Danish lithographer, printer, and publisher. Alfred Jacobsen was the most important publisher of toy (paper) theatre sheets in Denmark. In Danish dukketeater (puppet theatre) was for many years synonymous with “toy theatre” or “paper theatre” – the latter being only a recent term to distinguish between the various forms of puppet theatre. After a few scattered attempts to publish paper theatre in Denmark in the 1860s by the printing firms of Michelsen & Tillge and others, publication only gathered momentum when Jacobsen, in 1880, started to publish the magazine Suffløren (The Prompter) which in its various editions contained toy theatre texts and sheets with sets and characters.
Up to his death in 1924, Alfred Jacobsen published six hundred to seven hundred sheets in four sizes and some fifty plays. Apart from traditional fairy tales the repertoire followed popular stage successes (Around the World in 80 Days), a few national romantic classics like Elverhøj (The Elfin Hill) and Aladdin (in its Danish version by national poet Oehlenschläger), and specially written national plays such as Sønderjylland vundet (Southern Jutland Regained). Jacobsen’s motto was “Danish pictures for Danish children”, in an ostensible reaction against German sheets, particularly those from NeuRuppin, which were prevalent before Jacobsen, coupled with the strong anti-German feeling after the Schleswig wars of 1848-1850 and 1864.
Jacobsen combined a high degree of craftsmanship and printing technique with the work of leading artists of the day, especially Franz Sedivy (1864-1945) and Hjalmar Berth (1868-1950) for the sets, and Carsten Ravn (1859-1914) and Rasmus Christiansen (1863-1940) for the characters. The result was sets of an unsurpassed quality, many of which were printed on both sides, thereby creating spectacular transparency effects, like sunsets, fires and moonlight, a technique not mastered by any other printer at the time.
While Jacobsen’s sheets were found mainly in middle class and upper middle class homes, the sets and characters published by Carl Aller’s Establishment as part of their magazine Illustreret Familie Journal (Illustrated Family Journal) between 1914 and 1937 reached a wider audience.
Toy theatre enjoyed a new lease of life during World War II, which promoted Aller’s to publish the Pegasus theatre from 1941 to 1951 and also gave the impetus to the formation of Dansk Dukketeaterforening (Danish Toy Theatre Society) in 1944. The Society still exists and publishes the magazine Suffløren five times a year (Website: www.danskdukketeaterforening.dk).
Jacobsen’s firm has been carried on by Vilh. Priors kgl. Hofboghandel, today a postal order shop (www.priors.dk). Recently, the magazine Oldfux has published a great number of reprints of rare and out of print sheets (www.oldfux.dk)
- Garde, Georg. Alfred Jacobsens Dukketeatre [Alfred Jacobsen’s Puppet Theatre]. Copenhagen, 1980.
- Garde, Georg. Theatergeschichte im Spiegel der Kindertheater [Theatre History Reflected in Children’s Theatre]. Copenhagen, 1971.
- Syskind, Povl, and Paul Brandt. Alfred Jacobsens Danske Teaterdekorationer og Danske Billeder [Alfred Jacobsen’s Danish Theatrical Scenery and Danish Photos]. Copenhagen, 1967.