets is the older of Fettig’s two books which have been translated into English, having been published in the original German in 1973, and English in 1974. Rod and Tabletop Puppets, (I think that’s the title), was published in the original German in the mid-Nineties, (1995?), and translated into English the following year. Both books are out of print, and therefore no longer available from their original publishers. I don’t know if Fettig wrote other books on puppetry which are available only in German, or languages besides English. …The books were originally published in German, but I’m not sure what other translations are available besides English. To tell you the truth, Fettig’s illustrations say as much as his words, so even if you can only find a copy in a language you don’t read, it might still be worth it to you. Buying the books can be very expensive. According to the publisher, Ray DaSilva, the English-language version of the second book was issued in a limited edition of only 1,000 copies, and then permission was withdrawn by the author to go back to the presses to print additional copies. The older book is much slimmer, (something like 110 pages), and used copies go for around US$100, the last I heard. The second book is around 350 pages in size, and reprises much of the information and illustrations from the first book, but adds a lot more autobigraphical material from Fettig, as well as sections by and about other puppet makers. The person I talked to said that used copies of the second book, Rod and Tabletop Puppets, is selling for £75 (British Pounds Sterling), or around US$150. These prices aren’t fixed. When it comes to rare books, sellers usually charge what the market can bear.
One smart woman did some sleuthing and got in contact with the original publishers; she discovered that the German translation is still available for 40 euros (this was learned in July ‘08, so it might not be true anymore), but it’s unlikely that an English reprint will be offered. There are some copyright issues to be worked out in order to have it reprinted.
The best thing to do is to set up a Google Alert, which will email you when the title of the book or the author name appears in search results. This way you can find new product listings on a range of websites without having to do much work. Mostly, it’s about patience: I set up such an alert and waited about 6 months until a copy appeared on Abebooks (listed above). Ray Dasilva, also listed above, may have copies from time to time. Some other suggestions are given at Puppets and Stuff at the thread listed above, but by far the best thing to do is some regular checks on secondhand book websites or with rare book dealers. As soon as the book is listed it will get snatched up quickly! Some libraries may also have copies, so that may be worth checking out as well, but try larger catalogues first as it’s a niche item.send feedback / have a question?
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.