Over the course of 18 years, David Trutt collected nearly 1,000 books, musical scores, posters, and souvenirs related to the work and lives of Gilbert and Sullivan. His unique collection began in 1988 with a widely available book by Alan Jefferson called ‘The Complete Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Guide.’
Nearly two decades and $40,000 later, Trutt has compiled an expansive archive of information related to the Victorian-era partnership of English librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
In 2006, Trutt concluded his gathering with the rare Isaac Goldberg compilation of ”New and Original Extravaganzas’ by Gilbert.’ Now in 2008, Trutt has handed over his collection to the Oviatt Library’s Special Collections Department.
‘My home was like a museum. I had special shelves for the books and I had framed all of my posters. When my wife and I moved, I decided it was time to relocate the collection,’ said Trutt. ‘I wanted to give it to someone who would really appreciate it.’
Trutt, who was first introduced to the musical works of Gilbert and Sullivan by his mother, did not develop a whole-hearted interest in the duo until adulthood. Attending numerous performances of Gilbert and Sullivan plays over the years, his interest in their work was reinvigorated.
As his fascination grew so did his collection. Trutt purchased a variety of books published between 1869 and 2000, each authored either by or on the subject of Gilbert and/or Sullivan. In an attempt to make his collection unique Trutt sought out nearly every available edition of each title he purchased.
The books, which Trutt said make up the heart of the collection, include full scripts of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaborations, their distinct works created prior to their collaborative efforts, and biographies, dictionaries, and commentaries by well known collectors.
Trutt also sought out items that most collectors would not bother to obtain. Using this distinct strategy, he expanded his collection to include books about the Savoy Hotel and Theatre in London that was built specifically for Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas.
He also incorporated novels by Gilbert’s father, periodical publications associated with the duo, biographies about and works by original actors in Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaborations. Trutt’s favorite part of his collection is a vast number of editions of Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘The Princess,’ from which Gilbert adapted his play ‘Princess Ida.’
Considering various universities for this collection, Trutt investigated CSUN’s Gilbert and Sullivan holdings. He wanted to give the collection to someone who would maintain its integrity and not discard any of the items.
‘I wanted somewhere that had an abysmal Gilbert and Sullivan collection, something nearly non-existent,’ said Trutt.
According to his research, Trutt said the CSUN catalogue contained very small number of Gilbert and Sullivan titles.
In 2007, Trutt invited CSUN Special Collections Curator and librarian Tony Gardner to his home to view the collection. Shortly after the visit, Trutt decided to make CSUN the collection’s new home.
‘He (Tony) was ecstatic,’ said Trutt, ‘It made me so happy to know he was interested. CSUN has a growing and energetic special collections and Tony made me feel so good about the decision.’
Gardner was equally enthusiastic about Trutt’s contribution to the university’s special collections.
‘We are excited and honored to announce this magnificent donation by Mr. Trutt. It is a collection of grand scope and undeniable importance,’ he said.
Aside from the collection’s monumental number of books and manuscripts, Trutt also gave the university several collectables. These include vinyl recordings of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas from the 1930s and 1940s, sculptures and busts, jugs, tins, stuffed-animals, as well as antique buttons all directly related to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Trutt admits that he did keep several particularly dear items for himself.
‘I have a collection of Royal Doulton ceramic figurines, some pitchers and mugs; a few early American pressed glass items, and enameled boxes in display cases at home. I kept them for myself because I felt that they should not be packed away,’ said Trutt.
Although he has hung on to several Gilbert and Sullivan keepsakes, Trutt insists that he is finished adding to his collection. He has moved on to a new interest, the English manor home, Haddon Hall.
Trutt’s pursuits may have shifted but he encourages students and anyone else interested in Gilbert and Sullivan to visit the collection. He is even happy to give tours and discuss the collection.
‘I hope people will take advantage of this information and explore it. It will give you a real appreciation of Gilbert and Sullivan. This is one of the best public collections in California. I believe you outdo UCLA on this,’ said Trutt.
The Oviatt Library has yet to determine a display date for the collection but the complete contents can be accessed through the library’s catalogue under the heading David Trutt Gilbert and Sullivan Collection.